American Sign Language (ASL) has been one of the most popular forms of communication for individuals who have severe hearing loss or are deaf. It was created by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and he ended up creating Gallaudet University for the deaf.
ASL is now classified as a world language, just like Spanish, French and German. Therefore, if a child speaks ASL, they are considered bilingual.
Benefits of Learning ASL
Babies as young as six to seven months old can remember a sign, according to experts. By eight months, children can begin to sign single words and imitate gestures, and by 24 months, children can sign compound words and full sentences. Many preschools have also begun to teach sign language to their students.
The use of sign language has proven to be beneficial for children in a wide variety of settings. Teaching sign language to preverbal babies has proven to benefit children in their later years.
Research shows that sign language:
- speeds up speech development,
- reduces frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves before they know how to talk,
- increases parent-child bonding,
- and lets babies communicate vital information, such as if they are hurt or hungry (EducationalPlaycare).
Infants who learn sign language also are thought to gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem.
Feelings of anger due to an inability to communicate may not occur as often. Having the ability to sign could be a lifesaver when a child is too flustered to speak clearly.
Early exposure to signing helps infants to develop their language and reasoning skills. While others are still crying to get what they want, signing babies are learning how to communicate with words and simple phrases.
Studies also show long-term cognitive benefits such as:
- Accelerated speech and emotional development
- Lowers frustration levels
- Helps children remember words because of muscle memory
- Earlier reading and larger vocabulary
- Better Grades in school
- Improves child and parent bonding
- Higher IQ scores
Learn Signs for Family Members
Signs referring to important people in your child’s life are common. Start with mom, dad, sister or brother and go from there. As your child masters one sign, focus more on another one.
Learn Signs for Food, Bath and Sleep
Babies love to eat, sleep and bath (mostly). Teaching them signs like “more” and “all done” will be beneficial. If they always have milk for breakfast, teach them that sign, as well. It’s best to use signs that your baby will encounter or be exposed to daily.
Make sure you are reviewing and being consistent with signs that you teach your child. You can’t teach a sign in one day, so be persistent and be patient. If your child is in daycare, mention to the teacher that you are teaching baby sign language and they will, most likely, incorporate it into the day.
Stacie Bennett has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years. Currently, she works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and have her own private practice. Feel free to contact Stacie if you have any questions!