Baby Sign Language


#1

My wife and I are expecting and due in a month. We hung out with some families from the church we now attend and a few of the small children (less than 2yo) knew “baby sign” language.

It really intrigued my wife and I, and we really like how it helped them communicate. I was looking for some good resources. I googled it and did an amazon search but it is hard to determine what works and what doesnt.

I am also a little concerned about plopping our child down in front of the TV to learn this stuff. It seems like a lot of the resources are DVD’s.

Thanks for your help/advice!


#2

This is entirely hearsay: I have heard that baby sign language can slow actual language development. Something about part of why babies learn how to talk is they are motivated to communicate, and babies who sign have less motivation to learn to talk.

(Take anything I say with a grain of salt, though. I'm sure you can find more reliable statistics and anecdotes from experts or people who actually have children.)


#3

I am not as worried about that. I think speech development is so different for each child. Einstein barely spoke before he was 3 so...

Plus I would much rather have my children be able to communicate in SOME way than no way at all. I have started researching what you have said though, and I will most definitely take it under advisement. AS long as there isn't irreparable harm, I won't worry.

I also know a few families that speak only one language in their home (aside) from english so that there kids learn it. They only use english outside the home. All of their kids have grown up to speak perfect english as well as their native tongue. This might not be the same thing, but I know that the english development took a lot longer. Many not speaking english until the age of 4 or 5.


#4

I haven't read anything on the topic, but Augusta's comment makes a lot of sense. These kids learning signing language can become a crutch that they rely on, rather than learning necessary language skills.

Just my two cents.

Oh, and the TV thing, don't let your kid watch tv before they are 2. Most experts agree that the images will set them back. If you want to teach them sign language, then you should learn it yourself and teach them that way. :)


#5

Since I posted this I have done some preliminary research and have found out some things:

  1. Many experts agree that the signing actually helps the speech development. The association between visual elements helps audible and vocal development. It is similar to learning to read and speech.

  2. It helps children learn to analyze and communicate rather than simply memorizing things and associating them. I dont quite understand this and am trying to get more info. It seems like it would be the opposite but I guess not.

My wife and I actually found out we know someone that signs with developmentally challenged children (physical and mental) and so we are going to talk to her more.


#6

I think it would be best that your child learns from you. Not from a dvd. Just learn some basic signs for things you would like your child to know. (toilet, hungry, milk, sleepy, blanket etc.)

It will not slow speech. Children of deaf parents learn to speak fine.


#7

[quote="angelsdefendus, post:5, topic:179623"]
Since I posted this I have done some preliminary research and have found out some things:

  1. Many experts agree that the signing actually helps the speech development. The association between visual elements helps audible and vocal development. It is similar to learning to read and speech.

  2. It helps children learn to analyze and communicate rather than simply memorizing things and associating them. I dont quite understand this and am trying to get more info. It seems like it would be the opposite but I guess not.

My wife and I actually found out we know someone that signs with developmentally challenged children (physical and mental) and so we are going to talk to her more.

[/quote]

My guess would be that it might nurture a visual--->verbal synesthetic pathway. Unlike reading-->speaking you have the added benefit of muscle memory, and you would think hand gestures would be easier to visualize than letters. It's like having dual processor PC. Since different areas of the brain would be able to handle language, perhaps they can multitask and increase ability. It could also end up increasing visuo-spatial skill as well.

Ideally you and your wife should learn with your child and speak both verbally and mechanically at the same time. However, even if you didn't there probably wouldn't be any language delays. A cross-cultural study showed that in other countries where parents speak much less to there baby's they still learn to speak at the same rate as American children. Language seems to be hard-wired into the human brain. Bi-lingual children also score higher on intelligence tests.

Then again, there haven't been any serious studies on this, so who knows what could happen. If your kid ends up with an Autistic spectrum disorder(like Einstein probably had) it could make things worse.


#8

I grew up around deaf and hard of hearing.

As a nanny I taught the little girl sign language. If I ever have kids I'm going to teach them, too. Young tots struggle with finding the right word and sign helps them.

However, I'd recommend not using the baby DVD tapes and simply learning some words. Respect that ASL is a language. Use adult tapes and learn words for yourself. Teach your baby words that you use, not just words for ball or food.

Then again, there haven't been any serious studies on this, so who knows what could happen. If your kid ends up with an Autistic spectrum disorder(like Einstein probably had) it could make things worse.

Although there are mixed theories in my opinion you're dead wrong. ASL is a language and has full communication ability. It is FAR better for a child to be able to communicate in a language than for them to struggle with the English language just becuase that's the mainstream form of communication. I work with autistic kids and I can't tell you how much better off the kids who sign are than the kids forced into lifelong speech therapy. Most often the kids who sign also have endured speech therapy but they did it with a knowledge and understanding and are able to have others understand them in the mean time.


#9

[quote="angelsdefendus, post:1, topic:179623"]
My wife and I are expecting and due in a month. We hung out with some families from the church we now attend and a few of the small children (less than 2yo) knew "baby sign" language.

It really intrigued my wife and I, and we really like how it helped them communicate. I was looking for some good resources. I googled it and did an amazon search but it is hard to determine what works and what doesnt.

I am also a little concerned about plopping our child down in front of the TV to learn this stuff. It seems like a lot of the resources are DVD's.

Thanks for your help/advice!

[/quote]

Heres my experience:

My daughter from the age of 8 months old, has been going to daycare where they teach the 'babysigns'. She started walking at 8 months, and physically she matured really fast...meaning crawling, walking, etc...

She picked up the babysigns really fast. And it was easier to communicate. A little. The problems I had were, half the time I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, and the things she 'communicated' were simple.

Like, one sign is, the left hand making like a pinching motion with all five fingers, into the palm of the right hand. This is the sign for 'I want drink'.

Before, if my baby was crying, the first thing I'd do is pick her up, and try to feed her. So this didnt really solve anything for me. When kids cry its cuz what- they are hungry, want to be held, tired, its pretty basic at those ages...

In other words your baby is NOT going to sign you 'I'm crying because I have gas cramps and need to be burped.'

And when she started talking, it was weird cuz she continued to sign while she spoke, she didnt know that she no longer needed to do so. So, she'd be telling me, 'mom, can i have something to drink please', all the while doing this weird hand, finger thingy motion, and it looked like, to someone who wouldnt know, like a kid with terrets or something.

And she wouldnt quit. I had to constantly remind her, baby, stop playing with your hands its ok you can just TELL me....

And, she has a minor speech impedement. I cant say yet if its because of the babysigns, I just had a doctor refer us to a eye ear mouth specialist, because it could be her hearing-maybe shes not HEARing the words right, to be able to say them right, but...it could be because she relied so heavily, and focused so heavily on learning the signs instead of the language.

Just some things to think about and my experience with it. :)


#10

Maybe deaf parents with hearing children should be answering this question.


#11

The babysigns are separate from sign language. Its intended for hearing children to be able to communicate before they can speak.


#12

My advice if you want your kid to verbally excel is to always talk to them. Like, insane amounts of talking to your kid. Not the TV. Read to them. Talk to them. Talk to them in the car. Talk to them while you shop for groceries. They wont talk back. Talk to them like your talking to yourself in your head, but to them, 'oh the grapes are on sale, do you think we should have grapes or apples? oh apples huh! thats a good choice...' lol...people will think your crazy cuz your kids only 2months, but really, talk talk talk talk talk.........

and then, when they start talking, they'll never hush up LMBO....

my daughters really into writing....always has a little 'journal' and pen or pencil...I'll have her in the cart, and as I throw stuff in she'll say, MILK- ok mom how do you spell milk? and I'll say m-i-l-k....and shell write it out....

shes been in kindergarten for 2 months and writing her own sentances. i'm so proud. its insane the pace they can learn at- when you tie in the school with home...


#13

Think of the song "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Remember singing this or other children's songs that had hand-motions to accompany them? Would you claim that by making hand motions that you are making it less likely that a little child remembers the song? Of course not!

Sign language/spoken word language are things that you teach AT THE SAME TIME. It's not an either/or proposition as you don't make the signs in silence, you are also speaking.

While saying the word "milk" or "more" or "cookie" you make the sign. Both, at the same time, always always always always.

I have a daughter with a disAbility and sign language was a godsend. Once she started talking more she dropped the signs. I have heard this story many times.

As for videos, yes that is how we all learned them. Our whole family watched them together, which is imperative so you don't have an experience similair to Charlotte's where the child is learning them and you are not. I suppose t.v. isn't the best but it's too hard to learn from a book as you can't see the motions. Just 10 minutes a day is all you need so I wouldn't worry about plopping your child in front of a T.V. for hours.

Hope this helps and congratulations on the new baby!


#14

I feel passionately about baby sign because I've seen what a huge impact it has had on my son. And yes, we did learn from DVDs - the best quality one of all which is Signing Time. Please read Rachel Coleman's story. She is the mom of a deaf daughter and a daughter with cerebral palsy. She developed signing time to bridge the deaf and hearing worlds.

I found that my own signing vocabulary increased hugely from the DVDs - sorry, books and websites just didn't do it for me. Our family has deaf members and know various levels of sign, and they (the adults) all think the videos are fabulous and want to use them also. Parents can enjoy them along with the kiddos - and yes, you DO have to watch them together because otherwise you will have no idea what your child is saying.

My son learned over 100 signs. He has a huge drive to communicate - where would we be without sign language??? I don't know. Way more temper tantrums for sure.

Research has been showing that kids who sign have better vocabularies. It makes sense to me. My son was signing rhinoceros long before he could say it. And YES there were times he wanted to talk about rhinoceroses.

GO for it, whatever the means.

Also, I learned that it's better to immerse the child in the signs than just limiting it to 10 or so. Once we upped the frequency and variety of signs my son started using far more of them.


#15

my now 2 year old dd loved signing. i KNOW it helped us to be able to communicate. of course, you have to learn the signs also, kind of pointless when the daycare takes the time to teach the kids, but the parents dont put in the effort to learn them. how sad. we bought a few baby sign launguage books, ones that were geared for the babies, with pictures of babies doing the signs and a short description. we just learned the basics, but dd also invented her own over time.

it made things so much easier when dd wanted something. she was able to tell us, rather than us just try to figure it out. of course, a baby wont sign to you that they have gas cramps and need to be burped, but theres is even a sign for tummy ache! we never learned that one though.

i say go for it, i dont think you will be disappointed. we still use signs some now. like in church, when shes being too loud, but shes at the other end of the pew with family. i will make the sign for quiet and it works.


#16

I've studied this in child psychology. Children are capable of understanding language before they can control their voice. Teaching babies sign language gives them a way to communicate earlier. I don't remember anything about it delaying speaking. But is it really that important that your child speak right on schedule, ASAP, that you would delay your child being able to communicate for possibly months?

My brother went to a day care that was primarily for special needs, and they taught the children a few things. He was able to thank people and ask for something to drink by signing before being able to say it.

Plus studies show that children, in the absence of being taught real ones, invent their own signs, if you know what to look for.

I plan to teach my children signs when I have them.


#17

[quote="Charlotte408, post:12, topic:179623"]
My advice if you want your kid to verbally excel is to always talk to them. Like, insane amounts of talking to your kid. Not the TV. Read to them. Talk to them. Talk to them in the car. Talk to them while you shop for groceries. They wont talk back. Talk to them like your talking to yourself in your head, but to them, 'oh the grapes are on sale, do you think we should have grapes or apples? oh apples huh! thats a good choice...' lol...people will think your crazy cuz your kids only 2months, but really, talk talk talk talk talk.........

and then, when they start talking, they'll never hush up LMBO....

my daughters really into writing....always has a little 'journal' and pen or pencil...I'll have her in the cart, and as I throw stuff in she'll say, MILK- ok mom how do you spell milk? and I'll say m-i-l-k....and shell write it out....

shes been in kindergarten for 2 months and writing her own sentances. i'm so proud. its insane the pace they can learn at- when you tie in the school with home...

[/quote]

I have no personal experience with baby signing programs, but those who I know have used it seem to have similar experiences as you - with the older kids still making weird hand motions at 4 & 5, and the actual speaking was delayed compared to others.

I know - that's hearsay - take it as you wish...

But I agree with Charlotte's post above about TALKING ALL THE TIME to your child... that's the best thing you can do to improve communication... :thumbsup:


#18

Here's a link to research proving the benefits of sign language for hearing children.

signingtime.com/resources/sign-language-research/


#19

We never did it, and as others have said, your kid either wants to eat, change of diaper, nap, or a toy. The parents who did it that I know, their kids were slower to talk b/c they used the signing as a crutch instead of being forced to use words.

You’ll know your kid well enough to know what they want without sign language. Read a lot of books to them, and they will start to speak very quickly.


#20

We used signs with our children. When you think about it we all already use signs such as pointing to something and saying "look". I saw Joseph Garcia give a talk about signing at a moms group, here is his DVD amazon.com/SIGN-your-BABY-How-Reference/dp/1932354018?&camp=212361&creative=383957&linkCode=waf&tag=signingwithyourb

I should emphasize that the DVD is for the parents not the child. Noone is advocating sticking your baby in front of the TV!

Baby signing is for babies before they are verbal and it certainly didn't prevent our children from speaking and hitting all the milestones. You are also still talking while using the signs, there is no need to be silent. It was very helpful as a parent because they could tell you what they were thinking and what they wanted. I didn't use signs from any known sign language just made some up. I would notice what the baby was interested in and make up a sign. For example my first dd used to love to look for squirrels in the garden out of the window. I gave her a sign and she could tell me she'd seen a squirrel, it was so cute! She would be sitting in her high chair looking out of the window while I was in the kitchen.

For a while you will be signing and the baby will be watching but there will come a time just like with listening to language that the baby starts to "own" and use the signs. I remember the first time this happened. We were in the park and my dd (who could not walk at that time and was walking unassisted at 11 months) was standing holding on to her stroller. She suddenly got really excited and started to sign "bird" I looked behind me and saw some birds had flown down and were on the grass behind me. I was really emotional! It was amazing to have your BABY initiate a conversation with you and share what she could see!

Can you tell I'm a big advocate of baby signs? :o

I have to admit we did less with our other children because I was more distracted and didn't have as much time, but I have only seen positives from communicating like this with our babies. It helps them overcome frustration when they can tell you what they are thinking. Although we had one problem. We taught my dd a sign for "help" i.e. I need help to do something. Sometimes she wanted me to "help" her get all the arrowroot cookies from the high cupboard!! She would be signing and signing frantically and I would have to refuse to help! ;) - usually I would just distract her!


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.