Many people have sent us questions regarding our products and teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to young children. Research and the experiences of countless parents and professionals validate the many benefits of using and learning American Sign Language (ASL).
- How early can I start to sign with my child?
- My child is already talking. Why should they learn ASL
- Will learning signs delay my child's speech?
- It seems really hard - I don't have time to learn a whole new language like ASL and teach it to my child.
- Do I have to become fluent in ASL?
- Why do you use ASL and not made up signs?
- My child does not do the signs correctly. Is that okay?
- How soon will my child start to sign?
- My child can hear. Why should they learn American Sign Language (ASL)?
- I have heard that signing can help with tantrums and "The Terrible Twos." How is that?
- Are my kids too old for Signing Time?
- What research exists about the benefits of using sign language with hearing children?
Start signing now! You can sign "milk" to your newborn when it's time to nurse or time for a bottle. Sign "sleep" at nap and bedtimes. Take your baby's hands and help them sign "more" in-between each spoonful. This will help integrate signs into your daily routine. Soon the repetition and reinforcement will occur naturally as your infant grows. Baby sign will also help your infant realize that crying is not the only way of communicating.
Learning a second language is fun and has many developmental benefits. ASL stimulates learning through different senses. Sign language is a blessing for children that are "visual", "spatial" or "tactile learners." Learning a second language raises your child's IQ. One in ten Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Knowing a few signs can give your child the confidence to engage and interact with a deaf child rather than both children feeling awkward and helpless.
Many parents fear that signing will delay or further delay speech. Our experience has been the opposite. If your goal is communication, then signing will meet that communication need much earlier than speech. Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time said, "When we found out Leah was deaf, many people warned us to be careful with signing. They said, 'If she gets too comfortable signing, she will never speak.' Their intentions were good, but they were absolutely wrong. Luckily, we first gave Leah a complete language in signs, only then was she able to take time to work on the skill of labeling those signs through her speech. English is a language. American Sign Language is a language. Spanish is a language. But speech, it is a skill...and Leah is a little chatterbox!"
Q. It seems really hard - I don't have time to learn a whole new language like ASL and teach it to my child.
Parenting can be very overwhelming because there never seems to be enough time. This is why we created Signing Time - it does the work for you and makes ASL easy and fun for all ages. You don't have to learn an entire language. Even learning two or three key vocabulary words like MORE or MILK will be beneficial!
No, you don't (unless you have a really good reason to!). Signing Time provides parenting tools for communication through the use of ASL. I think you will be surprised how useful it is to learn even a few signs.
If fluency is your goal, ASL, like any second language, takes time and practice. Surrounding yourself with others that are fluent will really boost your skills and your confidence.
If you are interested in learning more, check out your Community Education Programs and Community Center for the Deaf. Many Jr. High Schools, High Schools, Community Colleges and Universities now include ASL in their curriculum. There are sign language interpreting programs all across the country.
If you are going to make the effort to teach and reinforce signs for communication purposes, it makes sense to use signs that are part of a living language that have meaning to the hundreds of thousands of ASL users. Additionally, your child's caregivers (Doctors, preschools, daycare centers, and elementary schools) are far more likely to use ASL than to try and learn individual "made up" signs for each child for whom they care.
Hearing children that start out as "baby signers" can comfortably transition into communication with deaf children and adults, and take advantage of other ASL materials (videos, ASL playgroups, etc...). They have also laid a foundation for the study of ASL as a second language later in their academic careers. All of this is possible by simply using real ASL signs instead of made up or adapted signs.
And finally, many of our Deaf customers have pointed out that made up signs run the risk of actually "saying" something unintended in ASL, leading to potentially humorous if not embarrassing situations.
Most children adapt signs to whatever they are physically able to do. As their fine motor skills develop further, their signs will also develop. This is very similar to the pattern in speech development; "Da-da" suddenly becomes "Daddy" or "Dad."
There are a few factors to consider: how early you start, how frequently or consistently you use signs, as well as the child's ability or developmental stage. If you start baby sign language with your newborn, they may not reciprocate until 8-14 months old. If you start with your 2 year old, they may respond immediately, or it could take a couple of months. If your child has physical, mental or developmental delays, take that into consideration. Rachel Coleman's second daughter Lucy had no words and no signs and showed no interest in communication for her first two years. Her doctors did not expect that to change. Rachel and her husband didn't give up - they continued exposing her to sign and speech, and suddenly she had a language explosion in speech AND sign! (To read all about it, visit OUR STORY or RACHEL's BLOG)
Most children are not developmentally ready to speak until approximately 2 years of age. Babies are developmentally able to communicate with signs much earlier than that. Some studies indicate children as young as 5 to 6 months of age can communicate with limited signs. The inability to communicate can cause frustration and tantrums for both the parent and the child! Sign language is a wonderful tool that allows even very small children to express themselves. Most parents that sign with their babies talk about an unexplainable bond that is felt when their child communicates so early!
Obviously your child will be fine without learning ASL, but there are so many developmental and social benefits that they will have access to should you choose to do so. Most parents want to give their child every advantage in life possible, and signing is one way to do that.
Many tantrums and the "Terrible Twos" are directly linked to frustration about communication. There is less frustration when your child can augment their communication skills with signs that both of you can understand.
While our products were created for children ages 0-8, ALL ages love Signing Time. Why? It makes ASL so easy and fun. We have heard from customers of all ages who have found remarkable uses for our products, including stroke patients who have lost their speech, parents of children adopted from other countries who don't speak the same language, helping children with speech delays or no speech at all due to disabilities... the list goes on. Sign language is a valuable tool at any age. Older children will quickly learn all of the signs AND they will pick up the additional signs that we show in the songs. Many older children love the idea of sign language as their "secret language." It is a real language used by millions of Americans, including Leah, and the benefits of learning a second language are far-reaching.
Research has been conducted on this topic for decades and still continues. A simple web seach will produce many results. Download our summary of the major research efforts and findings here.