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Signing With Babies And Children: Does Sign Language Help or Hurt Children with Special Needs?

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Does Sign Language Help or Hurt Children with Special Needs?

Children with special needs are each very different and as such, respond to certain teaching methods better than others. Sign language, however, brings many benefits to families with children with special needs, regardless of whether they are hearing or deaf. Sign language brings advantages to all!

Autism, apraxia, or Down Syndrome—these, as well as speech and language delays can all be ameliorated by using sign language in your home or school. Whether your child has difficulty with social situations, speech, or even tantrums, signing can be a great medium to encourage communication and more appropriate social behaviors.

Sign language does NOT hurt children with special needs. Instead, signing has been found to HELP children who have difficulty making requests, expressing themselves, or even verbally speaking. For children with limited motor skills, sign language is still an option! Children with disabilities like cerebral palsy can make approximations of the signs—which still allow both children and parents to communication and understand each other.

If you have a child with special needs, feel free to contact SignShine® for a list of available classes or programs in your area. It is time to introduce signing into your child and your family’s life. SignShine® can show you how to get started!

10 comments:

Yael K said...

I think it's really great that you emphasized that signing cannot hurt, but only HELP, an individual in need. These days, I'd say, you can't find very many things which have no downside! Though I have limited experience working with children with various disabilities, I do know that it can be a VERY rigorous process which requires much patience. Hearing how signing can perhaps help in this communication process, which is often a struggle, is very eye opening! I hope to see people utilize this technique more often, and I am excited to see its effects unravel. After all, if it can't hurt, why not give it a shot?

Natasha said...

Sign language is another form of communication, and more importantly, it's VISUAL. Any type of communication is always helpful to anyone with any sort of learning disability, but especially one that focuses on eye contact, dexterity and mobility to help learn. Sign language is no longer only for the deaf, it can help everyone communicate with each other better and more effectively. It teaches us how to look at one another again.

etel @ SignShine® said...

Natasha,
yes, you are right! Sign Language is no longer only for the deaf community. It helps everyone connect and communicate in a very meaningful way, which is beyond verbal words!

Lindsey D. said...

I was very intrigued by the title of this entry. I don't think there is any disadvantage to using sign language with children who have special needs. Any result will be positive because sign language offers a mode of communication, and communication offers understanding. Some children with special needs are not able to communicate verbally. This is when sign language is so important because when a child has experienced so much frustration trying to communicate by voice, and then is given a mode of communication in which they are finally able to be understood, it can be life-changing. When one is able to clearly communicate, frustration levels are low and tantrums occur less often. I'm a firm believer sign language can only help! And Yael is right--there is no harm in trying.

Wendy said...

I totally agree that Sign Language DOES HELP children with special needs. I work with variety of children with disability and i taught them from age 0- 12 years old. I have seen many babies with non-verbal communication have no way to communicate with their parents and does throw alot of tantrum. I used to work with a child age 2 born with sensory issue and didn't have way to communicate with parents. I was refer to family through regional center and taught parents and baby sign language. I work with them for almost year now and i have watching them growing up and make huge improvement on communication skills. His first word in sign language is ball and his parents so thrilled that he can speak by using sign language and he had been picked up 40 words in one year. Also, I was working with 5th grade who have severe autism and no lack of communication. My boss decided to have me work with him and taught him sign language and teaching his peers some sign so they can communicate. They also use ipad apps to communicate. He been picking up some sign language pretty fast. My believe is that start teaching baby sign language earliest as possible like website say 6months or 9 month old but baby will understand by 3 months. American Sign language is great benefit for children with special needs and I strong recommended all teachers and parents to grab this benefit to communicate with their child. Children CAN speak with their own language there is NO can't they can do it. There is no reason why to stop them using sign language. People think that sign langauge will ruin their speech skills which is complete NOT true. Many children included me can speak and sign both same time. Children pick up fast by using their receptive then speak. My strong recommended all parents and teacher to use speech and sign same time.

Aaron Johnson said...

I think any tool that helps those with disabilities should be explored to its fullest. I'd never heard that it would be a disadvantage to those with special needs, and it strikes me as odd that anyone would claim having more ways to communicate would be a detriment.

I could see the visual element of sign language being more accessible than auditory languages for many with special needs.

Cristal Escuadra said...

Sign language is a great avenue children can use to communicate. I have seen it personally in my own nephew. He suffers from a rare condition that slowed his development process. He is three years old and can speak no more than 10-15 words. It was frustrating for him trying to mumble and express his needs. He began learning sign-language, and I see the progress in him. He is able to share some of experiences with us without being looked at in a confused manner and try to understand by making out what he mumbles. Now we can actually communicate. This is a great blessing for the family. I am relieved and understand today how powerful and important an alternative way to communicate is, especially for children. Learning is effective through reciprocal communication. How else would I be able to correct my child or understand or make sure my child is learning if I do not understand what he or she utters? I’ll tell you what… Sign language!

Shay V. said...

One of the things I regret most about my childhood is that I didn’t learn sign language soon enough! I was blessed as a child to have a mother who contracted polio and was physically disabled. While most children of a handicapped parent would see that as a burden and even an embarrassment, my outlook was different. I was truly blessed! It afforded me the opportunity to interact with a group of individuals that most able bodied people would go out of their way to avoid. If you ask a deaf person if they have special needs, they will tell you “no” and I whole-heartedly agree that they, as well as others who are labeled as “special needs” will tell you that they are simply unique and deserve no special classification. Every one of us has varied degrees of abilities and characteristics that are unlike anyone else. That just makes us human.
For as long as I can remember, all I have ever wanted was to communicate, interact and love on others. As a pre-teen I worked as a volunteer at a school designed specifically for children with special needs. That is when and where my passion for learning sign language emerged. Years later, as a teen, I was working at a fast food chain when a beautiful deaf girl with pigtails walked up to the counter with her parents and began to sign. When her parents started to speak for her, I politely asked them to stop and they did. I watched in amazement as she signed *coke*, *hot dog* and *French fries*. I learned three new signs that day and gained a renewed ambition to learn more. I spent several years as a nanny. Some of those children were able bodied and some were not. I often shared their frustration when they were unable to express their wants, needs and desires and wished that I had taken the time to learn more signs. I shudder to think about all the tantrums and manic episodes that grew out of not being able to communicate. It just gives me more motivation to keep that from happening to other parents and caregivers!

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Anonymous said...

I have seen firsthand how signing can help children with disabilities, as i lived with a 7 year old girl who was deaf and had cerebral palsy. Though she had limited coordination of her hands, she could understand sign language when others signed to her, and did her best to sign back. She watched programs like Signing Time to help her with this. Sign language kept her connected to her family and friends.