Should I Sign To My Infant?
My answer...YES! I decided to do this post, because I get this question all the time. As a speech-language pathologist and a mother of 2, it is a topic that is very important to me. There is a belief that if you sign to a hearing child, then it will delay their language. Well, it's not true as long as there is one thing present when you sign to your child. That one thing is...Language! It is important to pair signing with the words that correspond with the signs, every time you use the signs. That is how their spoken language will be increased and the connection between the signs and oral language is created. I have used American Sign Language (ASL) with several clients that were unable to use spoken language and it gave them a way to communicate with their families and teachers. Several of them had an increase in their spoken language after using sign language to communicate. Well the same is true for hearing infants.
I began signing to my now 2 year old since she was about 2 months old. I am now signing with my 9 month old since he was about 2 months old as well. My 2 year old even uses signs paired with words to communicate with her little brother! I started early with signing to ensure that they would look at my hands, even before they really paid attention to my hands. I made the decision to teach my kids sign language, because children are able to communicate with their hands before they are able to speak. I wanted to give them a way to communicate their wants and needs without crying being their only way to express themselves. I made a personal decision to teach them ASL instead of using other baby signing programs, so that they would be able to communicate with other people with a formal signing system.
So, here are my tips:
Begin early so the child learns to watch your hands
Pair the word with the sign every time
Do not give up if your child does not immediately sign back, it takes time
Look for sign language classes in your area so you can connect with other parents
Make sure that the people that have contact with your child also uses signs (i.e. parents, teachers, nannies, grandparents, siblings, etc)