Thursday, January 6, 2011

Guest Post - Emily Patterson

Today I wanted to share a guest post by Emily Patterson with Primrose Schools.  She wrote a great article about teaching babies to sign, which I highly recommend!  Enjoy!

Learning To Sign Before They Can Walk

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. 

Signing Before They Can Speak

The best time to educate children in a variety of ways of communication and lagnage has been proven to be during the early ages of 2 to 5.  Not only does this include bilingual ability, but many young children have an aptitude for signing as well. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.

This is not as odd as you may think. 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. 

Research suggests that sign language may actually be 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 begin learning sign language during the early years actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. 
Having the ability to sign has also proven to help 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

Early childhood education in signing gives pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate and helps to strengthen the parent-child bond as well.  This is 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 network of Georgia child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child 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.


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