Your one-year-old child looks up at you, and you wonder when their first words are going to start so that you’ll know exactly what they’re thinking. Or maybe the child is starting to cry, and you can’t wait for her to tell you what she wants instead of leaving you to figure it out.
There might be a way to speed up the process – baby sign programs have been introduced to encourage early language with infants. But the important question is, do they work?
Reasearch Of Baby Sign Language:
Existing research for baby signing is inconclusive. It wavers from not having a significant difference for the child’s language to increasing a child’s vocabulary and helping spoken language emerge.
Before beginning a baby sign program, consider the following questions:
• Is the program designed to teach a child American Sign Language, or to teach Baby Sign for encouraging spoken language? Make sure the program you are using fits your need.
• Is the program researched-based?
• Does the person teaching the program have extensive knowledge of American Sign Language or another sign language?
• Does the program use developmentally appropriate signs? For example, teaching the sign for “milk” may be more appropriate for beginning baby signs than teaching the word for “flower”. Signs may be simplified in the same way that spoken language may be simplified when speaking to an infant.
• Does the program encourage spoken language at the same time? While signing the word to the child, you should speak the word simultaneously.
Is a baby sign program needed to teach gestures and facilitate language?
Children already use gestures to communicate: lifting arms when they want to be picked up, waving goodbye, pointing to what they want. Respond to their actions to show the child that using gestures and language is a positive way of communicating what they want or need.
In my opinion, the most important way to encourage spoken language is to create a language-rich environment for your child. Make sure to be constantly communicating, labeling their world, and interacting with them. Including baby signs in these interactions can be beneficial and can help make communication with your child meaningful. If you are interested in trying baby signs, I recommend starting with only two to three signs at first to see your child’s reaction.