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[Guest Post] Early Childhood Sign Language

Friday, December 17, 2010

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

Signing Before They Can Speak

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the best ages to teach a second language (where it be sign language or Spanish) is from the ages of 2 to 5. Many young children have a natural aptitude for signing as well. This can begin at home or if your child is enrolled in a child care facility, many programs have begun to incorporate it into their curriculum.

This is not as odd as you may think. As you may or may not know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language.

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that children as young as six months old naturally communicate with their hands:

"...by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

The author also cites study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older.

The Best Time To Start

Pre-verbal youngsters having the ability to sign not only give them a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Georgia child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.



WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Children can be apt at communicating that they are thirsty or hungry by the sign of crying, being unhappy and stressed.

My daughter is very good at teaching my granddaughter to emulate her body motions, and she does so with a happy face wearing a cute smile!

Thank you for your musings and considerations of this nature.

Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Take wonderful and gentle care. Have a lovely Christmas and a HAPPY New Year.

Quiana said...

We started signing with Nia when she was 3 months old. She loves it and shows great interest in the signs. I'm hoping by 6 months she can start signing back. My mom and brother thought I was joking when I told them about teaching babies sign language! I'll share your post with them =)

septembermom said...

This is amazing how babies can start communicating through sign language. I wish I had this information when my kids were babies. Thanks for sharing Teresha. Merry Christmas!!

Stacey T said...

I had no idea kids could start communicating so early. I'll have to start trying this.

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