Wont My Baby Just Use Signs Instead Of Words
A common concern regarding baby sign language is that this method of communication will take the place of verbal language for your baby. However, Aylet says that sign language will actually accelerate your baby’s verbal skills: “If your little one is growing up in a house and community full of people who use speech as their primary means to communicate, then when your baby or toddler can speak, he/she will.
ALL the developmental research that’s looked into this is in agreement: Sign Language facilitates verbal language for young children. It does not hinder it, it does not make them ‘lazy talkers.’ It is a means towards completely functional verbal language skills.”
My son did continue to use a few of his signs even once he knew the words, but I think thats because theyre easier for him to access when hes flooded with emotion, which got more and more frequent as he transitioned from baby to toddler. At two, his language is great, so retaining a few signs for a few months didnt slow him down.
Let Signs Bridge The Gap In Communication
Signs are a great way to lower frustration and bridge the gap between using spoken language and talking. One of the hardest things for parents is when your child has things to say, but cant communicate it. This can lead to temper tantrums, frustration, and meltdowns.
Think of sign language as a form of communication that is equal in value to talking. If your child signs what they need or want accept it as you would spoken word. You can encourage them to learn spoken word as well by saying the spoken word after they make their request.
This lets them know that you understand what they are trying to communicate and also gives them a natural opportunity to hear the spoken word they are using.
Why Should I Use Sign Language With My Baby
The simplest answer is that using signs allows your baby to express him or herself with gestures before he or she is able to speak with words. Research shows thatthis can help your baby learn to speak with words sooner.
Ayelet expertly describes the complexities of learning to speak: “When we stop to think about how many systems are working together to speak, it’s astounding – we have to coordinate all kinds of signals from our brain to think of the word we want to say, not to mention our breath, all the tiny muscles required to produce speech, placement of the tongue to make different sounds… this is why we often notice that our older infants or young toddlers can understand certain words or phrases before they can speak.”
When you give babies specific tools to use for communication, it opens the door for them to explore language and understand how it works. Here’s a snapshot of the many important benefits of baby sign language:
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Teaching Your Child Sign Language
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Benefits of Sign Language
Sign language isnt just for the hearing impaired. You can use sign language to communicate with your baby to better understand his needs and wants. Children with a speech disorder can also use sign language as a type of . Many children with speech disorders struggle to express themselves nonverbal communication methods can help reduce their frustration. Furthermore, sign language can facilitate the development of verbal language. Your child may benefit from using sign language alone or in conjunction with other AAC devices like picture cards or electronic AAC devices.
When to Begin
You can begin teaching your baby sign language even if he does not have a speech disorder. Some babies are ready to learn sign language when they are between six to nine months old others may need a little more time. Begin working with your baby as soon as you are able to keep eye contact with him for at least five seconds. He will be unable to sign back until he acquires certain motor skills, but he can begin associating certain signs with their meanings.
Talk with your childs speech-language pathologist about teaching him sign language if he is a toddler or older. The SLP may recommend a certain teaching method that she feels would be best for his unique needs. If your child attends school, the SLP may also work with his teachers to incorporate sign language in the classroom.
Image source: nwboces.schoolfusion.us
Is Baby Sign Language Right For You
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commissionat no extra cost to youif you make a purchase.
I hope youve found this walk-through of baby sign language pros and cons helpful. Yes, it will take effort to succeed with baby sign language, but its also easyand the benefits plentyif you have good information.
In my book, Baby Sign Language Made Easy, I give you the knowledge and insights you need to succeed, and help you pick signs specific to your little one. I also take an in-depth look at how to recognize early versions of signsfor example, each sign in the book comes with tips for recognizing babys version.
Im 100% sure youll be so glad to sign with your little one! In fact, Ive never met a parent who signed with their baby and didnt think it was an amazing experience. Once your baby starts communicating with you, youll be hooked and amazed.
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Tips For Teaching Baby Sign Language
Whether you opt for the spontaneous, do-it-yourself approach, or you want to teach your baby gestures derived from real sign languages, keep the following tips in mind.
1. You can start early.
Babies begin learning about language from the very beginning. They overhear their mothers voices in the womb, and they are capable of recognizing their mothers native language distinguishing it from a foreign language at birth.
Over the following months, their brains sort through all the language they encounter, and they start to crack the code. And by the time they are 6 months old, babies show an understanding of many everyday words like mama, bottle, and nose.
Many babies this age are also babbling repeating speech syllables like ma ma ma and ba ba ba.
If a 6-month-old baby says ba ba after you give her a bottle, could it be that shes trying to say the word bottle? If an infant sees his mother and says mama, is he calling her by name?
Its entirely possible. And as noted above, research suggests that many babies are speaking their first words by the age of 10 months.
So we might expect that babies are ready to observe and learn about signs at an early age even before they are 6 months old.
2. Introduce signs naturally, as a part of everyday conversation, and dont try to drill babies.
3. Keep in mind that its normal for babies to be less than competent. Dont pretend you cant understand your baby just because his or her signs dont match the model!
Baby Sign Language: Why When And How To Start
If youre a parent of a baby or toddler, youve probably heard the term baby signs or baby sign language and wondered what its all about. Is it only for deaf children or can hearing children benefit as well?
How and when do I start teaching signs? If my child learns baby signs, will that keep her from talking? As a speech therapist who worked in early intervention for several years, I can answer all of these questions!
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Is It Difficult To Teach A Baby Sign Language
It doesnt have to be! You can read books or watch videos about the simplest signs, then just start incorporating them as you care for your baby throughout the day. Sign milk as you lift your shirt to breastfeed, or as you warm up a bottle, and say the word as well. Sign up while also saying the word, as you pick up your baby. Matching simple signs to the appropriate words and actions is a fantastic start. You do not have to learn all of ASL first in order to get started – you can learn along with your baby.
There are quite a few books, videos, courses, etc. out there which can teach you about baby signing and ASL in general. I personally enjoyed Baby Talk by Monica Beyer, as it was very enjoyable to read, easy to understand, and contains clear illustrations and instructions of all the common signs that you would use with your baby or toddler on an everyday basis! If you have another resource you have used and loved, I would love to hear about it in the comments!
References: Baby Sign Language
Acredolo, LP and Goodwyn SW. 1988. Symbolic gesturing in normal infants. Child Development 59: 450-466.
Acredolo L and Goodwyn S. 1998. Baby Signs. Chicago: Contemporary Books.
Anderson D and Reilly J. 2002. The MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory: Normative data for American Sign Language. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 7: 83106
Bonvillian JD, Orlansky MD, Novack LL. 1983. Developmental milestones: sign language acquisition and motor development. Child Dev. 54:1435-45.
Cartmill EA, Armstrong BF 3rd, Gleitman LR, Goldin-Meadow S, Medina TN, Trueswell JC. 2013. Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary 3 years later. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:11278-83.
Crais E, Douglas DD, and Campbell CC. 2004. The intersection of the development of gestures and intentionality. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 47:678-94.
Fenson L, Dale PS, Reznick JS, Bates E, Thal DJ, Pethick SJ. 1994. Variability in early communicative development. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 59:1-173.
Fitzpatrick EM, Thibert J, Grandpierre V, and Johnston JC. 2014. How handy are baby signs? A systematic review of the impact of gestural communication on typically developing, hearing infants under the age of 36 months. First Language. 34 : 486509.
Goodwyn SW, Acredolo LP, and Brown C. 2000. Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 24: 81-103.
Oller DK. 2000. The emergence of the speech capacity. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Content last modified 1/2019
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Communicating With Your Baby Before They Learn To Speak
Every parent knows how frustrating it is when their baby is crying and they dont know how to help them. While young children cant use words to convey what they want, babies as young as eight months can use gestures to communicate with you. In this podcast, Dr. Cindy Gellner tells you how to get started teaching sign language to your baby and provides some helpful tips to keep in mind.
Pro: Youll Feel More Confident And Connected As A Parent
As a new parent, I sometime found myself filled with self-doubt. Am I doing a good job? Is she overstimulated? Under-stimulated? Bored? Hungry? Tired?
But once my daughter was able to communicate through signs, I found my confidence as a parent grew. After all, I knew what she wanted! We were connecting and having a great time. I found parenting more enjoyable once we were able to communicate clearly.
Ive heard the same from other parents, and I believe it will be the same for you too. Communication is the foundation of all relationships, and signing makes it easier with your infant or young toddler.
Get more tips on how to build a close relationship with your child.
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Don’t Miss Another Special Moment
Empower your baby to be understood. Bond with your baby as she shares the world with you. Don’t miss:
- The first time she signs mommy or daddy
- Her asking you to kiss her tummy again and again
- Her excitement at spotting a bird or a dog
You will never forget that moment when she signs and her face lights up because she knows you finally understand.
Potential Benefits Of Sign Language For Toddlers
Possible benefits of using sign language for your little ones include:
- earlier ability to understand spoken words, especially from ages 1 to 2
- earlier use of spoken language skills, especially from 1 to 2 years old
- earlier use of sentence structure in spoken language
- better bonding between parent and child
- potential IQ increase
From what we know, most of the possible gains found in children seem to level off after age 3. Children 3 years and older who were taught sign language dont appear to have significantly greater abilities than children who didnt sign.
But it may still be valuable to sign with your youngster for several reasons.
Many parents who used sign language reported that their infants and toddlers were able to communicate so much to them during those critical years, including emotions.
As any parent of a toddler knows, its often difficult to know why your child is behaving the way they are. But with sign language, the child has another way of expressing themselves.
While this type of sign language may help your child communicate easier, more research is needed to discover if it can help advance language, literacy, or cognition.
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Tips On How To Teach Sign Language To Your Baby
Babies learn signs for whole words and not individual letters. Now that we know about sign language, here are some tips on how to teach it to our babies!
1. Have fun with Signs. Gone were the days when learning meant dread and pressure. Many studies have shown that we learn faster and better while having fun. Relax and enjoy teaching signs and your baby will have a great time learning too!
2. Start with Simple Signs. We know you are excited to teach sign language. While it could be tempting to sign everything we see or say, it is best not to overwhelm your baby. Start with simple signs like milk, eat, mom and dad. After they learn to sign the basics, you can build from there and expand.
3. Say and Sign. Teaching sign language is as easy as saying the word while making the gesture!
4. Go slow while Signing. Whenever you sign, talk and sign slowly. Our babies take a little more time to process information. This will help them remember the sign.
5. Express and Sign. Sign language is not just hand gestures but facial expressions too! Let your face show feelings. If the sign doesnt evoke sad expressions like hurt or help, then smile.
6. Sign, sign, sign. Repetition is the key to learning sign language. While we said earlier to start with simple signs, you can take every opportunity to repeat the signs to your baby. For example, make the sign for milk every milk time.
Can Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Promote Or Delay Speech
There isnât enough evidence yet to prove that baby sign language can help promote language development , literacy, or cognitive skills. However, there is a chance that it can benefit those babies who have developmental delays.Continuing to talk to your baby while also signing is important so your baby doesnât fall behind in speech development.Contact your babyâs healthcare provider for personalized guidance on whether baby sign language is right for your little one.
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When Do You Start Teaching Babies Sign Language
Many caregivers start teaching babies signs around four months of age. Now, dont expect that a baby this young will be able to sign back just yet! Its all about the repetition, and consistently teaching them over a period of time that certain signs are associated with things like milk, up, more, bath, snack, and so on. Its common for weeks or months to go by before your baby starts intentionally communicating with you by signing.
Its also never too late to teach sign language to your baby, toddler, or older child. Even though you may not rely on it once your child learns more words, its still a great and useful skill to have, and provides an extra parenting tool to help your child when they are stressed out or having a tantrum.
Does This Mean That Abstract Non
Thats a reasonable question, given that baby signing programs feature signs that are non-iconic. Could the difficulty of learning such signs be a roadblock?
Studies havent found that babies trained to use signs suffer any disadvantages.
So if you and your baby enjoy learning and using signs, you shouldnt worry that youre putting your baby at risk for a speech delay. In essence, youre just teaching your baby extra vocabulary vocabulary borrowed from a second language.
Still, its helpful to remember that iconic gestures are easier for your baby to figure out.
For example, in one experimental study, 15-month-old toddlers were relatively quick to learn the name of a new object when the adults gestured in an illustrative, pantomime-like way.
The toddlers were less likely to learn the name for an object when the spoken word was paired with an arbitrary gesture .
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Sign Language Boosts Cognitive Development
Babies who were taught sign language tend to have higher IQ levels than babies who were not, simply because sign language activates more parts of the brain than spoken language.
When we speak, we only use our auditory receptors. We simply hear and utter words.
During sign language, we use visual, auditory and kinesthetic receptors. We look at the hand gestures and facial expressions, we listen and say the words, and we use our body to perform sign language.
When we simultaneously activate more parts of our brain, we boost and reinforce cognitive development.