I’ve always thought that the concept of teaching your baby sign language before he or she could talk was incredibly fascinating. I mean, to be able to communicate with your child before he or she develops oral language sounds surreal!
However, before I started writing this post, I had often heard contradicting opinions on this subject. Does teaching your baby sign language inhibit his or her ability to learn English? Does it help? Take a look at what I’ve found:
Sign language has long been used to help hearing children with speech delays acquire spoken language more easily. However it has only recently been introduced to the development of normally functioning babies. Not only can introducing sign language to your baby help him or her communicate and develop a closer bond with you as a parent, but it also shows signs of elevating your child’s IQ.
Studies show that a child who learned sign language in his or her infancy will be linguistically advanced when they get to school. They will have a larger vocabulary and a higher understanding of structure and grammar.
The biggest concern I’ve come across in my research is that the child will use it as a crutch and never take the time to learn spoken language. The Baby Language site says that babies will use sign language as a learning tool for speaking, similar to how they use crawling as a learning tool for walking.
They will continue signing as they start speaking (making it easier for you to understand them), and eventually drop it when they are comfortable with speaking.
It should be noted that most parents who introduce signs to their children have not learned American Sign Language formally, do not have extensive knowledge about its origins or the culture associated with it, and therefore do not actually teach their children to be fluent in ASL. Most parents just teach their children a few basic words, including mommy, daddy, milk, more, finished, etc.
It should also be noted that you should not stop speaking to your child in lieu of using signs. Sign and speak at the same time, if you wish, but cutting out speech altogether will delay your child’s acquisition of English.
Another good tip is to make sure both parents are using the signs with the baby. That will help reinforce them in the baby’s mind, helping he or she to remember them in the future.
To find more information on teaching your child sign language visit this website.
Good luck, and happy signing!
Written by: Cari Taylor