Monday, July 25, 2011

A Word is a Word

A word is a word, no matter how small...oh, wait, the line is actually "a person is a person, not matter how small" from Dr. Seuss!

When we discuss first signs, the concept of first words often come up which creates an opportunitity for me to explain that a word is a word, whether it's spoken or signed.

I think it's funny that we would never debate if a 11 month child who could used text to communicate their first word...imagine a baby picking up a pencil and writing M-I-L-K and caregivers saying "Oh, that's not a word, she didn't verball say it."

I watched "The Miracle Worker" yesterday afternoon...W-A-T-E-R is definitely a word!  Funny how that movie was made in 1962 and we're still explaining the concept of a word!

As baby sign language instructors we often get asked, ""Will signing with my baby delay his speech development?” I love how one of our Instructors, Shannon Thomas, who is also a a speech-language pathologist, answers this question:

"No, absolutely not. Signing not only does not delay your child's communication skills, it enhances it! Children have the ability to comprehend and express a manual language, like signing, at an earlier age than they can a verbal language. A child can develop the skills necessary to manually sign a word before they develop the more complex motor skills needed to produce a verbal response. In other words, a child can learn how to sign "more" or "milk" before they can learn how to say it.

I remind parents to always pair the sign with the spoken words. The goal is for the child to become verbal, however, using signs is a way in which to facilitate their verbal language skills. Having the child realize that they can affect the world around them by using a symbol (manual or verbal) is the basis of language and a beautiful revelation to watch unfold in a child.

In addition, research has shown that children who have been introduced to signs have a greater vocabulary and stronger verbal skills later on. We are simply providing them with a method of communication that they can understand and use at an early age. As a speech-language pathologist, I frequently use signs to help facilitate and develop early language skills! One of the philosophies of WeeHands is: a word is a word, whether spoken or signed
."

Sara Bingham is the founder of WeeHands and the author of The Baby Signing Book. WeeHands is the world's leading children's sign language and language development program for babies, toddlers and preschool children.
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