The Efficacy of Baby Signing: An Answer to the Skeptics

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/2/2006 | Parenting

Time changes and so changes the peoples outlooks. The world has changed and so changed the methods of parenting. The previous generations parents would invariably rush to the pediatricians if their little ones developed a natural flare for using signs to express themselves. And these parents were often advised to discourage the child from continuing with sign language as that might deter the childs natural graduation to verbal expression.

But recent researches have proved this type of fear wrong and baseless.

Lets see what the proponents of baby sign language have to say against this skeptic brigade.

The major point they like to emphasize is that, even without any training, the children normally learn to pick up certain signs and sign them back as they want to make mention of that thing. It is rather natural that after a certain stage, the baby learns how to say bye-bye when his father is setting out for office or how to report it back to her mother when she finds an aero plane flying over the sky. 

So the advocates of baby signs trainings are of the opinion:

  • Baby signing is only a normal part of the babys developmental process
  • Signing Training only extends the babys signing vocabulary
  • It also helps her to yield greater control over her surroundings through effective communication.

The two pioneers in the field of baby signing research, J. Garcia   and the author duo Acredolo and Goodwyn, on the basis of the findings of their researches claim that children can learn signs before they can learn words. This leads to another claim that an early training in baby signs may make considerable and positive difference in their behavior as well as cognitive abilities.

Since motor functions develop more rapidly than that of vocal chord, the normal hearing babies can understand and express language long before they learn to speak.

There are parents who have reportedly benefited from teaching their babies the signing language. An early introduction to the signs not only leads to improved communication between the parents and the child, it also helps in the verbal language development. The method is also helpful in alleviating the frustration in the baby, which in most of the case the result of the babys inability to getting across its message to the other side of the table. According to the experts, even if you are able to teach your child some simple basic signs such as eat, sleep, more or milk, you will get to see a dramatic change in your childs behavior and cognitive development.

To put it in a nutshell, baby signing is nothing that has been engineered suddenly in the 21st century. It has been the part of a childs developmental process in every age. All the normal babies make certain gestures; the signing training only expands the range of gestures that the babies may use to express. Maybe your child has naturally learned to wave goodbye and point to the teddy bear when she feels like playing with it, but the signing training will additionally enable her to share her joys and sorrows with you. Sign language will help her communicate her excitement as she finds a balloon sailing in the sky or let you know her despair seeing the flowers dropping their petals.

However, the experts caution against focusing entirely on teaching baby sign and completely avoiding vocalizations. This exclusion may lead to a retarded development of spoken language. So parents should keep open the doors for all means of communication, and should not adhere to just one in the exclusion of another.