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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Need "experienced" opinions on teaching babies to

I posted something about low-quality television for youngsters in the 'English Errors' thread and comments came up about teaching babies sign language. I wanted to find out a little more about it from those who can attest to it's function and I didn't want to continue to take the 'English Errors' thread off topic anymore than I possibly already had.

When my twins were 2 months old their pediatrician brought up the issue of teaching babies to sign at about 6 months of age. He spoke of its use as a means of communication for the baby who cannot yet vocalize what it wants and, thus, lessening the level of frustration for the child and the parent because it would be easier for the child to get his/her point across.

My children will have their 6-month well check next week and I know this subject is going to come up again. I honestly don't know what to do about it because I know of an instance where the baby learned to sign a few commands and when it was time to start to vocalize she really didn't want to and they had to work with her a lot to get her to use words to say what she wanted. This child isn't mentally disabled either. She's a perfectly healthy, active little girl who just didn't want to talk when the time came. She's almost a year-and-half now and does say a few words but it took a lot to get there after the signing.

Do any of you have situations you can relay to me on a child that you know, possibly your own, who did learn to sign? I've been tossing around the yeas and nays about this subject and still don't know what I want to do.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 01:30 AM
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OMG- my cousins have a baby who is 21 months old, and they did the whole sign language thing with him as a young baby...in my opinion, it is a DISASTER. His whole life, his parents have been focused only on getting him to learn signs, and not on language...and they gave got his grandparents and aunts and uncles thinking it is the greatest thing, so everyone he is around is always focused on getting him to sign. No matter what...like, if he is fussy because he wants more cookies, or something, they will be trying to get him to SIGN "cookie", or "more", instead of SAYING it. The result is that he doesn't talk, AT ALL, not even one word....and he is almost 2. He is not delayed, either....although he may be soon if they don't be careful! He *has* learned a *few* signs, for all their trouble....but he seems to be very frustrated. He is very cranky and whiny, and I am sure that part of it is because he has no communication skills

Bad idea, IMO.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 04:33 AM
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I agree with Ianthe.
I dont know about USA but here we have Makaton which is from baby to young children until they are old enough to learn adult sign language.
Altho I havent read up on this, I personally from working in childcare and doing childcare courses think it would be worse for the child in the long run.
As Ianthe said the child learns it doesnt have to speak/verbally communicate to get its needs across which is waaay more important than signing.
Also another personal view, we have gone thousands of years bringing up children like we do (okay we dont treat them as slaves anymore but I hope you get my drift) and its been fine. I wouldnt stress about it. It may look pretty cool now that the kids can do this, but I feel in the long run it can be damaging.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 06:50 AM
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Teach them to speak.........unless they are deaf and need to sign. I know kids that can do both and for attention or sheer lack of laziness, or whatever, they sign and it really gets frustrating for the parents. If they can HEAR they can SPEAK and the sooner they can speak the sooner you know what they want! Just my own opinion.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 06:54 AM
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I think, unfortunately, the emphasis is usually on teaching them too much sign language. The families I know who have taught their children signing only use it to ease communication in the pre-language years. They are taught the signs for "yes", "no", "please", "more", and "milk", and that's about it. No one, at least that I know, has ever attempted to actually get their child to communicate in sign language.

But it can be a lifesaver when it comes to basic words and ideas (like the ones above), because babies are ready to communicate long before they ever learn to speak, and there tends to be less frustration when they can tell you what it is they want
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 07:03 AM
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I know one child who started signing at a very young age, and she started speaking early. She, at age three, speaks more clearly than most children twice her age, and with beautiful enunciation. She also has good manners, which is a nice bonus, and begins each question with "May I".

I think it's a brilliant idea, and if I have my own children, I won't do it any other way. As part of my education, I've had to learn a great deal about the larynx and vocal pedagogy, including early development. I would rather give my child tools to communicate than leave them unable to express their needs, save for crying. I can't imagine the frustration those little ones must feel.

And I don't believe that it has to be any harder to transition from signing to speaking than it is to transition from crying to speaking. It takes a firm parent who has the ability to say no if the child refuses to sign. Not really that big a deal.

It's nothing but an asset.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 07:06 AM
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My niece is almost two. Her parents basically taught her one sign and I'm not even sure if it's an "official one" but anyway. Whenever she was breast/bottle feeding and later eating real food, they would shake their hands and say "All done" when everything was gone. Eventually she learned to do the little hand shakey thing when she was through eating to let them know she was done. I think that particular sign was useful for them but I don't know that they tried any others. At her age now, she is speaking pretty fluently and I don't think she uses the sign at all now.
One of my husband's cousins used signs a lot with her boys. The one I saw when he was 2 didn't seem to be speaking nearly as much as my niece is speaking at the same age.

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 07:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spacemonkey
I think, unfortunately, the emphasis is usually on teaching them too much sign language. The families I know who have taught their children signing only use it to ease communication in the pre-language years. They are taught the signs for "yes", "no", "please", "more", and "milk", and that's about it.
Right on. The child I know used the above, as well as "all done" and "up" (for when she wanted to be held). For a time, she signed at the same time she was speaking, but it was a pretty easy transition.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 07:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shlanon
The one I saw when he was 2 didn't seem to be speaking nearly as much as my niece is speaking at the same age.
That's not at all unusual, girls are usually more verbal than boys at that age.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-04-2005, 08:02 AM
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My dearest friend interprets ASL (American Sign Language). From the day her children were born, she signed to them as she spoke. By the time her daughter (Kristen) was 3-4 months old, she could sign "milk" to indicate she was hungry and learned more and more as time went on. Kristen was able to use ASL for many things to communicate before she could verbalize. Her brother was born 4 years later and had the same experience.

They are now 13 and 9 years old.

I think it is a wonderful idea and if I had known ASL, I would have used it with my children. Both of her kids are now fluent in English, ASL and also Thai. They lived in Thailand for 4 years shortly after their little boy was born.

If you have a way to do it...I say "GO FOR IT!"
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