The benefits of using ASL with hearing children are by now well-documented. Just as with any second language, ASL (literally) expands the brain. Through ASL, babies who are still far from verbally competent, have an outlet for their cognitive abilities which develop much earlier. Frustration levels and tantrums lessen when baby is understood and their needs are more easily met. Parents can feel more connected to their little ones when they see more clearly into who they are.
Signing appeals to multiple learning styles – it is visual, mechanical, and kinesthetic. Children with developmental challenges may be able to speak through sign when other methods of communication are not possible for them.
Studies have even shown that children who learn sign language early on have larger vocabularies and higher IQ scores than other children.
The face-to-face communication that sign requires means there are more opportunities for quality time and genuine connection with your child.
Confidence-building takes place as our babes and toddlers, who know exactly what they want to day (we are the ones who have to “get it”), find that they are understood and that what they want to share and how they see the world is both clear to others and important. It’s a matter of validation.
Using key ASL signs, you can communicate with your child even in a loud environment or from across the room rather than shouting. It’s also a private way to ask delicate things to older children, such as whether they need to use the bathroom.
And, it’s fun!
Below is a series of essays that discuss just a few of the ways ASL can assist and augment development in young children in a variety of developmental stages: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months, 18-24 months, and 24-36 months, aka 2-3 years old.
I was motivated to write the essays because there is a need for public education in this area. I have been dismayed at the lack of understanding among parents as to why they might want to use sign with a very young baby or a child who is already talking. It seems common thought leans toward the idea of a kind of “magic window” of time within which signing can help with communicating basic needs – something like 11-18 months. Signing can be so much more.
While I do come from a second language acquisition background, much of what I am choosing to put forward here for others to consider is based on practical application and personal experience as a parent and teacher. Often when I find links to articles in popular media about babies and ASL, they lack the depth of information to really communicate a solid message, and the articles come and go via whim and trend. I will try to present some angles you may not have considered. Also, when I mention a specific sign within the essay, I have tried to include a link to that sign. I look forward to your comments about what I have to say.
Some of the benefits of using American Sign Language with hearing children:
American Sign Language is a whole and complex language, different from the hearing child’s native language and culture. Learning more than one language expands the brain’s capabilities, literally, on a physical level. Learning more than one language increases the number of amazing individuals you will be able to connect with, which I can only guess might just expand the brain even further. It’s a win-win all around.