Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Benefits of Signing with Children

Some of you have asked me if Signing with babies will prevent them from learning how to speak.

Here's the FAQ I've taken from their website. I hope it clears your concerns.

Personally, Sarah started talking very early. With Baby Signing, I found that Sarah had an extra avenue to express her needs. There are some words toddlers just can't say so easily like "Shoes". With signing, she tells us very easily when she wants to go outside to play by signing for her shoes. It has prevented many temper outbreaks in this case. Even for words she can say like "Milk", she would emphasize her point by adding sign language to her words.


Many people have sent us questions regarding our video and the learning of American Sign Language (ASL). Rachel Coleman, one of the mothers behind the creation of Signing Time, understands these concerns and questions.

Rachel has a daughter, Leah, who is Deaf. Rachel had to research and learn the answers for herself as she taught her daughter. Rachel's sister Emilie is also teaching her hearing children how to sign - with remarkable results. Both of these mothers' research and experiences demonstrate that all children can benefit from the learning of ASL, whether they can hear or whether they are Deaf. Rachel feels very strongly about the need to teach children everywhere to sign and shares her knowledge and experience with you here.

How early can I start to sign with my child?

Start signing now! You can sign "milk" to your newborn when it's time to nurse or time for a bottle. Sign "sleep" at nap and bedtimes. Take your baby's hands and help them sign "more" in-between each spoonful. This will help integrate signs into your daily routine. Soon the repetition and reinforcement will occur naturally as your infant grows. It will also help your infant realize that crying is not the only way of communicating.

My child is already talking. Why should they learn ASL?

Learning a second language is fun and has many developmental benefits. ASL stimulates learning through different senses. Sign language is a blessing for children that are "visual", "spatial" or "tactile learners." Learning a second language raises your child's IQ. One in ten Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Knowing a few signs can give your child the confidence to engage and interact with a deaf child rather than both children feeling awkward and helpless.

Will learning signs delay my child's speech?

Many parents fear that signing will delay or further delay speech. Our experience has been the opposite. If your goal is communication, then signing will meet that communication need much earlier than speech. "When we found out Leah was deaf, many people warned us to be careful with signing. They said, 'If she gets too comfortable signing, she will never speak.' Their intentions were good, but they were absolutely wrong. Luckily, we first gave Leah a complete language in signs, only then was she able to take time to work on the skill of labeling those signs through her speech. English is a language. American Sign Language is a language. Spanish is a language. But speech, it is a skill...and Leah is a little chatterbox!"

I don't have time to learn and teach my child sign.

Parenting can be very overwhelming because there never seems to be enough time. This is why we created Signing Time-it does the work for you!

Do I have to become fluent in ASL?

No, you don't. We are providing parenting tools for communication through the use of ASL. I think you will be surprised how useful it is to learn even a few signs. The Signing Time series teaches more than 75 signs and exposes you to over a hundred.

If fluency is your goal, ASL, like any second language, takes time and practice. (I have been signing for 8 years and I'm still learning) Surrounding yourself with others that are fluent will really boost your skills and your confidence.

If you are interested in learning more, check out your Community Education Programs and Community Center for the Deaf. Many Jr. High Schools, High Schools, Community Colleges and Universities now include ASL in their curriculum. There are sign language interpreting programs all across the country.

Why do you use ASL and not made up signs?

Since you are going to take the time to teach and reinforce signs, it makes sense to use signs that are part of a living language that have meaning to the hundreds of thousands of ASL users. Additionally, your child's caregivers (Doctors, preschools, daycare centers, and elementary schools) are far more likely to use ASL than to try and learn individual "made up" signs for each child for whom they care.

Hearing children that start out as "baby signers" can comfortably transition into communication with deaf children and adults, and take advantage of other ASL materials (videos, ASL playgroups, etc...). They have also laid a foundation for the study of ASL as a second language later in their academic careers. All of this is possible, by simply using ASL signs instead of made up signs.

And finally, many of our Deaf customers have pointed out that made up signs run the risk of actually "saying" something unintended in ASL, leading to potentially humorous if not embarrassing situations.

My child does not do the signs correctly. Is that okay?

Most children adapt signs to whatever they are physically able to do. As their fine motor skills develop further, their signs will also develop. This is very similar to the pattern in speech development; "Da-da" suddenly becomes "Daddy" or "Dad" or in Leah's case, "Aaron!" (LOL)

How soon will my child start to sign?

It really depends on when you start. If you start signing with your newborn, they may not reciprocate until 8-14 months old. If you start with your 2 year old, they may respond immediately or it may take a couple of months. If your child has physical, mental or developmental delays, take that into consideration. My daughter Lucy had no words and no signs and showed no interest in communication for two long years. Her doctors did not expect that to change. We didn't give up, we continued exposing her to sign and speech, and suddenly she had a language explosion in speech AND sign!

My child can hear. Why should they learn American Sign Language (ASL)?

Most children are not developmentally ready to speak until approximately 2 years of age. Babies are developmentally able to communicate with signs much earlier than that. Some studies indicate children as young as 5- 6 months of age can communicate with limited signs. The inability to communicate causes frustration and tantrums. Sign language is a wonderful tool that allows even very small children to express themselves. Most parents that sign with their babies talk about an unexplainable bond that is felt when their child communicates so early!

I have heard that signing helps with tantrums and "The Terrible Two's".

Many tantrums and the "Terrible Two's" are about frustration and communication. There is less frustration when your child can communicate. The typical child's motor skills develop far faster than their verbal skills.

My children are older than 5 years of age, is that too old for Signing Time?

Children of all ages love "Signing Time." Sign language is a valuable tool at any age! Your 5 year-old will quickly learn all of the signs AND they will pick up the additional signs that we show off in the songs too! Many older children love the idea of sign language as their "secret language." Not to mention it is a real language used by millions of Americans, including Leah!

What research exists about the benefits of using sign language with hearing children?

In a word, lots. Please download our summary of the latest research by clicking here.


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