Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard or even know people who rave about teaching sign language to their baby, toddler or preschooler. There are many benefits of teaching your baby sign language. Personally I love that your child can feel empowered by language, before they are able to form the words verbally. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I use sign language in my sessions all the time, particularly with toddlers that have language delays. It’s very rewarding to watch a child learn how to tell mom or dad that they are hungry or want to read a book.
I have been teaching my boys sign language since they were about 9 months old. The look in their eye when they finally make a connection between using the sign and obtaining something in return is priceless. Xander is now teaching Noah signs, which is fun to watch. He also loves learning new signs.
Let’s touch upon the difference between American Sign Language (ASL) and Baby Sign Language . American Sign Language is a complete language system, which combines hand movements, facial expressions and body language to communicate. It is the primary language of North Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Baby sign language is a sign language program that teaches your child pre-verbal communication, by using visual clues (signs) before they can talk. The Baby Signs® Program incorporates the most common first word signs from American Sign Language and combines them with signs that babies and parents have created themselves. Essentially it uses more “baby friendly” hand movements, where American Sign Language uses more complex motor movements. There are several programs that teach parents how to teach their children sign language using American Sign Language, as well. Most of these programs incorporate music and play into the curriculum.
In my opinion, one system is not better than the other one, when it comes to teaching sign language to young children. Personally, I teach my patients and boys ASL, because it’s a nationally recognized language. When children first learn certain signs that require more complex fine motor skills they typically modify the sign themselves. As their fine motor coordination improves, so does their ability to sign more accurately.
For more information about American Sign Language check out the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Are you wondering how to sign a particular word to teach your child? Check out Smart Hands Sign Language Dictionary. Smart Hands also has a IPhone Smart Hands App, which I highly recommend!
Next Monday on Mommy Minute Monday I will be discussing how to teach children manners using sign language. It will feature a few videos of Xander using signs and it’s not to miss.