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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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I really was too lazy to do sign language with my son! I also did not see the necessity. I have cared for children my whole life and never once used signs with them, so how could it possibly be necessary? I did use the sign for milk with some regularity, and though he's never used it himself (he prefers to just pull my shirt down) he definitely knows what it means. I tried to add in the signs for more and change, but they are two-handers and I never have both hands free. He's 13 months now and only says mama and dada in English. He does have a whole language of grunts and coos, but sadly I can't understand it.

I had every intention of signing with my kids but I found that when they were babies my hands were always full/busy and it didn't happen much. But in theory I think it's a good thing especially if you say the word(s) as you sign it.

We did a couple signs with Owen, and found them very useful in the few months before he really started talking; "more" and "all done." He managed to pick up a few more but we weren't very consistent with them, and then they just weren't necessary. He started talking at just after a year, and now he's very articulate at 26 months. I don't think they delayed him at all, but then again we didn't use very many. I don't know about using a bunch of signs, but if nothing else "more" and "all done" are two that I'd use again on any future children.

That's amazing about Camilla saying "dada" already...smart and cute, what a combination!

I was given a bunch of baby sign board books when my son was little. I never had committed to the idea of teaching him any signs either, although I did introduce more and all done. Those were incredibly helpful before he could say the words.

My son was a pretty early talker, especially for a boy. He had 15 words at his first birthday and he continued to pick them up at a very steady clip, until he was speaking in sentences by 18-months. Now, at almost 2 1/2 he is never quiet.

As for the board books, he learned all those signs on his own and loved to use them, but he usually said the words at the same time.

Sorry this is so inarticulate, but I clearly need help communicating. I think it is the combination of a 2 1/2 year old and a six-week old.

To add more anecdotal evidence, which is still not data:
I have a friend whose older sister is deaf, so sign language was one of her first languages. She had no issues with speech delay. She is an advocate of teaching kids sign as a way of teaching them to communicate.

Our daycare center teaches sign language to the kids as well. They strongly feel that frustration levels are lowered tremendously as the kids are able to communicate their wants and needs instead of screaming. Like Christina said, the key is to say the word when you sign it so they learn both the ASL and the verbal.

We took J to a baby-signs class. He is only 11 months old at this point so we can't say whether his speech is delayed but today we made the sign for "swing" and he looked at the swing and started crawling towards it. Our teacher said that her kids do sign sometimes (I think they are something like 3 and 6) but mostly they've dropped the sign language. She said it was handy to make signs to them across the playground (like "no" or "time to go" etc.) instead of yelling at them.

To me, signing is something that could help and probably won't hurt, so why not?

I didn't sign with any of mine (hey, that rhymes :g:). It wasn't out of any strong conviction, though--I don't think I heard much about it until my youngest was born, and I just never 'got to it.'

My SIL, who is a speech therapist, has the same opinion as Bryan's aunt re the signing/motivation issue.

We do some half hearted signing. Almost all of our words involve food. They seem to be very helpful because Sanna can tell us she wants beans or cheese or fruit instead of just pointing and crying. We also taught "please" which mostly means gimme that, but it's a much nicer way to ask.

I figure she'll learn to talk, but until then, if I can give her a way to tell me what she wants without screaming, my life is better. And if her language is delayed a few months (which I honestly doubt), I don't really care (see: less screaming). It's not like there is a race and whoever's kid talks first wins. Or, alternately, if your kid talks later than others you somehow lose.

I bought the Einstein Baby Signing DVD, watched it a few times, then never really stayed consistent signing to my son because, um....well, I am lazy. And from what I hear you have to be consistent when teaching them signing and sometimes I just wasn't energetic enough to do it.

But like you, I noticed he was/is very verbal so I figured why even bother? Not to be a brag or whatnot, but my son was saying words long before the other kids in our baby classes. Still does. He turned a year old last week and has a vast vocabulary. Some of the things he says are: what's that? (with pointing - is a question and he also uses it to express that he wants what he's pointing at), bye (not bye-bye, just bye and waves), Hi (with waves), outside (owside), meow (cat sound but comes out "yeow"), dada, mama, Eeee! (our cat Harry), No (usually repeated as no-no-no-no), and ball. Most of these words he's been using for a couple months or more (like dada and mama for much longer). There's more I just can't remember at the moment.

One thing we do is read a lot to him. Maybe that's made a difference, maybe it hasn't? I keep a laundry basket filled with board books on the floor at all times. He goes and picks a book, crosses his feet, and "reads" the book, turning the pages and "talking" as he goes. He'll bring a book over to us and will sit in our lap for us to read it to him.

We started reading to him when he was about 3 weeks old and I take him to story time (since he was a couple months old) at the library every week. We check out new books every week so there's always something different to look at, and also have a large collection of our own.

Maybe early talking is in Milla's genes and just talking back to her is huge for her development. Just do what feels right for your family!

We did a lot of signing with Peter (now 39 months) and do some with Leo (15 months). Peter, from the beginning, had great fine and large motor skills and has been behind a bit verbally. At 15 months, he had 5 or 6 words and maybe 25 signs. I think it would have been really hard for both of us during months 12-24 if he hadn't been able to sign to us. We didn't go crazy with signs -- those 25 were about the extent of what we did -- but they got across all the critical things we needed. He was barely putting words together when he turned two and only had ten or twelve words until he was 21 months. Now at three, he still has some issues with initial sounds, but he doesn't require translating anymore, for the most part. He did both the signs and words once he began speaking and now that his brother is signing-age, he's putting the signs back into conversation again.

Leo is more verbal and less developed with fine motor skills than Peter (although at 5 months old, he signed for potty sometimes before dropping it for the next 6 months -- that crawling takes over everything else, I think). Anyway, at 15 months he does 4 or 5 signs all of which he also has words for. He has about 15 words. So I see signs as a useful tool for kids more inclined towards motor skills. They're also handy for telling spouses that they should change the baby's diaper mid-Mass.

We taught both of our kids three basic signs (milk, more, eat) and then slacked off because we were lazy. Those signs made all of the difference in the world though. Both of my kids were early talkers, but it was great to have a concrete thing. When they wanted to nurse, they gave us the milk sign, when they wanted more, they gave us the more sign, etc... Both of my kids could do the signs around 7 months and even used them while they were talking. My daughter (now 4) would say milk (she nursed until almost 2) and use the milk sign. My son (23 months now) used the more sign last week while saying more. He wanted more cookie and kept saying more and when we said no, he said "why?" and we told him that he had already had one. And he kept asking, as a toddler does, of course. Then he came up to us and signed more while saying "more" and it melted our hearts. He got another half cookie for that. I think it is something that can't hurt and might help. Even if just for cuteness factor.

De-lurking here to add my two cents!

I didn't sign at all with my first (who will turn 9 in September) but I was a stay-at-home mom up until the time he was about 18 months old so I had all day to devote to whatever it was he was trying to tell me. He 'showed' us what he wanted by taking our hands and pointing to what he wanted until we got it right.

With my second (he'll be 2 in August) I started by just signing more, eat, milk and a few others and now we sign every chance we get. Mostly it's because my first is interested in what the different signs are and he then signs them to my youngest, but it really is addictive once you get started. I have noticed that Trevor is much less frustrated because he can sign what he wants and we always know what he means (except when he signs 'milk' for 'drink' but yet he wants 'juice').

I don't see Trevor's speech being delayed at all. All of the signs he uses he can say the words for, and most of the time he does both. If I were going to have another child I would sign with them too.

Just do what feels best for your family. We didn't start signing with Trevor until he was about 10 or 11 months old and he picked it up just fine. You can also stop signing at any time if you feel it isn't working.

Good luck!
Mary

I know a few kids who were taught signing and they didn't try to speak if they could communicate with signs. So, not that my anecdotal evidence is data either, but I've decided not to teach my baby (5 months) how to sign. My brothers and I were all very early talkers but my husband and his siblings aren't. She babbles more and more lately but doesn't seem to be saying words yet. In the long run, I don't think it makes too much difference whether they start talking at 6 months or way later.

Everything I've ever read, and every speech therapist we've worked with, has indicated that sign will not inhibit language development. In fact, studies have found that it helps with developing verbal ability. I don't feel up to citing exact sources so I'll just leave my two cents there.

That said, I don't know that I'd use sign with a very verbal child. My situation with our third is different, and I will continue to use everything that has a possibility of helping.

My sister did signs with her daughter and she's seemed to pick up language at a normal rate. I taught my youngest 'please' and that was the extent of our signing. A couple of my kids had a word or two at 7-8 months. Most had 3 or 4 words by 12-14 months.

Mary, mom to many, including 2 still waiting in Ethiopia

We taught our son signs starting around 6 months (more, eat, drink, all done) and continued showing him now and then until he starting signing to us around 11 months. He has always been a chatter-er, and he still is, but I found signing to be very beneficial for all of us, and not to inhibit his speech at all.

Starting sometime during his second year of life, he would drop the signs to words as he learned to say them. Sometimes when he doesn't pronounce them well and we don't understand, he'll sign to us to show us what he means, and he's so happy when we get it. Then we have the opportunity to pronounce it for him and give him another shot.

I agree that the sign for "toilet" has been invaluable for my husband and I in social settings, quietly telling the other that the boy needs a new diaper!

I didn't do signs with my first two children; I thought it would take too much time and it seemed like a lot of work. But, my youngest is at a child care where they do a few basic signs and it has been great! She's only there 2 days/week and still learns all the signs. She started signing around 10 months and knows "more", "all done", "stop", "wait", and "help". I'm amazed how helpful it has been and how quickly she picked it up with minimal exposure. With Camilla, I would just pick a few key signs and do them when you think of it. She'll pick it up in no time, smart little lady that she is!

Hi Arwen. I am Jen's sister and law and she shaired w/ me your link. I wanted to let you know that we are teaching our daughter signs and we started around 7 months. She is now almost 10 months and she is starting to sign. It is wonderful because she it speaking to us in our own language that is nonverbal. Signing really does help their IQ and we are really seeing the benefits. Now it just becomes second nature to us to sign as we go throughout the day. Anyway, I just thought I would share. Thanks for letting me share my story!

At the moment, I am with you on the whole signing thing, although I might rethink it before I actually have children.

My sister was just like Milla. Her first word was "Dada". Her second word was "Nummy". Now, since she only said this word when she wanted to snuggle with Mom, Mom thought she was saying "Mommy". No. A while later she started saying "Mama." Nummy just meant nurse. Mom as the food source came before Mom as the person. This was all by the time she was 8 months old.

I was also an early talker. We have a funny story in our family. I was about 15 months old, and my 3-year-old sister had left our room and closed the door behind her. I was too short to reach the doorknob, so I stood on the other side of the door and clearly enunciated "OPEN THE DOOR!" Very typical, that my first sentence was a command.

My mom attributes it to the fact that she chatted with us from an early age. My mom is naturally social and has to talk to someone, so she talked to her babies. She would go down the grocery store aisles, "So, Megan, which brand of spaghetti sauce should we buy? Do you think we need more pickles?" This all when I am a few months old. She got weird looks, but it seemed to work.

Here is some interesting information from a study done on infant signing. It seems that babies will make up gestures for things even if you don't teach them any. The study also shows an increase in post-2nd-grade IQ testing of 8 to 13 IQ points in babies who were taught nonverbal communication with signing. That is a pretty significant increase and shows the effect of signing six years after the fact.

https://www.babysigns.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/institute.language_iq_study/iq_study.cfm

Haven't read all your comments, but! You feel exactly the way I felt about signing, before we started. I thought, well, when AJ is no longer hungry I don't need him to sign, "all done." He typically pushes the food/bottle away! (Because he's brilliant.)

That said, we did use a few signs like "more," "drink," "eat," and I think it helped us not to have the signs necessarily, but learning to speak to him SIMPLY with those one-word sentences. And if we used a sign, we obviously also said the word out loud, several times. AJ's first actual verbal word, incidentally, was "more." I thought that was funny.

My observation includes my neighbors' kids, who were taught to sign very exclusively, I think, and their 3-year-old does not speak as clearly, imho, as my 2-year-old. She'd still rather sign than talk.

I think it's fun, though (signing), so I'd say to do it, a little bit. Our other thing was that we let AJ develop his own signs and didn't stick exclusively with ASL. Y'know? Tune in to what the kid is saying.

Hi, Arwen. My son was an early talker. I honestly can't remember when he said his first word, but he was speaking in multi-word sentences by fifteen months. (Interestingly, I noticed a continuum from "dadadada" sounds and "nananana" that eventually resulted in using the words. I've also noticed other babies saying "nananana" when they are hungry and it makes me wonder if there are some words hardwired into the human brain. Many of these first words are similar in very different languages. For younger infants, I've noticed that the "hungry cry" is quite rhythmic, almost like a pre-nananana.)

But anyway, we did a bit of baby signing and it didn't seem to remove "motivation" to speak in the slightest. Is Brian's aunt a speech therapist who works with infants? (Is there such a thing?) If not, her opinion plus $2.50 will buy you a double caramel latte. A lot of people talk about "motivation" to speak, and the criticize parents of toddlers who make it too easy for the kid to get what he/she wants by pointing, not speaking. But you know what, speech is an inevitable result of development. Unless there is something deeply wrong with Camilla (let's hope not), the process of learning speech will happen on schedule for her as long as she is loved and nurtured. I think all that talk about motivation is just so much competitive parenting. The child is not keeping up with the Joneses, so you say, "Well, she CAN talk, she just doesn't want to." Whatever. Those moms who have taught their babies to use signs expect the baby to suddenly abandon the hand signal she has been so carefully taught once she learns the word? Who would do that? Now she has two ways to communicate an idea. It only makes sense that the transition period would include some signing and some speech. This is not the same as a delay. Also, it's worth noting that children who grow up in a bilingual or multilingual environment tend to say their first words later and have a seemingly later speech schedule than their monolingual peers, BUT they catch up by preschool, at which time they are speaking two languages fluently. So in that case, a "delay" is not a bad thing. Exactly the opposite--it's a sign of a highly stimulated brain working overtime to learn and integrate information. Baby sign language is not ASL, and it will not turn into a second "language" that the child could use, but it may well be great stimulation for the brain. Brain development is linked to motor development, so practicing motor skills and linking them to communication should be great learning for a baby.

Bottom line: baby signs is a fun thing to do with your baby, like infant massage, kindermusik, library story time, etc. Do it if it's fun. I thought it was great fun, and my son did, too. Don't do it if it doesn't interest you. Or do just a couple of signs and don't do the rest. Whatever. I can imagine it would be immensely helpful for kids who are not talking well by the time they are young toddlers, but ya know they will survive without it.

I'm skipping reading the above comment, because I just don't have time this morning. If I repeat what others have said, I appologize.
My (now) husband and I took ASL as our "foreign" language in college as something to do together for credit. We learned so much about deaf-culture of course also the actual language and grammar. One of the most fascinating things we learned was that babies have the mental capacity to communicate typically months or more before they can actually form the words. (as early as 5-6 mos old). Sign languageallows them to do this. It keeps down the fussing and allows them to not get as frustrated when their needs are not automatically being met. Our first teacher was a hearing woman, born to 2 deaf parents. She lived in the deaf community all her life. She went to a mainstream school, of course. She learned to sign long before she talked. She had no problems with the transition from deaf to hearing.

If Camilla is easily communicating to you her needs and wants without a problem, then there is minimal motivation for you to teach her the baby signs (I won't call it ASL since I don't think she'll be using proper grammar, etc.) But as far as not doing it because it might be harmful? I disagree. Whenever you are teachng a child with even partial hearing, you are supposed to say the words outloud while signing. I believe that depending on the situation, either could be easier (crowded room - signing is easier, mom has her back turned - speaking is easier). If you consistantly do both, she will learn both.

I did a bit of sign language with my soon to be four year old. We slacked off after she learned eat, more and milk (nurse). She used the sign for nursing until she weaned at 2.5/ I must say, it was much nicer having her flash me the sign for milk than yell "NURSIES, MAMA" at the top of her lungs. :)

Gui learned 4 signs before he started talking, "please, thank you, all done, and sorry". We found that those made mealtimes so much more pleasant (no more pointing and grunting or yelling, and no more pushing the bowl onto the floor at the end). He had about an equal number of spoken expressions (not exactly words, but sounds that meant particular needs and people, like "nus" and "mumum")

We tried to teach other baby signs sometimes, but it didn't really take off until a brief week before he started intentionally talking, at which point he would use the sign and the word. His first learned word (as opposed to those sounds that they make on their own and then learn to associate with particular people or needs) was "Cheese". Then "juice" (notice the similar sounds).

My take? I don't think it had a whit of impact on his development. I could see when he reached a point where the language circuits were ready, and his learned language use, sign and verbal, didn't take off until then. Prior to that, his "words", both signed and verbal, were, IMO, just cause and effect, simple associations, the way a dog learns to do a trick for a treat.

I used to worry because Gui's language development seemed slower than so many of his age mates, though physically he has always seemed older in dexterity and size. Now that he is two and talking in full sentances, those few months of delay don't seem all that relevant anymore.

I'm glad we had the signs we did, because they made our lives easier for a while, and because when you are teaching basic manners it helps to be able to reach out and physically force out the desired response (I did mention that we taught him "thank you" and "sorry", right?), and I think that helped instill those social niceties early. Now he says "Pweeze" and "Tanks" and "Sawwi" fairly spontaneously and automatically in the appropriate situations.

I'd say forget about worries about development. Camilla will learn to speak. The question is, would sign be useful and enjoyable for you all, or not?

Hi! Long-time lurker but I think this is my first comment.

Anyway, my son is 13 months and we did a 10 week baby sign class together. Honestly, the class part was mostly for the parents as the babies just used it as a play date. My anecdotal evidence was practically the opposite of yours though.

We aren't totally consistent about signing every single word but we do sign and verbally say the word for important things.

At 12 months, my son had 4 words (go, dada, ball, book). He only says mamamama when he is upset and needing comfort. At the same time, he had a few signs that he used consistently (milk, more, bye, ball) and others that he uses occasionally (dad, light, fan).

He also made up a few modified signs...his sign for all done with dinner is to hold his arms straight up (asking to be picked up).

He babbles all the freaking time and is pretty good at using his babble to communicate. Also even if he isn't saying the word, he can identify it. Like if I ask where his duck is, he'll pick up the rubber duck; same for shoe, etc.

So to sum up, I don't think signing hurt his verbal development but I'm not sure that it helped a lot either. He's always tended to hit his milestones a little early. The class was a lot of fun and we're thinking of doing another one this summer. Again, more for toddler socialization and play than anything else.

And while it is not an official sign per se, a toddler blowing kisses to you when you ask for kisses is the cutest thing ever.

I thought I would teach the signs, but in the end decided not to even go there for one reason: my daughter was in daycare and I had ZERO reason to believe that any of her signs would be "read" by her caregiver. I didn't want to set her up for frustration over it.

I also felt very strongly that she would speak in her own time, and she did. My feeling on it all is that it's a better thing for a SAHM than it is for a WOHM. But given that other family members the child might spend time with likely wouldn't know the signs (or all of them), it seems to me like it's just better for baby to get with the speaking program than to expect everyone to learn a special way to communicate with the baby.

However what you have said of the speech therapy perspective on this is the first I have heard of it, and I think it's fascinating. I have SO much respect for that profession as all of my sibs and I had to have ST in school and it made a big difference.

My daughter was a relatively early talker and has loved books and reading from a very young age. I taught her the signs for milk, please and more when she knew a handful of words but was not quite yet "talking" per se. Interestingly enough, she did not attempt to say the words for those 3 signs for a very long time. Her vocabulary had expanded to maybe over 50 words before she incorporated those. In retrospect, I am glad I did not teach her more signs since I do believe it would've delayed her talking somewhat.

I'm fairly lazy about signs because I don't see why a toddler needs to sign complete sentances or even common words... However, a select few polite signs seem to go a long way toward making life more pleasant. "Please" "thank you" "hungry" "drink" "more" "sorry" "help". I think those were all we did and my theory is that then they learn to ask rather than screech. (and we had a REAL screeching problem) Makes for a nice head-start in manners. (of course, now we've hit "terrific two's" so we battle everything, including manners...) My DS was not particularly early or late learning to talk, and he would still use signs even after he could use the words, but he got over it.

I teach signs to kids all the time in my job as a speech path. It's impossible for sign to interfere with language development because sign *is* language, just a different modality. Do some kids hold onto a sign or two instead of using the spoken word? Sure, occasionally. Is it a problem for families that have been involved in deciding which signs to use with their children? I've never seen it. And I've never felt that sign slowed down a kid's speech development (his ability to sequence sounds in a desired order); most families continue to emphasize spoken language because that's what's normal for them.

I wonder if your aunt-in-law may see a different side of the story because it's harder for hearing-impaired kids to use spoken language. For most normal-hearing kids, spoken language is its own reward. You talk! To people! And they understand! And do what you want, sometimes!

Signs introduce kids to the idea that a movement of the body can represent an abstract idea, that you can either say "more" or sign "more" and the person with the cookies will understand that you want another cookie. Amazing! For typically developing kids, the transition into spoken language should be painless. Sign has the potential to save everyone a lot of frustration during the toddler months, though.

I would never say sign is necessary for typically developing kids. For kids who are acquiring language more slowly, sign can be an immense help. I'm not aware of any data to suggest that it can cause harm.

my sister has a almost 1.5 year old and he now knows about 15 signs. He says about 20-30 different words. It's very cute to watch and a way he can communicate. I really don't think it replaces his words because he knows so many and talks a lot.

That is a commonly held misconception, that signing delays speaking. Actually, the opposite is true: signing activates those areas of the brain used for oral communication, and encourages earlier speaking. I would dig up the research but I have two sick kids and I'm too lazy. :)

As a teacher I definitely see the benefit of signing. That said, the only signs Lucy knew was "All done" and "more".

Hypocrite.

were*

We never used signing with our daughter, but she was extremely verbal VERY early (at 2 years old she said to my friend, "Sue, I'd like you to meet my Mommy's parents Grandma and Grandpa!" We were always stupified at her language abilities.

My son never babbled as an infant and has been diagnosed as having speech apraxia. He understands everything, knows all his letters, shapes, numbers and colors at 2 years old, but has very little expressive language. We were told by various therapists /experts that signing would help him communicate and that any form of communication would bolster his esteem and actually help. He used to use the sign for "more" all the time, but now he can say the word. He makes up his own signs sometimes, even one for "sad". The psychologist that came to help evaluate him said he had never seen a child so young have a sign for an emotion and that it was GREAT. He doesn't throw tantrums or get frustrated when he can't form the words, he will point, use his signs, or drag me over to what he wants.

Anyway, I am so glad I gave him the tools to communicate while he's working very hard on verbal communication. I highly recommend signing!

We're using signs with our baby. I can't tell you if it's taking yet...he's Camilla's age. He verbally says hi (we might be assigning meaning to this sound without there actually being meaning)and yayaya consistently when he's hungry. I majored in deaf education and remember reading that children are developmentally ready for language production (on average) at 10 months. Since speech is a fine motor activity, caregivers rarely hear too many words until later because kids' gross motor functions are up and running with fewer glitches earlier on than their fine motor ones.

I am a big time lurker. I didn't even delurk during delurking week. But I am doing it now. :-)

I was also reluctant to teach my little girl signs b/c I was concerned about delaying her verbal communication. So I looked at the few studies that are out there and there didn't seem to be any evidence of signs slowing speech development. Plus, I started noting that just because she had a way of accomplishing some task she didn't loose her drive for wanting to do things the way we did them. For example, just b/c she could crawl perfectly well, she didn't give up trying to walk like us. Similarly, when a baby has some baby-ish, but completely effective, way of saying something (ba-ba-ba-ba for ball) they continue to refine it until it is like the adults in their lives say it. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is more driving a baby's development than pure necessity - they learn to feed themselves, walk upright, use the toilet, sleep at night, talk, etc b/c they are social creatures that have a strong drive to be like their fellow creatures. So you may be able to slightly speed up or delay when a child learns these things, but they're pretty much going to do them when they're good and ready.

All of this is to say that I decided it wouldn't hurt to teach our girl a few signs. But, honestly, I wasn't too committed to it and figured 4 or 5 would be our limit. Well, she had other ideas. Once she realized that she could make these gestures that communicated something to us and we would respond, there was no stopping her. She would ask us for signs for things (she would point to something and do her sign for where/what) and if we didn't give her one, she'd make one up. It was truly amazing. I won't continue to bore you with too many details. I'll just say that by the time we stopped teaching her new signs, she had learned well over 100. For us, signs definitely increased our communication and decreased our frustration. She is now a very verbal 25 month old and only occasionally uses signs. She uses them when I am not understanding what she is saying or when we can't hear her (we're mowing, she's across the room at playgroup, etc) or when she is trying to talk to a baby (way cute!). I do have a very cute video or our girl in her early days of signing if you're interested.

I receievd a whole sign language gift set thingie as a present and thought I would really get into it, but the truth was, I already knew when she wanted more, she would keep opening her mouth or cry when food was over, I knew when she wanted to nurse because she sould crawl in my lap and get in the position, etc etc. Babies are already communicating with us, and most people can quickly figure it out!

Sing language...what an interesting topic. I plan on going through basic ASL with my kids because they sill have a cousin who is deaf and we all communicate through sign with her.
Another reason factor that I have observed which furthers my desire to sign with my kids, even though they will be over 500 miles away from their cousin for most of their lives is this: Countless times when working with kids I have noticed that when a child feels uncomfortable, in pain, sad or out of place, sign, at least some minimal silent communication, gives that child the ability to share what is going on without making himself even more uncomfortable or exaggerating the problem by involving other kids, whom as you know are always curious about what is happening around them. This doesnt really come into play until the child is a little older, but I have found it to be a very useful tool of comunication, and an easy, comfortable outlet for the kids in public or uncomfortable times for them.

Not sure if this makes sense...I writing tired...but email me if you want to.

I took a class on speech and language development as an undergraduate, and my teacher (a speech-language therapist) was of the same opinion...that baby signs delays spoken language development.

However, most of my little cousins did baby signs and have really benefited. Like other have said, it helps eliminate frustration with communication and learn politeness (the other day I told my 1 year old cousin to say "thank you" to a man and he signed it. how cute!). My 4 year old cousin was the most verbal child I have encountered since she was very young, and her mom used baby signs. :)

I studied sign language, so it was a natural to use it with my kids. All three, and each of them had way different experiences. My eldest was a way late talker, and the signs really helped him. My middle boy was uninterested, even irritated when we tried to sign with him. He didn't much want to talk to us either. He's over that now...heh, heh. The baby started talking early...I dunno...before a year old, but not by much. He had no use for the signs.
To sum up: really really glad my firstborn had the signs. They really did reduce his frustration. Don't think they meant much, if anything, to the other two.
As far as reducing the motivation to speak, I'm not sure it's something I'd worry about too much. I mean, spoken language and sign language are two different...well, languages. It's not hard to figure out that a handful of signs aren't going to be enough to get you through the world. Even if they aren't propelled by frustration into speech quite a soon, what sort of delay could we be talking about? A few weeks? A few months? You just aren't going to see a child heading off to college, only able to sign "milk" and "up" and "more." They'll get it eventually.

I think that sign language actually helped my daughter as far as speech development. She started signing at 6 months (started signing with her at 4 months) and had about 100 spoken/signed words by 12 months. At 2 years, 3 months she is the most verbal child in her playgroup, despite being one of the youngest. I have read that babies can understand the concept of sign language better than spoken language and it serves as a bridge to spoken communication. Once my daughter figured out that she could communicate by signing, it seemed to click fairly quickly that she could also communicate with spoken words. Maybe she would have spoken early regardless, but she made little attempt at enunciation (no typical "babbling" and I was very concerned) until her first spoken word at 9 months.

I've been super lazy about the sign language too. I feel like I can either promote language by constantly naming things ("milk" before she nurses, "down" when she seems to be done nursing, etc) or I can promote the signs. My kids have both been pretty early talkers.

We're signing with Jack, but I'm only really concerned with "milk" "all done" and "more." Sometimes I throw in "hungry," but I'm the least consistent with that one. Oh, I do "Daddy" as well. But mainly, I figure if he gets down the first three, that's all we'll really need until he can talk. I don't know if it will take, because I'm not super consistent with any of them, but I *think* he's starting to sign "more." Then again, he could just be clasping his hands or trying to clap. Tough to say.

My mother also thinks that teaching babies signs tends to delay their speech, but that they catch up. She bases this on her statistical sampling of 10 grandkids, some of whom were taught sign language, some who were not. In my own opinion, no harm can come of it. I guess I'm just echoing the opinions of many of your commenters here, but I think that the worst that can happen is there will be a slight delay in speech because signing is easier, but it will work itself out in the end. That being said, I agree with whomever up there said siging is a fun thing; it's not necessary, so only do it if you want to.

P.S. I sort of wish I had started with a sign for "nurse" vs. "milk," because they are actually different things, and when he's on cow's milk I think he might get confused. But I think it's too late now.

Chiming in very late...

Max spoke early. By 8 months, he had "cat," "mama," and "dada." He stopped for a bit as his motor skills took off, and then picked up a bunch of words by the time he was one.

And then it stopped. He lost words that he had - he went over a year before saying "mom" again. By the time he was two, I was spending most days crying when Paul left for work. It was frustrating to spend my day with someone who did nothing but grunt and point at me all day long. It was horrible.

We got him evaluated, and his major communication skills at that point were in the 6 to 9 month range (again, this is well after his second birthday). We've started therapy with him, and the therapist teaches him some signs every week and encourages him to use the signs in combination with new words.

Just in three weeks of this, the change is astounding. He's picking up words at a really quick pace and is starting to combine things. Sometimes he'll sign, but he really only consistently signs "want" and "more." Everything else he used the sign for a day or so and then just started using the word.

I don't know why this all worked out this way, but I'd guess that once we could communicate with each other a little better, both of us became less frustrated and more willing to work together.

I'm not necessarily a convert, but I do think with any future children I'd try to do at least a few signs early on.

My husband and I are both from a family of early talkers, and my kids have been too. But I've used sign with them, just for fun and as an addition to the spoken words they were picking up. I find it makes things clearer, adds to their vocabulary, and is just generally fun. So my 12 month old has some words that he says with no sign (no-no, da-da, his siblings' names), some signs that he does with no words (nurse, bird), and some that he does together (hat, hot, splash).

It's useful because a lot of his words are not very distinct. So he might be saying 'ta' and it doesn't sound like much, but by the fact that he is also patting his head I know that he is saying 'hat'.

I'm sure he'll lose the signs gradually like his siblings did. All the research I have read actually points to the idea that kids benefit from using sign, even if they do talk early. But whatever, I'm not really in it for the long-term benefit. I just find it fun and interesting and helpful in the short term.

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