Sign Language As A First Language - A Guest Post by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Imagine being able to communicate with your baby as early as you would like,
knowing why they are crying or what they need, may sound ridiculous, or way out
of the realm of possibility, but it is actually much more common than you may think.
After learning how beneficial it can be for the relationship between you and your
child, and the advantages Sign Language will give them when starting school, it
would be ridiculous not to not give it a try.

Creating A Bond

The benefits of early childhood education through signing are endless. In addition
to giving kids a way to communicate, it also provides them with an opportunity to
form a bond with their parent(s). The hope is that eventually it will become know
as one of the "firsts" that no parent wants to miss, such as the first time they walked
or their first tooth. Signing is likely to allow communication much earlier than
verbally. It creates a closeness that will allow parents to be more in sync with their
child's thoughts and needs.

"Ma-ma", "Da-da", or Silence

The toddler years and beyond – ages 2 to five –are an ample time to educate
children in different modes of communication and language because of their brain
development course. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal
time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude
for signing as well.

American Indian nations have used sign language for centuries to facilitate
communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some
paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently
lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal
upon hand gestures to communicate. Therefore it is not as strange as one would

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in
the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as
six months old communicate with their hands:

" 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development are also referred
to by the author, demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language
at an early age whether at day care or at home, actually develop better verbal skills
as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating
with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to
communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an
advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).

The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways and languages to the widest
possible audience is a great way to stay ahead and ensure a decent standard of living in
our suffering economic state. This is not limited to speaking different languages but also
non-verbal communication: signing.

However, the shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language
that has led to more career opportunities is dwindling– and if current trends continue,
it's likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative
employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Austin day care facilities
belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose day care schools. Primrose Schools are
located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.

Anonymous said...

Good day very cool blog.


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