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Speed up your Baby's Verbal Development with Sign Language

Posted by drlenni on 24 September, 2018 at 9:05

Hearing you baby start talking is one of the biggest joys as a new parent, but getting to that moment comes after months of waiting and anticipation…what is their first word going to be? When is it going to come? While every child learns to speak at a different time, one thing that can definitely help them to communicate sooner and speed up their verbal development is teaching them sign language.

“The brain is very elastic and able to communicate before our speech even develops, which allows sign language to be a mode of communication prior to the first word emerging,” said Paula Lemane, paediatric audiologist with the Division of Rehabilitation Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Some parents worry that babies who sign will rely solely on gestures to communicate, rather than learning how to speak, however, research shows that communicating with signs doesn’t interfere with speech, and this approach actually fosters language development. You get down to your child’s eye-level, you say the key-word, you do the sign, you say the word again, you are reinforcing speech, not hindering it.

“And as soon as the child learns the word for something, they drop the sign language completely because it’s so much faster for them to get their needs met by speaking,” she said.


“The data are very clear that facilitating the child’s communication in any way will help their ultimate growth in language and further their communication skills,” said Elizabeth Crais, PhD, speech-language pathologist and professor and coordinator of PhD Studies in the division of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Lemane said that signing can be taught early and that babies as young as 6 months have been taught to sign. Speaking, on the other hand, generally doesn’t occur until children are at least 12 months old, with most children learning a few more words between 15 and 18 months and speaking simple phrases by 24 months of age.

Children begin comprehending language much sooner than they have the ability to verbalize. Learning to express their basic needs through sign language can help toddlers ask for what they want and ease the frustration (read: tantrums) that can come with an inability to speak, said Crais.

“By teaching kids gestures, they begin to learn words faster. They begin to pick up the notion of things like ‘more,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘give me,’ and ‘pick me up,’ and can map those concepts to real words over time,” she said.

Those babies are so clever.

Categories: Baby Sign Language, Mom Life

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