How Signing With Your Baby Makes Life More Fun

American Sign Language is like most languages. It has syntax and grammar and several elements that spoken languages lack. One example is the use of space to describe three dimensional concepts, time, and activity. Also, the facial expression, how signs are made, the speed or intensity of each sign, the direction in which the sign moves, and body language are language characteristics similar to the voice, using tones, inflections, and emphasis on accent that embodies speech.

However, a baby is only interested in communicating things that they want, need, have interest, or fear. Not all ASL signs are available to them to form with their limited dexterity and understanding. That is why years of research and contact with countless families resulted in the Baby Sign Language in 14 Days program. It gives parents exactly what they need to establish appropriate communication between them and their pre-speech babies. Knowing how to model the signs and which signs to model to your baby is a critical aspect of the babies development and your success.

How Signing With Babies Empowers Them to Express Themselves Before They Can Say Words

For many years, scientists, doctors, researchers, and educators have studied sign language as a means to assist communication in children with hearing or speech impairments and other special needs, such as Down’s syndrome and autism. However, the idea of using signing with hearing babies to enhance communication has been largely neglected until relatively recently.

My research into the usefulness of using signs grew from my need to learn the most current and best practices for raising a baby. My spouse and I were expecting a new baby and motivation to learn was strong.

Following my military service, I learned American Sign Language or ASL as it is called. While working at Central Washington University, I developed a medical ASL dictionary translating medical terms into ASL. That experience connected me to the Deaf Community.

While part of the Deaf community, I saw hearing babies of Deaf parents signing complete thoughts a year before they began to articulate words. When my baby was born, I signed with him.  My amazement to the potential that signing could bring to the learning and communication process was profound.

During my post graduate studies, I decided to complete a research study analyzing the early learning capacity and learning process of pre-speech babies. Speech was, up to that point, the only credible way to assure accurate two-way communication among parent and baby. Articulating words was also the only evidence-based way to evaluate the babies understanding of complex ideas.

As I began to understand how babies learn, I discovered which signing gestures were within their capacity to form with their limited dexterity, and which ideas were best expressed clearly at which stages of development with which signs.

Although hearing babies raised by Deaf parents see ASL being used all the time, thus having constant exposure to signing in context, most parents are not and will not become fluent in ASL. My Baby Sign Language In 14 Days program was specifically designed to address several basic principles. First, the program must be relevant to the babies needs, understanding levels, and interests. Second, while the chosen signs are ASL based, Baby Sign Language in 14 Days is not formal ASL. It is a communication system using ASL signs specifically focused on parent-baby communication. Third, the program is made to avail the busy schedule of parents.  And finally, the delivery of signs to your baby–how you model and present the signs, is as important if not more important than the idea of signing itself.

My concern is that many people see babies signing and/or hear about it and rush out and get a product that is not research-based. One example is many if not most programs suggest teaching a baby of 8 months or so “please” or “thank you.” Babies do not understand etiquette or appreciation until later in their development. Also, you should not TEACH your baby…my system is based on MODELING. You want your child to discover the signs and draw on their internal resources to communicate. That process is where much of their confidence will originate not to mention enhance the bonding experience through improved communication. 

When an educational study is conducted to review the various strategies that result in a desired outcome, evidence must be available that supports the study’s assumed conclusion. Although this is obvious, most products dealing with early education lack credible evidence to back up claims or proposed outcomes. That is because many did not originate from research but just ideas. Ideas are fine. They spawn exploration and become a contribution when supported by evidence. However, when developing a program to establish communication via a safe, stress-free, supportive/not instructive program, my mandate is that the methods being used are researched and evidence based.

Take for example the idea of frustration. A baby’s unfulfilled expectations can result in frustration. No matter how good a parent you are, you will never anticipate your baby’s every need. The reactionary behavior displayed during the “Terrible Twos” is partly a result of their frustration. Much of this frustration may come from restricted communication and being unable to get what they want through their communication. From the time that your baby recognizes that they want something to the time it takes for you to understand their wanting can be a long, frustrating time. However, frustration levels drop dramatically when they signs. Using signs, they can convey their needs swiftly and calmly, replacing frustration with communication.

You would be surprised at how often just knowing what's going to happen next helps calm a baby and reduces frustration. Using signs, especially the signs developed in the Baby Sign Language in 14 Days program is designed to give the parent and caregiver the signs that allow you to show your child what is coming next–what to expect, and what is happening to them at the time. The signing process is an important communicative dialogue system that not only simplifies everyday situations but allows your child to understand more about the world and express themselves.

The best examples I can recall from my own experiences with my children signing were the times when they could touch their little index fingers together and show me where they had hurt themselves when I did not see how they were hurt. Also, when they knew where something was, but I couldn't find it. I would use the WHERE are my glasses sign. My son waddled over and picked my glasses out from under the couch where I would not have looked. Not only did I appreciate his help, but he felt quite proud to have contributed to my well-being.

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