Archive for ‘signing’

December 14, 2010

>guest post: learning to sign before they can speak

>I’ve written about this before, but I can’t stress it enough – baby sign language ROCKS!

We started working with Hadley with some basic signs, like more, eat, milk etc., when she was eight months or so. And soon the fruits of our labor paid off. Pretty soon she was learning more signs and communicating with us beautifully. But Hadley was stringing sentences together vocally pretty young, so we stopped pushing signing.

We now work with Hayden…

When Emily Patterson, Communications Coordinator for the for the Austin child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools emailed me to share a guest post, it was a no brainer to share with my readers.

And without further ado…

Learn to Sign Before They Can Speak

A key to surviving in a troubled economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent
standard of living will be limited, is versatility. Of course another being, the ability to
communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes
bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the
disabled – primarily the deaf.

At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language
has 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

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the
best 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 have begun to teach it in their curriculums.

This really isn’t as odd as you may think. As you may already 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

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder
Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old
communicate with their hands:

“…by 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)

A study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is also
cited, demonstrating 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

Incorporating sign into pre-verbal youngsters early childhood education as a way to
communicate 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 Austin 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.