Send Me a Sign
The Development of Baby Signing
Research on baby signing began at the end of the 1980's, when it was noticed by Joseph Garcia, an interpreter for people in the deaf community, that the hearing children of deaf parents began to communicate with their parents early through signing.
In fact, it all started at a much younger age than normal children living in a home with hearing parents; a baby living in a home with hearing parents doesn't develop verbal skills until at least 12-18 months of age.
This observation intrigued Garcia. In 1987 he began his research by exposing normal, pre-verbal babies as young as 6-7 months old from homes with normal hearing parents to regular and consistent use of signing. By eight to nine months of age, most of these babies were able to express themselves using sign language.
A signing baby has a better vocabulary
Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn began to investigate the long-term effects on babies taught to use sign language so early in their development. They found that when these children began to develop verbal skills they were more proficient at an earlier age in these skills than children who developed verbally without being first taught to sign. It was shown that these children had better vocabularies, understood more words, played in more sophisticated ways, had more interest in books and they exhibited reduced frustration related behaviors.
...and a higher IQ
In addition, Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn came back to these children when they were seven to eight years old and showed that they had a mean IQ of 114, compared to the non-signing children whose mean IQ was average at 102.
Perhaps the most valuable outcome of teaching our babies sign language is the enhanced bond which is formed between the baby and his/her caregiver. When we teach our babies sign language, we must focus on the baby in an intense way -- showing them many times the correct sign for the word or idea we are teaching them, and also saying the word over and over. There is increased eye contact, and an overall increased focus on communication, which, after all is the foundation and currency of positive, powerful relationships.
This author has first-hand experience with baby signing; she saw her 8-month-old granddaughter 'sign' that she wanted more food!