Saturday, November 8, 2008

Will Baby Sign Delay Speech Development?

One reason some people hesitate to teach their children sign language is because they are afraid they might delay their speech. While there is still a little debate on this topic, the research and personal experience indicates otherwise.

In 1999, Dr. Kimberlee Whaley published the results of her study of hearing infants communicating with sign language in an Ohio State laboratory daycare. The caregivers were taught American Sign Language (ASL) and then began using it in their interactions with the children. The teacher's spoke and signed words throughout the day. They would sign EAT when asking the children, "Do you want to eat?" They taught toddlers to sign STOP instead of pushing or hitting other children.

The study found that learning baby sign did not slow the children's speech. Often, the children's first words would be words they already signed. They did notice that girls tended to sign more than boys.

The daycare providers and parents found the early communication with sign language extremely helpful. The children at the school learned 25 to 30 signs by the time they were two or three.

I have stumbled across a few parents online who wish they hadn't taught their children sign language because they believed it was delaying speech. But, on the individual level it's hard to know when you child is going to begin speaking. The average time frame for speech is so large. Some kids are talking before they are one. Others wait until they are two or even three. So if your child isn't talking at 15 months, is it because there is a speech problem? Because he is one of the children that don't begin talking until they are two? Or because you have been signing with him?

It's probably not the sign language, since it is used by speech pathologists to help children who are struggling with speech. Kathy Moores, the creator of mocobabies sign language stickers and flashcards, writes about her daughter's speech delay in her blog, Hip Baby Signing Blog. She believes signing with her daughter from infancy has increased their communication and given her daughter a means to express herself while they work to correct her speech.


mocobabies images

Personally, I don't feel it delayed my daughter's speech. The only problem I had was when we talked on the phone. Sometimes, she would sign instead of speak. But that wasn't an issue, I just translated for her. And she was able to communicate far more than she would have without signs.

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How can Smart Baby Sign Language help you sign with your baby or child? Feel free to ask me any questions. If I can't find a reliable source, I'll poll those who know. What else would help you: activities to teach sign language, ways to use sign language to teach reading, reviews of sign language products, etc.?

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