This chapter is dedicated to the most common questions that are on the minds of first time signers.
Will learning to sign interfere with my baby’s speech and language development?
No! Absolutely not. In fact, sign language has been shown over and over again to help babies learn to talk rather than the other way around. Studies show that baby’s vocabularies can be as much as a year ahead at age two, compared to non-signers. Babies who sign also have higher IQ’s, talk sooner, have fewer temper tantrums and on and on. There’s no reason not to sign to your baby!
Above: In this video we look at reducing tantrums by using the signs FRUSTRATED and HELP. We taught the sign for frustrated early on, because we found that Holden wanted to do a lot more than he could on his own as Courtney explains in the video. So instead of a tantrum (him panicking) we taught him how to express his emotions with the sign FRUSTRATED. He would use the sign just as he was about to get angry and when he did it, we knew he wanted some help with something and that whatever it was, was bothering him. From there we would do a breathing exercise to help him calm down. This included a few deep breaths in and out with us taking the lead. A baby can’t cry when they are doing deep breaths and focusing on calming down! The video shows, in context, a few different applications of HELP and FRUSTRATED.
What will my baby be able to tell me through signing?
What won’t they be able to tell you is probably a better question! Essentially any of the 350 signs tailor selected for the baby sign language course will be fair game for your baby to sign back to you – along with just about any other you find important. Your baby will be able to tell you when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, hurt, interested in starting conversations about things, when they’ve heard birds or seen animals such as cats and dogs, or zoo animals in photographs or on prints on their clothing and on and on. Be prepared to be amazed by exactly how much your little guy or little girl really understands about the world. Signing will put the world on display for you through fresh eyes.
When is a good time to begin teaching sign language to my baby?
Whenever you want…and it depends! Motivated parents can start teaching right out of the womb, if they so choose, but generally babies do best around 8-11 months of age. You can expect a baby to start signing back at 4 months of age right up to 15 months of age and even longer, on either extremity. However, most babies do well at the 8-10 month mark, making that bracket the most optimal time. No harm is done by starting earlier or later. However if you start early you might get bored or impatient waiting for your baby’s motor coordination to develop, and if you start later, your baby will probably start signing back faster, but you will have missed part of the benefits of early expression.
How long before babies catch on to signing?
If you start signing to your baby at 11 months and follow the program, then your baby will sign back within 2-8 weeks depending on your level of commitment. Babies that start earlier might take a full 8 weeks, while baby’s that start later might only take 2 weeks. There are many factors that come into play such as your consistency, your baby’s relative level of development, how often you repeat the signs, and so forth.
Will my baby ever stop signing after they have started – and will it mute by baby’s speech efforts?
Sign language doesn’t inhibit speech development in any way. Think of signing like crawling on the way to walking, except in this case, it’s on the way to talking. Your baby is going to drop signing as soon as it is no longer useful. There will be a period where your baby uses both sign and words at the same time, but quickly they will learn that signing has some major draw backs. For example, signing only works face to face plus it’s nearly impossible to do things with busy hands and sign at the same time.
I already know what my baby wants and needs because we have a close connection, why would I bother teaching him to sign?
First of all, while you probably do have a rough idea of what your baby wants and needs, but you don’t know exactly what he wants or needs, and you certainly can’t know it as fast or as certainly as would a signing parent. Does your baby ask for MILK, WATER, or JUICE, or do they just look THIRSTY? Get my point?