Monday, June 10, 2013

Won't That Delay Their Speech?

This is, by far, the most common question I hear about teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to infants and toddlers.  It's something I imagine you have heard as well when you share with friends, family, doctors, even strangers that you sign with your child. Or, perhaps you have heard other skeptical remarks about your choice to incorporate ASL into your family's communication.

While it can often be easiest to just smile politely and ignore these comments, there are times when you need to give more of a response.  The simple answer is No, signing with infants and toddlers will absolutely NOT delay their speech or prevent them from speaking all together.

I once saw a very interesting comparison of signing and crawling by Monica Beyer.  Just like crawling precedes walking and does not prevent baby from walking when he/she is developmentally strong enough, the same is true of signing and spoken language.

What's more, research has actually shown the opposite to be true.  Infants and toddlers who sign have larger vocabularies and speak earlier than their non-signing counterparts.  In fact, the founders of Signing Smart, Dr. Michelle Anthony and Dr. Reyna Lindart,  studied over 200 families from across the U. S. and found some very encouraging results. The children studied were between 6 months and 19 months old.  Those where were signers had been signing for at least 8 weeks. (

My own experience with my first son who is nearly two and a half was similar.  At less than 8 months old, he was telling us when he wanted MORE, when he was ALL-DONE, and was even starting to label MOMMY and DADDY. At 10 months, he was telling us when he was tired and wanted to go to BED, asked to see his favorite singing LION, and pointed out every FAN he came across. At just over 1 year, he used over 25 signs and half a dozen spoken words. Now, at nearly two and a half, he consistently uses 4 and 5 word sentences to express himself, and I've stopped trying to number every word in his vocabulary because it just grows too darn quickly!

What are the best strategies you've found for explaining your choice to sign with your little one and deal with skeptics and naysayers?

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