Frequently Asked Questions
How does sign language help hearing infants communicate?
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.
Will using sign language with my preverbal baby delay her speech?
No. Research indicates that preverbal babies who use sign language actually begin speaking at an earlier age and have larger receptive and expressive vocabularies then babies who don't sign. See the links page for more details.
What is the best age to begin signing with my child?
"I started signing with my daughter at two and a half. Not only did she pick it up quickly, my husband and I both saw an immediate boost in her self-confidence and in her vocabulary!"
We believe it's never too early or too late to begin signing with your child. For infants, we recommend beginning anywhere from 6 to10 months of age. It will take a younger child longer to produce the signs than an older child, but exposing them to the signs early on is great!! Infants understand the signs receptively before they do expressively. Starting to sign at birth can really help the child get used to the idea of communicating with your hands, however, keep in mind that it will take some months before they can sign back to you. So, if you know you are an "immediate gratification" sort of person, I suggest waiting until around 6 months. We also have children who start learning to sign after 2 years of age and they can still reap the benefits of learning this beautiful visual language.
Why should we continue to use sign language after my child is verbal?
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.
Research also indicates that learning a second language, including sign language, actually increases IQ scores. Because sign language is a visual language, both the language cortex (the left hemisphere) and the visual/motor cortex (the right hemisphere) of the brain are stimulated simultaneously, thus improving eye/hand coordination and general motor function.
Will I be learning American Sign Language or made up signs?
Signs of Learning is committed to teaching American Sign Language (ASL) for a number of compelling reasons:
- 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. Dr. Marilyn Daniels, author of the critically-acclaimed Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy (Bergin & Garvey 2001) has found, based on over ten years of research with hearing babies and children in this country and the UK, that there are significant advantages for both children and parents if vocabulary words from ASL and BSL are presented to children rather than "home made invented signs."
- 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.
- ASL structure is compatible with the nature of language development in young children.
Do I need to be fluent in American Sign Language to begin?
Not at all. You only need to learn a handful of basic signs to begin with and can learn additional signs as you and your child are ready. There are many wonderful resources available to help you learn as you are ready.
The SIGN with your BABY™ program developed by Dr. Joseph Garcia is a wonderful program with a variety of helpful products to help you on this journey of learning. Another good resource for learning is the We Sign Babies and Toddlers Video set. The first tape is an introduction which includes basic "how to" information as well as over 30 of the most commonly used signs. The second tape provides over 200 words so you can learn new vocabulary when you are ready.
The Signing Time series of DVDs and CD's are also a wonderful tool.
Why sing and sign?
Music also enhances language development, spatial reasoning skills, socialization and motivation to communicate. Signing is rhythmic, as is music, and the combination provides a natural means by which to practice and interact. And it is really fun! One note though, I suggest that you not only sing and sign with your child, but also be sure to use the signs regularly in your daily routines; using the "props" of everyday life will help them make the connection between the sign and the concept your communicating.
Who should attend Signs of Learning workshops and classes?
Parents, future parents, child-care providers, early intervention specialists, families of special needs children, moms' groups, educators, librarians, and anyone who interacts with infants, toddlers, and young children.