Friday, September 17, 2010

Sign Language in Early Education

*I was contacted by the lovely Emily from Primrose Schools. She asked if I would look over this article and to decide on whether or not I thought my readers would benefit. I read it over, and I really loved what they had to say. I have always been interested in sign language, and the integration of sign language into early childhood education seems like an awesome opportunity in my eyes. Read on to learn more... 

Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language

One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language has led to more career opportunities – 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.

Signing Before They Can Speak

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. 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.

This is not as odd as you may think. As you know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including 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.

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 author also cites study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age 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 Best Time To Start

Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Zionsville child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of Indiana child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

*Disclosure statement: I, TPRM, have not been paid or compensated by the previous groups or individuals. I am posting this article freely because I believe my readers will benefit from this message and information. 


  1. I have been looking at this for the bebe actually. Fascinated with it, so DEFINITELY glad you posted this. Oh, and thanks for making me a fave pic :) I will get that up today when I get on the pooter. Thank you for your kind words, sweetie.

  2. You are welcome hun! Any time!
    Glad you like the article! I thought it was great! :)

  3. You have to visit Buckeroomama...a baby signs instructor! (and awesome blogger and photographer :D) Read what she says about her personal experiences of baby signs, if you're interested:

  4. I wish I had known this a couple of years earlier. We are a bilingual (french-english) household and even though in the long run it will be a great benefit for my daughter it's been a rocky road so far. As she turned 2 she was a very frustrated and difficult child, we had the hardest time communicating with her. 90% gibberish with a few intelligible words, and a lot of tantrums. She was so behind, we ended enrolling her in a special program for language development. She has caught up some and we are hopeful she will be up to par when comes time for her to go to kindergarten.She is still struggling with it right now but we got to a point where we can actually communicate. Sign language might have helped us quite a bit early on.

    Great post ... thanks!

  5. Funny I was just talking about this a few days ago with Michael because my daughter (6 months) has been moving her hands and fingers a lot more lately. I actually did a lot of reading on baby sign language when I was pregnant and downloaded several handbooks and charts but I was torn because, while research shows many positive aspects of baby sign language, research also shows that a baby who signs may put off learning to talk longer than a baby who never signed. They say, and it makes sense to me, if a baby can communicate and get what he wants through signing than why should he have to learn to talk...I'm riding a fence with this one. I know people who taught their children to sign...they always have positive feedback, but as with everything else in this world, there are also drawbacks.
    Great article. Thanks for sharing! I always enjoy reading methods to educate children.
    Happy Blogging!
    From Bali With Love,

  6. i taught/am teaching my kiddos sign language and love it!! loved seeing this cool article!!!

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog and inviting me to join the photo challenge.

  8. This is fantastic...I taught both my boys sign language as infants and it was the best thing I ever did......It was basics but it still helped until they started to talk.....Great Article!!

  9. I love sign language! We are doing it with Monkey Man. Not regularly though so he's not signing back, but he does get what we're saying. Like he gets happy when I do the sign for all done and for milk and juice. Its awesome to see. Just wished my brain would remember to do it constantly. :o)

  10. (Oh, Tezzie --thanks for the shout-out!)

    We've signed with both our kids and LOVED every second of it... the best thing we did with them!

    @Anna: 'research also shows that a baby who signs may put off learning to talk longer than a baby who never signed. They say, and it makes sense to me, if a baby can communicate and get what he wants through signing than why should he have to learn to talk...'

    On the contrary, a research funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that babies who sign actually learn to talk sooner (Acredolo & Goodwin). That is certainly true in our case... my son was putting together 2- to 3-word sentences at 14 months and was speaking in full sentences by 18 months. Do give it a go. Signing has no negative effect on development. :)

  11. I just wanted to apologize for being away for so long! Things have been rediculous here! Blog is looking great! I miss all of my photo challenges. :(


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