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 their 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.