Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Importance of Sign Language in Early Language Development

Before Park was born, I knew I wanted to use sign language as a means for my son and I to communicate before his speaking language skills developed.  Armed with a great book of baby sign language and flash cards to teach me how to use simple signs, we began signing with Park as early as 6 months old.  And it worked. Park caught on immediately to simple signs such as water, ball, dog, diaper, milk, more and all done.  It was so great.  But then I listened to some ill fated advice from a mother who, at the time, I believed knew everything about successful mothering.

I was told by this mother that using sign language in early language development years hindered speaking.  So I backed off.  I did not want my son to speak late.  And since everything else was normal about Park's development, I wasn't worried about anything.  Unfortunately, I was very wrong in listening to the motherly advice (something I have finally realized can only be taken with a grain of salt as all children develop differently).  Park has a serious language delay.  Park is 26 months old and barely speaks less than 10 words we can understand.  (He speaks all day but says nothing we can understand).  He is very frustrated that he cannot communicate very well with us...something that signing could have alleviated.

So after a few weeks into more intensive intervention with Park's language development, I've attempted to start over with our signing in hopes he feels comfortable communicating with Marshall and I.  But to our dismay, Park wants nothing to do with signing.  I think he figures, since Mom and Dad know what I want at all times and I can use other gestures to ensure they understand, why learn another way?  I dread telling Park's speech therapist this week that he has made no progress with signing.  He has with speaking, but not signing...something that he could do at 9 months of age.  Boy is he STUBBORN!  I wonder where he gets it from;)

So since it seems hopeless at this time to reintroduce sign language to Park, I thought I would do a little research of my own on signing as a means of progressing his language skills so I know how hard I need to try to get him to sign again.  (Note: Park's speech therapist, his early intervention case worker, my brother who is a school psychologist, and my sister in law who has expertise in developmental delays said it is ONLY beneficial to sign with your children for their language development).  I found some great articles on studies done and wanted to share a few with you just in case you have battled with whether to sign with your wee ones or not.

Click here for a study of the impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development.  The study showed a clear impact to the control group of children with symbolic gesturing than the control group who had nothing.  Click here for an abstract of an article I'm waiting to review about 20 subjects who had language delays that showed more improvement from signing and speaking versus speaking alone.

Click here for a great web site to signing.  Enter in any word and it will show you how to sign by video!

Note to self: Other mothers always think they know what's best for your child when in fact, only YOU know what's best for YOUR child.  Listen to advice...but take it, again, with a grain of salt.  Decide for yourself, no one else, when making decisions for your family.

~Curious Mommy


  1. Bridget, I totally agaree, mom's are the only ones that can fully know and understand what there child needs. I think it is great that you can talk with some moms and get advise, not judgment, and get some helpful hints or tips. All though Park is delayed in his speech the fact that you are taking steps in getting him the help he needs is huge at this age. He will do great, and with your love and patience he will grow and learn new things constantly. Your a great MOTHER. :-) Love ya...

  2. Thankyou, I keep hearing people tell me it will delay speech, when I have read on my own the benefits.
    I started with my daughter at about 6.5-7 months old and quit even though she signed "more". I just couldnt get the hang of it. Now she is 8 months old and after finding out my second cousin who is 6 has the biggest vocabulary I have heard at that age, I am definitely trying it again. It's not too late for us, and I hope you are able to help correct things with your son.

    Thankyou again for this post.
    We need to remind ourselves often of who knows best for our children