Hello again, everybody. Last week, I gave you a quick introduction to who I am and what I will be writing about. This week, I will go over some benefits of baby signing. I can hear some supporters shouting things at the screen right now while those that don't know much about this subject will be intrigued to find out.
Here is my son signing for ‘more’. I remember the first time he did this around 8 months and I was playing a game that most parents play with their little ones on the bed with the thrill of feeling the air all around you and mummy or daddy saying ‘one, two, three, weeeee’. I did this to Azad and he kept signing for more, so he had more and more and more. I breast fed back then and so I signed milk to him and said, “Would you like some milk?” so he got all ready for milk. Phew, I was able to relax finally. He wore me out.
This picture was taken much later after a dancing show. In fact, I am sure he did not really want any more of that as that was hard work.
So, there are many benefits to baby signing. It will reduce frustration for your baby. When your baby turns about one he or she will really want to communicate with you but his or her vocal muscles will not quite be ready yet. With the attempts of speech such as ‘da da’ or ‘mu mu’, using the signs we make it far easier to be able to understand the child's wants and needs. Also, when reading books that have lots of pictures your little one will be able to point at some pictures and try the sign. As we show the correct sign and say the correct word, language development starts. Speaking of language development starting, I can tell you a story that happened to me when walking through the gardens of a park. My son would sniff for ‘flower’ which is correct in ASL, while in BSL we also have our hand near our nose as if holding a flower and smelling it. Azad signed ‘flower’ to all of the flowers, but also to a tree. As I understood his communication and what he was thinking, I corrected him and gave him a lesson all about a tree with their trunk, branches, leaves, etc. He was already beginning language development at 11 months old.
Here is a little girl who comes to my Toddler Talk classes. She has been coming to the classes for some time now and this was taken a while ago when she was signing ‘bird’. Bird is a favorite sign for the children as they can hear them in the morning if they are hearing and also see them every day if out and about. Another favorite sign is 'duck'. It is really good if you can visit a farm as the little ones love the animals and learning those signs are great fun.
Back to the benefits of signing; there are so many. I have been teaching baby signing now for a few years and I am sure I will add more stories of the benefits in a future post, but here are some examples in a nut shell.
One major benefit of baby signing is reducing frustration. Signing helps you understand what your baby wants and needs along with their speech effort. I asked some friends what they thought the benefits are and the following are their responses.
A profoundly Deaf Tiny Talk teacher, Helen Atherton, said that baby signing advances babies social communication, enabling when they do talk to communicate at much higher level than their peers. Helen also told me about a comment she will remember from a mum who, speaking of her 2 year old who knew over 700 signs and had amazing speech and also spoke good French, said, "Helen, baby sign is amazing, but I hold you entirely responsible for the fact Aisha can argue with me so well and at such a high level"
Other responses include:
“Seeing how excited your baby gets when they want to show / tell you something. I knew from a very early age that Daisie loves dogs!”
“Seeing through that window into your baby's mind and finding out what they want, need, and know!”
“Being amazed by the fact they really do know, they do understand, and do actually want to tell you at 6 months or sooner when they want milk, and how they are truly amazing.”
So as you can see there are so many benefits for a baby to learn to sign before they can talk. It is similar to a baby learning to crawl before learning to walk. We do not miss out on the crawling stage or perhaps the bum shuffling stage and our baby will go on to learn to walk.
You might be thinking though what about a Deaf mother with a hearing child or a Deaf child, how would baby signing help? Well, I have a family that attends my classes in which both parents are Deaf and the lovely mum brings her son. She wished her son was signing like one of the other children in the class. She was ill for a while and so did not come for a while but on her return something happened after the class. The mum messaged me and she was overjoyed as her child had started to use the signs. How wonderful! I suppose putting the sound to the signs helped and the signing will help him communicate with his parents. For mum, it’s a class she can come to knowing her child is having fun with nursery rhymes and action songs. Also, she is a valuable source of knowledge for everyone else as she knows more signs than even the teacher and she is able to socialize with other families.
The benefits for a Deaf baby are learning the simple signs of a whole language that might need to be learned in the future. Also, the signs will be a stepping stone for the parent to learn the core basic need signs in a fun, relaxed way. Because we talk as we sign, those that believe lip reading is important will be happy too as the baby can learn the shape of our mouth as we sign and talk. The baby will have a head start on the lip reading as well as signing and will be able to understand both in the future. How lovely. If the baby came across a person that used a lot of non-manual features, he or she would understand the signing. It is a win-win situation. Also signing will help with languages and BSL is a language in its own right. Parents of Deaf children will start with SSE (signed supported English) using signs from BSL with baby signing or ASL if you live where ASL is the language. It is important to use the signing system where you live and if you want to teach another language such as German or French, signing can help. Again, say the word as you sign.
I could go on and on and I would be very interested to see what comments you have for this topic. Whether you agree or not, I’d like to hear about what experiences people have had. Do let me know and thank you for reading.
I am a mother of 4, teach baby signing and also BSL level 2 qualified, love TKD and much more.