Friday, August 04, 2006
Sign Language Benefits
Sign Language is undergoing a rebirth as a way for new parents to understand the needs of their hearing babies long before they can talk.
Hearing babies exposed to Sign Language were able to communicate more complex messages through the use of signs than they could verbally.
Sign Language is used along with verbal language to help solidify communication. Just like with Deaf babies, these techniques have be shown to be instrumental in making communication between parent and child soar.
Signs like "stop", "gentle", and "share" help toddlers learn how to play together more cooperatively. And signs like "milk", "eat", and "hot" help babies communicate their needs before verbal language ever enters the picture.
While the Baby Sign Language trend is growing world-wide, some people wonder whether Sign Language delays speech.
Well, I can tell you that Sign Language facilitates the learning of verbal language. My doctoral dissertation, almost 20 years ago, was on Sign Language and the benefits of language acquisition for Hearing and Deaf children. And research since then has shown that teaching Sign Language to Hearing children offers many positive outcomes.
Signing has been shown not only to motivate babies to talk, but a National Institute of Health Study also showed Hearing 8-year-olds who had been signing at an early age had higher IQs, greater self-esteem, higher frustration tolerance, enriched parent-child bonding, and more sophisticated play experiences. Signing babies also displayed an increased interest in books.
Even Baby Einstein, the influential maker of educational toys for babies, has introduced a "Baby Wordsworth" DVD, featuring Deaf actress Marlee Matlin, designed to teach 25 signs to babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Sesame Street, Blues Clues and a host of other child-oriented television shows incorporate Sign Language as well.
I think it'd be great if the teaching of Sign Language could continue beyond the childhood years so that Deaf and Hearing worlds could connect more easily.
Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. ( 2000). The long-term impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. Paper presented at the meetings of the International Society for Infant Studies, Brighton, UK. Study funded by the National Institutes of Health.