Friday, November 26, 2010

Signing Before They Can Speak

Research has shown that teaching different modes of communication and language is most effective at the early ages of 2 to 5. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.

While 2 years old seem pretty young, it's not that odd. There are many indigenous peoples around the world in fact, including American Indian nations, who 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. Backing this up is an article published by the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 which presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

" 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 Best Time To Start

The sooner children learn sign language (or any other language for that matter) the better. Young children who are taught sign language at an early age, it has actually been shown, develop better verbal skills as they get older.

Not learning to sign give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond. Signing helps to lower levels of frustration in the child, it gives them a way to communicate with the caregivers exactly what is going on in their mind. Which in return helps the parent and makes them feel even closer to their baby.

Looking To Their Future

There are many reasons for people to be interested in and to learn sign language. Many may need it they work with disabled children, some are learning it because of the career opportunities available with it, and others are learning it just so they can have a wide variety of communication.

The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience is a unique skill that not many have. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Austin child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

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