Why Teach Sign Language to Your Hearing Child

Why sign with your infant?

Babies crawl before they can walk and sign before they can talk. It’s simply easier for them to control their hands than to co-ordinate all the processes involved in producing speech. Babies may begin to sign at eight months of age or even younger but it’s never too late to start. A basic sign language vocabulary allows baby to tell you what she needs without all the fussing and guessing. As a grandmother who has experienced it I can tell you, this early communication creates a special bond between the infant and her care givers.

You and your infant/toddler can take Baby Sign Language Made Easy via live group video call on your home computer. For more information visit Signing As We Grow.

Why sign with your toddler?

The “terrible twos” aren’t so terrible any more when a toddler can communicate what’s on his mind. Signing provides a window into a toddler’s mind allowing care providers to enrich his language experience in step with his level of understanding. A toddler who knows sign has an additional strategy to use before dissolving into tears or rage when his parents can’t figure out what he just said. Because facial expression is an important aspect of sign language, toddlers learn to recognize and express feelings and emotions
when they learn to sign.

Our granddaughter was using more than 225 signs at the point where she had nine spoken words. She was already communicating in sentences, learning her colors, using opposite concepts and could sign a word that started with each letter of the alphabet. When she was ready to talk she went from nine words to more than 250 in a matter of two weeks and all the language development she had gained through signing came along for the ride.

You and your infant/toddler can take Baby Sign Language Made Easy via live group video call on your home computer. For more information visit Signing As We Grow.

Why sign with your preschooler?

Research shows that learning to sign as a young child has lasting benefits. Children who sign continue to have larger vocabularies than non-signing peers. Signing contributes to the early development of reading and spelling skills. Some studies even indicate that children who sign from a young age tend to score higher on I.Q. tests at age eight (most recent data available).

At 2 ½ , our granddaughter’s favorite song to sing by herself is the alphabet song. She has sung it flawlessly for months now. She recognizes the signs for all the letters, recognizes her printed name and can spell it out loud. Of her own volition, she’s working on signing the whole alphabet (the manual alphabet requires more finger control than many signs for concepts), and recognizing and printing letters.

When it seemed like it would be useful for her to learn the days of the week, so we could explain when she would next get to go the swimming pool or the farmers’ market or visit with Daddy, we pulled out Signing Time’s Days of the Week DVD. She was talking a blue streak by then but the video provided a very engaging way to present all the days of the week and signing gives that fairly abstract concept a physical presence. She learned the signs and words the first time through. She may not have a fully developed concept of how much time there is between now and next Sunday, but we have a shared way to talk about it and help her develop an understanding.

Why sign with school age children?

Learning sign language provides all the same benefits as learning a spoken second language. Signing enhances the learning experience regardless of the subject matter. It appeals to the visual, tactile and kinesthetic learner. Learning opportunities that incorporate stories, music, movement and humour engage the whole child. Signing is a good way for a child to be actively involved in their learning.

Signing Time Classroom Edition is an excellent resource for teachers and home schoolers.

Why sign with children with special needs?

Many children with special needs face additional challenges learning to speak. Signing is often recommended as part of their speech and language program. Whether they will eventually learn to speak or not, signing can help children with special needs learn by engaging their visual, tactile and kinesthetic senses. Many families report that their child with special needs became more motivated to learn to speak once they experienced real two way communication using sign.  Sign language and fingerspelling can help children with learning disabilities improve their reading and spelling skills.

At every stage and every age:

Children enjoy signing!
Learning sign language contributes to language, intellectual, social/emotional and fine motor development. Learning sign language fits easily into daily routines, play based and musical activities. Knowing some sign language allows children to be more understanding and welcoming to peers with special needs who use sign as their first language.

Links to research:

“What Current Clinical Research Really Says About Signing for Hearing Children”
“Research on How Signing Helps Hearing Children Learn to Read”
“The Long Term Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy on IQ at Age Eight”
“The Use of Signs by Children with Down Syndrome”

Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy