The Use of Baby Sign

              Baby sign is a modified version of American Sign Language (ASL) taught to infants. It is considered a modified version of ASL because infants are not taught the full language, but instead are taught individual words. For example, they are taught to bring their hand to their mouth as a way of saying they are hungry, but they are not communicating the full sentence “I am hungry” in sign language.As many know, it takes infants time to acquire spoken language. However, their hand-eye coordination and motor development (i.e. use of their hands and fingers) develops more rapidly. Because hand eye coordination and motor development occurs sooner, baby sign was seen as a way in which infants could communicate early in life. Baby sign was developed as a way to bridge the communication gap between parents and infants who have already developed the capability to communicate with their hands, despite not being able to speak yet. Many find infant sign to be helpful. Infants benefit from baby sign because they are able to communicate their wants and needs, which decreases frustration. In theory, infants who learn baby sign are able to communicate needs such as “eat”, “sleep”, “hug”, etc, which help them regulate their emotions. Instead of being frustrated with their inability to communicate what they want, they have a means of communicating. There is some evidence that teaching children to sign is linked to better language development. Research has shown that signing babies have larger vocabularies and more advanced cognitive development. Furthermore, if a baby has trouble speaking, speech pathologists may teach the baby to sign to prompt language development and enhance the infant’s communication with others. It can be a worry that baby sign will hinder a child from developing a spoken language. However, no evidence has been found that baby sign will cause a delay in speaking. Gesturing is a natural part of communication, therefore even if you don’t deliberately teach your child, they will still learn some gestures. For instance, most infants will raise their arms to communicate wanting to be picked up. As stated before, teaching infants to sign can help them communicate theiPicturer needs and wants better, allowing them to feel less frustrated. In addition to that though, baby sign can also be a great way to play games with your baby and provide bonding time!

Thompson, R. H., Cotnoir-Bichelman, N. M., McKerchar, P. M., Tate, T. L., & 
Dancho, K. A. (2007). Enhancing early communication through infant sign training. 
Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 15-23.



 Infants being exposed to multiple languages during the time they are learning to speak has raised questions with researchers about if exposure to multiple languages affects language development or not. Depending on the number of languages in their environment, PictureInfants have to learn different amount of rules about language. The debate between researchers is whether or not the multiple rules that bilingual infants are exposed to delay mastery of their primary language. Studies suggest that children exposed to two or more languages can actually begin talking with in the same time frame as monolingual children. It might appear as if the babies’ first words are delayed compared to monolingual babies, but they develop language just as readily. Recent research argues that multiple languages do not hinder an infant’s ability to understand and distinguish between and understand multiple languages. Since bilinguals are equipped with multiple references of the same word, They become masters of being able to switch between languages depending on whom they are listening to or speaking with. In addition, studies suggest that bilingual children have greater cognitive flexibility and can switch attention quicker than monolinguals. Currently, the question of what exactly the effects of being bilingual or monolingual are remains continual discussion that needs to be further studied.

Vocabulary Development

                Language acquisition begins as early as the first month of life when infants are able to detect familiar sounds they have been exposed to prenatally. The mother's voice is the first exposure to language the infant has, which sets the stage for language acquisition in later development. Children will vary in their development of speech and language skills, however there is a general developmental progression that has been seen. For the first few months, many infants do not produce lots of sounds; however they are fully attentive to differences within their native language. Prior to the six months mark, most infants have already been acquiring information relating to speech from their environment.  Most infants begin cooing, the first attempt of speech, about the first half of life around 2-4 months. Around six months babies typically begin to babble, which is speech-like sounds that tends to be the next step to speech. Babies understand words long before they can actually speak them. Before the end of the first year, the babbling of an infant tends to morph into more speech-like sounds. It has been seen that by the first year babies speak their first words. They are usually simple words like “mama” or “daddy”, and can understand short simple requests such as “Please pick that up” or “Give it to mommy”. Seen around 18 months, many infants go through a vocabulary burst where they start speaking and understanding a greater number of words than before. The use of spoken words gradually increases through the first year and then accelerates by the end of the second year. By the age of 2, many infants can string together a few words in short phrases for example “Where's mommy?” or “Want more juice”. Many infants can also understand more abstract concepts like “mine”; for example, “That's my ball”. It may appear infants are passive recipients but they are actively engaging and processing the information they are exposed to. Language does not stop there, eventually children will continue to understand and speak more words and form complex sentences until they reach adult-like speech skills. Once again this is a general trajectory, language development varies for every child.

Statistical Learning: How Babies Learn language

Parenting Tips from the LLL!