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Signing With Babies And Children: Power of Music with Signs

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Power of Music with Signs

As a music therapist, I knew that my graduate degree in Deaf education would have to be put to work that included music. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a therapeutic preschool where I had a class of deaf children whose parents were hearing, together with hearing children whose parents were Deaf. Many of the deaf children with hearing parents who didn’t sign, did not have access to language until they began school, where their hearing counter parts with deaf, signing parents, were much further along. So learning Sign in the classroom opened many doors for these 3 and 4 year olds. Finally they knew what to call a table, a book, an apple, a friend… and signing while singing songs helped to solidify their new language. Seeing the sign for “stop” watching hearing classmates stop marching, and noticing the vibrations of the drum diminishing, helped them to understand the meaning of stop---both for their movement and for sound.  

Aside from my own experience, research does support the benefits of music and sign. An article by Patricia Ivankovic and Ingrid Gilpatric in a 1994 issue of Perspectives in Education and Deafness includes a table of songs that teach parts of speech. For example, Where is Thumbkin teaches verbs, nouns, pronouns, and sequencing; coupled with ASL, deaf students can fully participate in the learning process. An article by Heather A. Schunk in a 1999 issue of the Journal of Music Therapy focuses on the receptive language benefits of singing & signing for ESL students. Steve Kokette, the producer of award winning signed song videos featuring Deaf performers, wrote in 1995 on the benefits of sign paired with music--for the level of sign learned when presented through songs, and the memory of rhythms when presented with sign. Also in 1995, Buday wrote an article for the Journal of Music Therapy highlighting the benefits of signed songs on sign and speech imitation by children with autism.

Music aids the development of speech. Even without using sign language, singing simple songs teaches your child how language is constructed. According to Jessica Pitt from the Pre-School Music Association: "Babies seem to learn best when songs are experienced through their bodies. Movement and music greatly enhance acquisition of language." Sign language can provide that meaningful movement to music.  Learn more at!  


SignShine said...

Lora, what a fabulous work you do! It is so interesting to learn how sign language effect all ages and communities and that music is a thread connecting the two. I truly believe that as a child is growing up, music can be taught for language development. For example: the way the alphabets are introduced to the child is through a songs and sign language.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

My Baby Details said...

I love to hear my children sing... they truly pick up an array of skills from memorizing words/meanings and rhyming to recognizing that music comes from many different beats and with many different characteristics much like their own selves^_^ (hee hee).