Here are some top questions often asked about using sign language with infants, toddlers and older children.
Q: My baby can hear. Are there any benefits to teaching my hearing child baby sign language?
A: Yes! Learning sign language builds confidence - your baby knows she can communicate more effectively, thereby reducing or possibly avoiding unnecessary frustrations and tantrums!
Q: When should I start teaching my baby signs? At what age is the best time to start?
A: Start signing today! While many parents begin introducing signs to their baby around 6-months, we believe it is never too early or too late to start signing with your child. Start with basic signs. For example, begin signing “milk” to your newborn when it’s time to nurse or time for a bottle.
Introducing simple signs like “sleep” at nap time and “eat” at meal time will help integrate signs into your daily routine. Soon the repetition and reinforcement will occur naturally as your baby grows. Using sign language also helps babies realize that crying is not the only way of communicating.
Q: Won't learning sign language cause a speech delay?
A: Many parents fear that signing will delay speech; however, research shows that babies who learn to sign, actually speak earlier than non-signing babies. Signing babies also tend to accumulate a larger (vocal) vocabulary than non-signing babies. If your goal is communication, then signing will meet that communication need much earlier than speech.
Q: What if my childcare provider doesn't use signs?
A: Many daycares and preschools are beginning to recognize the benefits of utilizing sign language within their programs and report reduced frustration amongst children in groups as well as a decrease in noise levels within their classrooms. It is important to tell your childcare provider of the benefits of signing with babies and toddlers. And, of course you can point them to our site!
Q. My child can hear. Why sign?
A: 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 to 6 months of age can communicate with limited signs.
The inability to communicate can cause frustration and tantrums for both the parent and the child! Sign language is a wonderful tool that allows even very small children to express themselves.
Q. How does sign language help hearing infants communicate?
A: While most babies begin talking between 1 and 2 years of age, they understand and want to communicate much earlier. Since babies have control over their hands long before they develop the fine motor skills required for speech, signing enables them to express what they are not yet able to say.
Q. What are the benefits of continuing to use sign language after my child is verbal?
A: Sign language can be used to improve hearing children's English vocabulary, reading ability, spelling proficiency, self-esteem, and comfort with expressing emotion. A child's vocabulary development can be enhanced by simultaneously presenting words visually, kinesthetically and verbally.
Research shows that signing children not only learn to speak sooner but 3-year old children exposed to signing had language skills approaching that expected of a 4 year old.
Q. Why learn American Sign Language rather than home-made signs?
A: There are a number of compelling reasons to use American Sign Language (ASL):
- ASL is the formal language used by the deaf community in the U.S. It is a fully functioning language.
- ASL is a standardized system that offers consistency across childcare and educational settings.
- ASL facilitates inclusion and cultural sensitivity.
- ASL is the fourth most commonly used language in the U.S.
- ASL is widely known and accessible and can continue for a lifetime.
- ASL is easy to learn because many of the signs mimic the idea that is being communicated.
Q. Do I need to be fluent in American Sign Language to get started?
A: Not at all. I think you will be surprised how useful it is to learn even a few signs; and there are many wonderful resources available to help you learn additional signs as you and your child are ready.