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Baby sign language has become a popular phenomenon to parents around the world in recent years. Research has proven that teaching babies to sign increases their IQ and enables them to talk at an earlier age than those who don’t. Sign language helps to tear down the barriers of silence and opens new worlds of communication between a parent and a child.
As a hearing-impaired mother at the vibrant age of 21, I worried about the frustrations of not being able to understand my child. I began to teach him sign language at an early age of eight months. The results were spectacular. There is nothing like a mother’s feeling of having the ability to look into the window of a child’s mind with a simple gesture or two.
Linda Acredolo, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, began studying the phenomenon 15 years ago when she observed her one-year-old daughter using spontaneous gestures. After years of research, Acredolo found that the benefits of teaching babies sign language were overwhelming.
“The signing babies were ahead of the pack at almost every measure at every age. They were learning to comprehend language faster. They were learning to talk faster. They were putting words together faster and doing better on the infant IQ tests at two years,” says Linda.
As the result of her research, Linda and her research partner, Susan Goodwyn, wrote the book “Baby Signs” to help parents learn how to better communicate with their child. The popular book includes sign language that is very similar to the American Sign Language, the type of language used in the deaf community. Yet, Acredolo encourages parents to keep the signs simple. “Just make up something on the spot if you want. It is not realistic for parents to teach their babies American Sign Language because it puts up a barrier if babies have to learn specific signs. This is just transitional.”
Yet, some professors do not agree with Acredolo’s teaching of sign language that is not an exact language of ASL. Marilyn Davis of Penn State University thinks “Baby Signs” introduces a good idea, but believes it is wrong to teach a baby an entirely new language. Daniels, an associate professor of speech communications has done years of research on sign language for children without disabilities. Her work was encouraged by the results that hearing children of deaf parents often had better than average vocabularies. “Why not teach the child a legitimate sign from a legitimate recognized language?” says Daniels. In her research, Daniels has used American Sign Language along with spoken language in kindergarten classes. The children who learned to sign scored 20 percent higher on year-end vocabulary tests than children who didn’t.
My son is now 17 months old and has learned over 30 different signs ranging from “cookie” to “bath”. His signs are now starting to fade and being replaced by his own sweet voice. I no longer worry about the frustrations of communication between us. Sign language has helped us to break down that barrier of silence and create an exciting world of learning that never ceases.