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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Are You Teaching Your Baby Sign Language?

I think this is a good topic to discuss, since I am doing a Welcome Baby Blog Event and many of you have young children. Have any of you tried teaching your children sign language? I tried with my first child, and we were pretty successful. Unfortunately, I kind of stopped doing it...I plan on working on it again with my new baby, since I really believe in the benefits of it!

I want to share a really interesting article with all of you that will hopefully help you decide if teaching your baby sign language is a valuable decision. Enjoy!

During a time of economic hardship there are certain skills that everyone must posses to achieve a decent standard of living. Two things that can help one achieve even more is the ability to communicate in a variety of ways to the widest possible audience, another is that ability to be versatile. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

There is a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language which has in turn led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it's likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.

Signing Before They Can Speak

Research has clearly confirmed that the ages 2 to 5 is the prime time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.

This is not as odd as you may think. As you know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.

An article featured in Boulder Daily Camera supported that sign language is innate. Presenting strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

" 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

Another study (by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) cited by the author demonstrates that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).

The Best Time To Start

Learning sign not only gives pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it also can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Atlanta child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.


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