Mommy Monday Presents INFANT Sign Language?
I am sure everyone reading this post already knows what sign language is, but you may be asking what it has to do with infants?
I recently read an article about infant sign language and wanted to post a response on my blog. I do not have any special training with sign language. I am just posting about what I’ve researched and from my personal experience.
I am a huge advocate of infant sign language. When our daughter was a few months old, I checked out all the books and information I could find on the subject. I did not want her to be ‘behind’ her peers because she was premature. Almost everyone warned me she would be noticeably behind her peers for awhile, and I was determined to give her every opportunity to succeed.
I found the Signing Times DVDs at the library and taught myself several of the beginner signs and at about 6 months I started consistently signing with our daughter. I was lucky that my sister was watching her at the time and also very dedicated to making sure she succeed intellectually while I was at work. I had attended a seminar about infant sign language and everything I had heard was to start around 6 months and she would start signing back within a few months.
I’m not going to tell anyone that it wasn’t frustrating after awhile. Consistently signing and not seeing her sign back was very hard. But after about six weeks, she started signing back to us. We started with simple words like ‘more’, ‘milk’, and ‘food’. I did not try to teach her a whole language, however we did use standard sign language and tried not to adapt any of the words just for us. The point of sign language is like any other language- to be able to communicate. How are you supposed to communicate with a group of people if you are the only one who knows the sign?
I think sign language opened up the communication barrier between her and her caretakers. She was able to tell us her basic needs before she was able to actually verbalize them. Kids want to communicate before they are physically able to form the words. While she could babble and cry, sign language gave us the tool to understand her needs. I think this reduced a lot of her frustration with being unable to get what she wanted or needed.
I have heard some express the fear that teaching an infant sign language will hinder their actual speech. I found this to be the opposite. When she was able to verbalize what she wanted the signs helped reinforce what she was telling us and continued to supplement her language.
Now, I have a completely different story to tell as well. Remember our first child was a girl- so while she was developing she was an only child. Our daughter is about 19 months older than our son, and she was still using signs when he was born. Now, I wanted to teach him infant sign language to help him communicate with us as well. However, it did not go as well…. well it didn’t go at all.
At 6 months I started signing with him. I continued trying to sign with him for several months AND he never signed back. Every child is different, but this was a very frustrating obstacle I could not overcome. I admit things were completely different between our kids. Our daughter was able to experience life as an only child, our son has always had his sister. I started grad school two months after our son was born, while I worked full-time and traded daycare with an in-law on my days off for awhile I was able to focus a lot more energy on our daughter when she was a baby.
Our son did not have the early communication skills his sister had. While he was a good kid, I think he did have more frustrations with communicating with us. Also, he had a pretty significant language delay. He did not use spoken words much until we started speech therapy. I wonder if I had been more persistent with getting him to sign with me if he would have had a less frustrating time communicating- OR maybe language (of any kind) is just not important to him and I would have been more frustrated trying to teach him.
In my opinion, infant sign language is still an awesome developmental tool. Although every baby (and how we raise them) is different (as demonstrated by my 2 kids) I still think anyone with the ability to try to use infant sign language should. It gives little ones another outlet to communicate with adults before they are able to put the sounds together properly to form words.
The takeaway: I want to encourage anyone willing to try to teach their infant sign language to not to be discouraged or upset if your child doesn’t ‘get’ it- first it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for your child to sign back to you. Don’t get frustrated!! Some kids will never pick it up for whatever reason. Just remember when embarking on this journey, EVERY child is different and will pick up things at different times. They develop differently and sometimes we just have to accept this and move on.
If you are interested in this topic you can also check out the following blogs and websites!
Early Childhood Education- Acquiring Sign Langauge on Coping with Frugality
Teach your Baby Sign Language on Coping with Frugality