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Signing With Babies And Children: The Debate Continues...

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Debate Continues...

There has been lots of research on the effect of using augmentative or alternative communication methods (like signing) on the spoken language development of children. However, I've never seen any that suggest that using sign or other methods delays speech -- in fact, just the opposite. Learning to communicate in any form, develops the language areas of the brain, so that when the motor systems are ready for verbal speech, words and meanings have already been established. All that's left to do - is to associate sounds with them. Kids having a head start in using sign have an advantage when they do begin talking.

There has never been a case in all the literature, of a child who preferred to use sign (or any other non-speech system) after developing normal speech. Remember - communication is inherent! It's on our DNA. We want to communicate. Using ASL with children of any age only assists and advances this process for all involved!

Kelly English Barnhart, MA
Author: "Crossing Hands Friends"


Jay3fer said...

Don't get me wrong; I love signing with my kids, and now that they are 2 and 4 we are following up our baby signing with real ASL!
However, I recently came across some interesting information in Pamela Paul's book "Parenting, Inc." She takes apart the actual evidence FOR signing with babies, and concludes that there isn't much, and what there is is perhaps a bit sketchy (little follow up, studies only with parents using the Baby Signs method, etc).

She also points out (p. 159) that pushing language skills early on may interrupt other areas of development in a baby's pre-lingual phase.

Definitely food for thought, though I would absolutely do it again if I had the chance. Thanks for a great site!

My Baby Details said...

Kelly, I liked your post. It was to the point... I can't help but love the power of language as my children are learning two spoken languages at home from when they are first born and then sign language as a third language to facilitate in communicating.

As my 20 month old daughter is still learning how to pronounce words in Vietnamese and English, she is given the option to sign as we learn new vocabulary together^_^. I love seeing her eyes light up when she gets a chance to "communicate" her needs and wants through signing and speaking as her spoken language is rapidly expanding!

I can't help but see all the benefits of signing with my children!