Archive for July, 2012

July 30th, 2012

To Sign or Not to Sign

Teaching sign language to children who are not hearing impaired might seem like a fad.  You can see many videos on You Tube of cute babies signing.

Baby sign language courses for parents are taught  in many communities.  For typically developing children it’s fun and a great way to reduce frustration before they can talk.

The children  I see are all struggling to learn to talk.  I often recommend teaching signs and gestures to help a child communicate. You can’t make a child say sounds or words, but you can take  hands and help form the gesture or sign. Sometimes parents  are worried  their child won’t talk if they teach him  signs and gestures. Happily, that is never the case. If a child can talk he will. We all use gestures to communicate anyway, it doesn’t stop us from talking too. Think about these gestures we are familiar with:

  • wagging a finger
  • waving
  • shrugging shoulders
  • putting your hand out in front of you
  • nodding

Teaching Tips:

  1. Introduce one or two new signs/gestures at a time.
  2. Choose signs/gestures that are important to your child.  If your child isn’t interested in cats he won’t learn that sign. If he loves apples you can bet he’ll pick it up quickly.
  3. Demonstrate the sign and say the word.  If he doesn’t imitate, gently take his hand and show him how to do it.
  4. If you are signing as a temporary measure to bridge the gap until the child can talk, it doesn’t matter if you choose American Sign Language or Signed English. Some children make up their own gestures-it’s all good as long as the child and people around him know what it means.
  5. Choose signs that are not too hard.  For example; one hand slapping your leg for “dog” (like the gesture for “come here”) is easy.  Tapping your chin with 3 fingers for “water” is harder. You can see the baby in the video link above trying these signs.
  6. Don’t expect perfection and repeat, repeat, repeat.

These are sites with  free  dictionaries so you can see the signs in action: