17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Crib Notes: Effects of Sign Language on Hearing Children's Language Development

Recently, we started pushing sign language with our 4-year old who continues to struggle with language. Noe's therapists and I have been doing a lot of research to facilitate this transition into his therapy and at home (we had previously been doing a picture exchange program to teach Noe language). I am AMAZED by some of the research out there. It is fairly common knowledge these days that teaching babies signs will help facilitate their language development. The thing that impressed me was how it continues to positively affect children's language skills throughout childhood.

With our typically developing 2-year old, I considered teaching him sign language but decided against it because DH is teaching him Spanish. I was afraid that two languages plus sign would be too confusing. After reading the study below, I am rethinking my decision. Have any of you taught sign to your hearing children? If so, what has your experience been?

I thought I would share a few notes on this study:

Effect of Sign Language on Hearing Children’s Language Development (Daniels, 1994 and follow-up study 1996)

This study compared the vocabulary of typically developing, hearing, preschool students who received simultaneous instruction in American Sign Language (ASL) and English to students who received instruction only in English. Participants were 60 students, equally divided into four classes who remained in the school program for the entire academic year. Two classes received ASL and English instruction, and two classes were taught only in English. All participants were African American, from the same neighborhood with the same socioeconomic status and parental income. Before treatment, all students received similar scores on kindergarten placement measures.

For the classes that used sign language concurrently with spoken English, there was a dramatic increase in the students’ vocabulary. This increase in vocabulary may be attributed to the additional visual, kinesthetic modality used when signing. Additionally, they had better recognition of letters and sounds. A message received both with the eyes (signing) and the ears (spoken English) uses a combination of visual, kinesic, aural, and physical modes, creating “the probability of a multiple imprint on the learner’s memory…[and providing a] more natural code than English for language acquisition in children” (Daniels, 1994, p. 296). Other teachers who used sign in the program believe that it increases children’s focus, concentration, attention, while encouraging them to become active participants in learning.

Additionally, the gains in receptive English vocabulary that the children achieved in the preschool year continued throughout the following kindergarten year. Results found that the benefits attained from receiving both sign language and verbal English instruction simultaneously were maintained one year later.

The author provides various explanations for this continued vocabulary growth, even though sign language was no longer utilized in the classroom. Sign language indirectly increases eye contact and attending to the speaker. In order to obtain the entire message, the child is conditioned to look and focus on the communicator so he can see the signs while listening to the spoken language.

Teachers involved in the program reported that, since children can feel the language with signs, the additional sensory input allows them to become more active learners of language. This engagement also stimulates the ability to learn from play, since play is correlated with cognition, social growth, and language capability.

Other Research About Sign Language Has Found:

*Teaching signs and speech simultaneously leads to improved communication for children with autism (Konstantantareas, 1984), Down syndrome (Weller & Mahoney, 1983), and other developmental disabilities (Brady & Smouse, 1978; Musselwhite, 1986).
*Learning languages in 2 different modalities (i.e. aural and visual-spatial) enhances semantic development (Prinz & Prinz, 1981).
*When young children learn ASL and spoken English concurrently, the results are earlier language acquisition and accelerated language development, in comparison to children learning only spoken English (Holmes & Holmes, 1980; Griffith, 1985; Goodwyn & Acredolo, 2000).
*Sign language, in combination with drama activities, results in significantly higher expressive and receptive language measures for preschoolers than those taught a standard curriculum (Brown, 1990).

*Sign language consisting of adverbs and adjectives taught to kindergarteners to enhances appropriate use of these descriptive words (DeViveiros & McLaughlin, 1982).
*Sign language instruction to first and second graders provided greater retention of vocabulary words than with only spoken English (Wilson & Hoyer, 1985)

More Helpful Resources for Parents:

Briant, M.Z. (2004). Baby sign language basics. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.
Garcia, J. (1999). Sign with Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants Before They Can
Speak. Seattle: Northlight Communications.
Ryan, D. (2006). Complete Idiot’s Guide Baby Sign Language. NY: Penguin Group.
Sign language dictionary with animated signs:
Free resource for students, teachers, and parents: www.lifeprint.com

What are Crib Notes?


  • It seems like all the moms in my ward are doing sign language, but I have some hesitation, too, because of the second language thing. My son is 3 and a half months, so I guess I still have a bit of time. My husband is native born & raised Japanese, and so is speaking exclusively to our son in Japanese and I thought it would be too difficult to do 2 languages and signing. I don't want to confuse him too much. And it's already a lot of effort to do 2 languages. And I'm trying to do full-time mom, full time PhD grad school, so I'm kind of busy. Do you guys think it would be worth it?
    posted by Blogger Amanda at 8/27/2007 03:43:00 PM  

  • Thank you for this post, it's been on my brain. We're a bilingual family as well and I've been trying to decide on whether or not to sign as well. Maybe just a couple signs like "more," "milk," "tired," "dada," and "mama?"

    I mean, I spoke three languages when I was small, but for some reason I'm hesitating on the signing. I do think it would ease those first bumps of communication, but I'm not sure on the effect
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 8/27/2007 04:01:00 PM  

  • My oldest was speech delayed and the speech therapist taught him sign as a way to lower his frustration level with not being able to communicate at all. We moved and instead of putting him back in speech therapy, I signed him up for a public preschool program for kids with delays. But it took awhile to get him in, so meanwhile he just relied on the sign language.

    He started talking once he made it into the preschool program and by the end of kindergarten was at his grade level in speech.

    Funny thing was, his little sister didn't start talking until he did---instead she picked up his sign language.

    My sister in law taught her babies sign and it's amazing how many signs they knew at a very young age. Imagine your 6 month old being able to tell you she wants milk.
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 8/27/2007 04:59:00 PM  

  • We've done some signing with our now 18 month old. We did just "more" and "all done" when he started on solid food. He didn't really catch on to them for a while. But right after his birthday he started learning a ton of signs. After he knew about 30 signs, he started making some up. (Like pushing buttons on his tummy for "calculator" and rubbing his leg for "lotion"). He now talks quite a bit, I don't know how he compares to other 18 month olds, but I think it has helped his talking. It's also so much nicer to see the sign for "drink" then to have them just whine and cry for what they want.
    I wouldn't worry about the "three language" thing. Don't think of it as another language as much as a way for them to communicate before they can verbalize words. Their large motor skills (moving their hands and arms) develop a lot faster than the small motor skills (the little muscles in their mouth used to form different sounds). It also doesn't matter if you use ASL or specific signs. As long as you use a certain sign consistently, they can learn.
    Some of the signs that I have found helpful are "please," "drink," "cereal," and "cracker" for eating. Things like "book," "ball," and different animal signs and sounds for play time.
    posted by Blogger Richelle at 8/27/2007 05:38:00 PM  

  • Jen, thanks for writing up the summary of this study. Makes me wish we had kept up the signing once our DS started to talk!

    We used signs with our son, starting at around 10 months I think. My goals were along the lines of what susan m and richelle mentioned - providing a means of communication during a time when verbalization wasn't quite as developed as the desire to "talk". I think it was incredibly helpful, I would definitely do it again with any subsequent children. As far as taking up time, I didn't see it as an extra added task - really, I just did the sign every time I used whatever word it stood for ("all done", "drink", etc.) and he eventually caught on and started using the signs himself.
    posted by Blogger marian at 8/27/2007 06:56:00 PM  

  • we did babysigns with all three- as soon as they can wave bye-bye, we bring in words like more, eat, moon, book, bath, blanket, kitty.

    but right now I have a 4.5 year old with developmental issues who has a real strength for signing, and so we have all jumped in with "signing time videos" and now my kids are doing things like "playground", "pay attention" "banana" "slide" "kite" "firefighter" and "grandpa".

    I really enjoy the Singing Time videos and am often amazed at the beauty and symbolism in ASL, I want us all to keep learning it!
    There are many circumstances where it's useful to sign, even if you don't have a kiddo whose speech and language comes and goes each day.

    (signingtimekids.com and it's made by a utah LDS family)
    posted by Anonymous cchrissyy at 8/27/2007 07:56:00 PM  

  • As a speech therapist and Mom, I love this topic! I love that more people are discovering that teaching sign will not delay language but boost it!

    Gestures usually precede and then accompany spoken language so even if you're using more than one spoken language at home, it should be fine. the comment about it being gross motor is right on-it's a different part of the brain and pairing the motor with the speech is usually very helpful! Usually if they're going to have trouble with "too many languages" you'll see it early on and it will affect the development of all of the languages (such as all three plateauing or difficulty with vocab in all three)

    I signed with my baby from day one. At first it was just "milk", "more" and "all done" but she was imitating and requesting at 6-9 months and it was so wonderful to have her communicating her needs at an early age. She still uses some of her signs occasionally if I'm not getting the picture of what she wants!
    posted by Blogger Liz&Meg at 8/27/2007 08:22:00 PM  

  • We've done some signing with our 19 month old son since he was about 6 months old. We haven't continued to add signs since he's started talking a lot more, but we've experienced two benefits:

    First, I really think his vocabulary is as big as it is because of signing. At his 18 month appointment, the doctor asked me how many words he knew. I took a shot in the dark and said around thirty. The doctor was impressed and said that was more than was typical. I was curious how many he actually knew though, and when I got home I started a list--I stopped after 80 words.

    Second, many of our son's words sound identical: "bah" can mean bug, bus, ball, box, and bag (and probably something else, too). But if he makes the sign and says the word simultaneously, it really clarifies things.

    Reading through the studies makes me think we should get back to signing, though.
    posted by Anonymous mhuff at 8/27/2007 08:26:00 PM  

  • This really is a good topic. I would love to learn more sign to teach my kids. We used about 4 words when they were little, like many of you. I do know, through my el. ed. background that the more languages the merrier! Nonscientifically put. There are SO many benefits to being multilingual. I feel like sign might be easier for me to learn and pass on to my kids than another foreign language (since I am fluent in none). Is Signing Time the favorite video? Others? Thanks for the info, Jen. Such interesting stuff.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/27/2007 11:09:00 PM  

  • Like almost everyone else we taught pumpkin a handful of words when she was about 8 months beacuse the screaming fits were just not working for us. It really helped cut down of her frustration. But again, like many people who have already commented, we stopped signing when she started talking.

    The interesting thing, is that Princess (now 5) became very interested in signing when we started teaching Pumpkin. She has taught herself (from books, the computer, signing time and blues clues) many signs and often tries to talk to me in signs. I have to remind her that I don't understand sign language so she needs to use the real words with the signs so I can learn (and understand).
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/28/2007 08:07:00 AM  

  • I'm all for it! I learned sign language when I was a teenager from a friend of mine who is deaf, and decided I would teach my kids. I've done it with my first two and will do it with my others. I didn't feel like they were behind verbally. I felt like they were ahead of the game. By the time my first was 18 months he had a vocabulary of over 50 words and signs. They say that sometimes they can take a little longer on their verbal skills when you use sign, but in my opinion that's a price that I'm ok with, since I can understand my kids needs and wants better than other parents who kids are at "normal" verbal use. My little girl didn't learn as much signs because she started talking before my son, but I still found it helpful. And about your other child who doesn't have language needs, I wouldn't stop from teaching him, even with him learning Spanish. If you are going to teach your oldest, I'm sure they'll pick it up anyway with you using it anyway, that's just the way kids are. And it would be nice to have a form of communication that both of them understand. And I love the fact that you can talk to you kids without being noisy, great for church! I could go on and on about this. But in the long run you have to make a decision that you feel comfortable with. Good luck.
    posted by Blogger Erin at 8/28/2007 08:49:00 AM  

  • We did sing language with all 3 of our girls and it's been great. We started maybe around 8-9 months or so, and I was always amazed at how they picked it up so fast.

    It was a nice way to let them communicate and not be frustrated by not being able to get the words out.

    Most all our signs were about food . . .more, drink, all done, please, cracker, mom, dad, and then we did some fun animal ones too.

    It also was important for us to change the sign if we needed too. . some of them are kind of complicated so just make them whatever you want too.
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 8/28/2007 02:04:00 PM  

  • Katie, "Signing Time" is a series, there's a bunch of them. I borrow a coupl efrom the library whenever I go.

    oh, here they have a FAQ about signing with babies and little ones who can hear.
    posted by Anonymous cchrissyy at 8/28/2007 04:45:00 PM  

  • Great! Thanks for sharing the information. I like this information. Keep posting
    happy wheels | friv4school | happy wheels

    posted by Blogger Friv4 Games Online at 9/21/2016 03:14:00 AM  

  • The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas. Age Of War 2
    Big Farm | Slitherio | Tank Trouble
    Of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    Happy Wheels | Goodgeme Empire | Slither.io

    posted by Blogger Alice Denny at 10/04/2016 01:14:00 AM  

  • You go to our Web page you can play online games for free.
    Our Web page selection is the biggest collection so you can play entirely for free
    gun mayhem | age of war
    learn to fly | happy wheels game
    tank trouble
    posted by Anonymous gun mayhem 3 at 10/05/2016 09:26:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home