Studies show that babies who sign speak sooner than babies who don’t sign, have a bigger vocabulary, have a greater interest in reading, spell better and read better and have higher IQ scores, not to mention a better sense of self confidence, have less frustrated parents and have a closer bond with their parents. A study by Dr. Linda Acredelo and Dr Susan Goodwyn authors of Baby signs published in 1997 found through their research that no language delays occurred because of signing. Rather, babies who signed had better language abilities and had higher IQ’s when tested years later.
In their 1989 study, 140 families with 11 month old babies were selected and divided into three groups. The researchers were careful to separate the groups based on development, family income, baby’s birth order, and ability to vocalize. One third of the families were taught how to use sign language, one third was encouraged to speak to their babies more often than they would normally, and the remaining families weren’t told to do anything differently. This group was the “control group” – the group by which all others would be compared. None of the groups had any knowledge of the purpose of the study or that there were other groups participating in the study. The researchers then followed the groups for 2 years.
The researchers found that babies at 24 months had vocabularies of 27-28 month olds and at 24 months used significantly longer sentences than non-signers. Their IQ’s also measured 12 points higher than their non-signing counterparts (114 compared to 102). Their vocabularies were measured at 3 years of age and they found that the signers were equal to 4 year olds. They were a full year ahead of the non-signers! According to Dr. Michelle Anthony and Dr. Reyna Linder’s research, by 18 months of age an average signer will have 94 signs and 105 spoken words, whereas a non-signing child will have 10-50 spoken words only. Signing babies have above-average comprehension of English and their grammar and syntax are way more advanced than non-signers.
Follow up research was done in 1994 by Doctor Marilyn Daniels who was professor of Communication Arts at Penn State University at the time. The research came about through the observations of her students. They noticed that hearing children of deaf parents seemed to do much better in reading and writing than those raised by hearing parents. The research concluded that singing children comprehend letters and sounds much better than non-signing children, that children who used sign speak better and have more advanced communication skills than non-signers and that reading levels were far improved.
In summary, park your concerns at the door! Don’t worry about delaying your child’s speech because as far as the research is concerned, and the thousands of parents who have used signs before you, there’s nothing to the claim. Think of baby sign language like crawling on your way to walking. It’s just another milestone, and as soon as their spoken abilities catch up, they’ll drop the signs in favour of spoken words, and excel in the face of their non-signing counterparts.
Above: Teaching the sign for SPICY is pretty easy because it can be taught with a potent sense! Just offer some spicy food and teach the sign right away. You can do the sign before during and after. Doing the sign in multiple contexts with different foods solidifies the concept. Watch the video to see some ways we taught the word SPICY.