I hear it over and over again… “but if I sign with my baby, I’m afraid she won’t learn to speak…” That statement is simply not true. There are many benefits to using ASL with hearing babies and language development is absolutely one of them! In fact babies who sign usually speak sooner than babies who do not sign! Now that’s pretty powerful. Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits you bring to your baby through signing with ASL:
- Language acquisition
When you sign with baby, you are not merely pointing and labelling, you are attaching more meaning by adding a symbol to the word. The ASL symbol is an early representation of phonics and reading which gives baby a deeper understanding and meaningful connection with the word and promoting early pre-reading and writing skills.
Baby would talk to you if she could! Wouldn’t it be great if baby could describe to you all her needs? However, it takes time for baby’s vocal chords to develop and more time for her to categorize sounds into useful words. So until baby is physically capable of speaking, signs can aide you with communication and alleviate frustration felt by both you and baby when you are unable to communicate well.
- Early learning
When baby is at play, do you truly engage him in learning? Do you talk to baby and ask questions at play? Signing at play is a great way to add deeper understanding to baby’s world. By asking questions, signing and speaking to baby while he is at play you are signing when he is engaged and primed to learn.
- Brain development
Signing babies have enhanced brain development over babies who do not learn a second language. As ASL is a recognized language and additionally requires sight to process and understand it, baby is engaging in activity requiring both hemispheres of the brain. All languages are stored in the left brain, however the right brain processes visual information. Since ASL requires both, a stronger connection is made between hemispheres and more synapses are created.
If you ask me, those are some pretty powerful reasons to consider signing with your baby. In fact, if I were a mom, there would be no doubt in my mind as to whether I would sign with baby or not. I would absolutely use my ever-growing knowledge of ASL to benefit my child and our communication together.
I thought it was interesting how you mentioned that babies who sign usually end up speaking sooner than babies who don’t. I had thought that teaching sign language to a baby would delay the onset of their desire to speak. Knowing this, I wouldn’t mind learning ASL to better communicate with my future kids while they’re babies.