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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tutorial Tuesday: Sign Language

My toddler talks, why would I teach him sign language?

Some feel that the use of sign language is only to bridge the communication gap while infants are still not talking. True – sign language is a great resourceful tool to help with communication at the infancy stage but sign language is just as resourceful for toddlers as well!

Many of the benefits still apply!

  •           Reduce of frustrations (for both parents and children) & tantrums (when their point is understood quicker than trying to guess the verbal word they might not be able to get out intelligibly or remember!)
  •           Increase in social skills
  •           Increase in joint attention skills
  •           Promote early communication
  •           Increase in vocabulary skills
  •           Increase in reading abilities and desire to read
  •           Increase in visual attending skills
  •           Increase in cognitive development (higher IQs)
  •           Reduce “terrible two’s” J

Toddlers are able to attend to information presented to them much more than infants – everyone knows that. Why not provide them with educationally resourceful information while their brains are such active sponges? They are eager to learn. Using sign language teaches them a second language at an early age and being that toddlers are such visual learners, sign language fits in perfectly with their learning styles.  Toddlers are able to understand the association between the two-dimensional (2-D) picture with the sign associated to it.  They are so interested in the world around them. With the use of sign language, they are increasingly interested in playing together, reading together, and learning new lessons.

One thing I love about the toddler stage is ‘the power of the point’ (as I call it). Toddlers are at a great age that they understand and use joint referencing. So as the parent, when you point to something, your toddler will look. And this works vise-versa as well! When your toddler points to something, they expect you to look. This is a perfect way to learn new signs and increase their vocabulary skills. My daughter understands the sign for TREE every time we are taking our walk and she points to the tree. She looks at me pointing and I say, ‘yes, it’s a TREE.’  She always points to our family pictures in the living room – this is a great time for her to learn the labels of people and now sign (e.g. MOMMY, DADDY).

The benefits are endless. Many parents find that their toddlers and pre-school children are learning sign language at daycare as part of their curriculum. A few of my parents from classes or on the streets come to me and say, “my daughter is signing DIAPER because she needs her diaper changed.” My response: “Great – thank your day care because you are one leg up on that potty training thing that everyone else has such a tricky time doing.” But most importantly, it’s something that my family participates in together. Sign language – the benefits are endless!

Kristy works as a speech-language pathologist in the school systems, early intervention, as well as with private clients. Kristy uses ASL both personally (with her daughter) and professionally in her therapy sessions and by teaching classes, tutoring sessions, and workshops. She is a Master Level Certified Sign Language Instructor through Signing Time®, a new blogger, a student in Nova Southeastern University’s SLP.D program, a wife, and a new mom of a 14-month old. Visit her new blog and her Facebook page and become followers! www.hearmyhandsasl.com