Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sign Language & Speech Delays…Re Visited…Again!

I have been getting this a lot more lately. See, my kids are shy. At least, when they are younger. They talk up a storm at home, having full on conversations well before the age of 2. But get them around other people, especially people they are not comfortable around, or who are new, and they clam right up! It took my oldest a year in the same day care around the same people, to finally open up. The teacher and director both asked me if I wanted speech for him! I had to bring in a recording of him to prove that he spoke…and at 18 months had well over 300 words!

But my older 2 were not really signed with, so the point with them (my daughter having 150 words at her 1 year checkup!) is moot.

So I keep hearing: “but I want my kid to talk” when I ask new parents or parents with young children, if they ever considered joining a class. Heck, even with preschoolers it is still fun! I then have to go into my usual spiel on how signing with your child not only does NOT delay speech, but opens up multiple learning centers in the brain for building communication. This is especially harder with older adults, who only know American Sign Language to be the language of the deaf.

Teaching your child to use American Sign Language is just like teaching them any other language they are not used to speaking in their households. It broadens their learning spectrum and teaches them that there is more out there then the language they hear daily. ASL helps them play with language a lot sooner, then children who do not use signs or another language.

There have been multiple research studies, including one by The National Institutes of Health, on the benefits of signing with young babies and children. This is especially true with children with special needs, such as Apraxia, Down Syndrome, and Autism. Children with these disabilities may not be able to communicate well, if at all. It is a wonderful thing to have a way to communicate with these children, and adults, as to lessen their frustration with the world around them, and help them communicate with their caregivers, where otherwise, they would not be able to.

But, back to signing…with typically developing children…

Signing will not delay speech! (Have I driven that point home yet?)    

Because gross motor skills develop before the fine motor skills involved in phonetic and articulatory actions (moving tongues and mouths in the proper way to create speech), babies can be taught to communicate with their hands before they are physically capable of articulating thoughts. What parent would not want an opportunity to have a front row seat in the mind of their baby, toddler, preschooler, and special needs child?

Hmm speaking of special needs…that might just be my next blog post! Stay tuned!

Becka Marsch, Happiest Baby Educator since 2006, WeeHands Instructor Since 2007. Mom of 4, business owner of Learn And Grow Together and Premier Magical Vacations with a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education And Development and 20 years experience in the field of her dreams :)
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