sign language to hearing babies has been a practice in Lincoln for
the past five years at Jefferson Street Christian Church. Tom and
Jan Ewald have been the leaders of an international parenting
course called "Growing Kids Godís Way," written by
Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. One of the five-week sessions, called
"Preparation for the Toddler Years," focuses on signing
[Maddy Ewald (age 1) signs "please" to
get a piece of candy from her uncle, Jason Haseley of Lincoln.]
an interview with Jan Ewald, co-teacher of "Preparation for
the Toddler Years," she said that they have had an excellent
response from families using sign language. "We usually
suggest you start babies around 9 months," she says.
"The first signal that a baby is ready to begin signing is
when he starts waving Ďbye-bye.í This is a sign that the child
is able to cognitively communicate and has a desire to
course offered by Jefferson Street Christian Church teaches and
recommends learning signs of courtesy. Jan Ewald states, "We
donít recommend teaching all different signs for all different
types of things. I personally donít see any point to that.
Signing is not a means of keeping them from talking. They are able
to communicate as they can, just without the whining."
Signing also enables parents to discipline in public from a
distance without creating a scene.
of the signs taught to the infants are "please,"
"thank you," "no," "more," "all
done" and "stop."
with your baby offers significant benefits to both babies and
of signing with your baby include teaching your baby self-control,
eliminating wrong communicative methods, reducing noise levels,
minimizing stress and frustration for both parent and child,
significantly reducing problems with biting, and teaching your
baby a second language.
between 8 and 12 months of age are cognitively able to
communicate, but are not yet verbally capable of doing so. In
order to prevent whining and to facilitate your childís verbal
skills, the best time to start communicating through sign language
is around 9 months of age.
research supportive of signing with babies began with Joseph
Garcia in 1987 as part of his masterís degree program at Alaska
State University. His objective was to determine the age at which
an infant can engage in expressive communication and to determine
what role signing could play in the process. With the help of 17
families in the study, he learned that babies who are exposed to
sign regularly and consistently at 6 to 7 months can begin
expressively communicating by the eighth or ninth month. After his
research was completed, Garciaís work focused on creating a
practical system in which parents could take advantage of this new
top of second column)
amount of published research showing the benefits of signing with hearing
children continues to grow. Dr. Kimberlee Whaley, at Ohio State University,
started a study on signing in 1999. After the study she noted, "It is so
much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month-olds who can sign they want
their bottle, rather than just cry and have us figure out what they want. This
is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize
have found that children who use baby signs learn to speak sooner and more
fluently, and may have higher IQ scores. Parents report that their signing
babies appear to be less prone to frustration, tantrums and other behavior
problems because they are able to convey their needs to their parents.
the International Conference on Infant Studies in England in July, research
showed that 7- and 8-year-old children who learned to sign as babies had IQ
scores that were on average 12 points higher than those of non-signing children.
Researchers have been pleasantly surprised by the high IQ scores by signing
children, but do not consider the higher scores to be the main reason for
parents to use baby signs. The best effect sign language has on the child is the
beneficial effect on the parent-child relationship.
interested in starting to sign with their baby should begin with one expression
at a time, taking the childís hand through the motions while saying the word.
Begin with "please," adding the name of the requested item to the end
ó for example, "Please, more cheese," "Please, more meat,"
or "Please, more drink."
Ewald (age 1) signs "please." Maddy is the daughter of Eric and
Heather Ewald of Lincoln and the granddaughter of Tom and Jan Ewald and Diana
Haseley and Mike O'Donoghue of Lincoln.]
you sense that your child understands but refuses to say it back, use natural
consequences to reinforce the correct response. If he desires more food, do not
give him any until he signs. If he desires to get down, keep him in his chair.
If you find yourself getting in a power struggle, isolate the child rather than
giving him the opportunity to challenge you directly.
amount of time it will take before the baby will sign depends on several
factors: how old the child is, how frequently the caregivers use the signs, and
how interested the child is in communicating. Some parents get results in a few
days, and others wait several weeks. Consistency using a few signs on a daily
basis is the key.
8-month-old baby should be ready to learn signs. Starting earlier will not hurt
the process but it may frustrate parents if the baby does not want to produce
any signs in the first few weeks. A baby needs to develop memory, dexterity and
cognition adequate for recognizing, retaining and producing signs.