Common questions about signing with Baby
Q: How early can I start to sign with my child?
A: It's never too early or too late to begin signing with your baby. If you're the parent of a newborn, start with one or two signs (such as "EAT" or "MILK") and remember that consistency and repetition are key. The more a baby is exposed to your signs, the faster they will make the connection! Do keep in mind, though, that babies will not reciprocate (sign back to you) until 8-14 months, though they may begin to approximate signs earlier.
Q: Is it true that signing can reduce frustration, tantrums and biting?
Absolutely. Babies who cannot use words to convey their thoughts, needs and emotions will resort to outbursts, and sometimes agressive behaviour, out of sheer frustration. Signing gives babies the tools to express themselves more effectively, thus circumventing the frustration that can lead to less-appropriate communication strategies.
Q: Will learning ASL delay my child's speech?
Although it is a common fear that "relying" on sign language will lessen the drive for babies to learn to speak, both experience and research have demonstrated the opposite. Babies who sign get a jump start on expressing their thoughts, and even once they do begin the chatter, they may continue to use sign to fill in gaps in their spoken lexicon.
Q: My baby is already learning two spoken languages at home. Won't adding a third language confuse him?
On the contrary, ASL can be very effective for bilingual babies as a "bridge" between two spoken languages. For example, the ASL sign for "mommy", "mere", "mama" is translated exactly the same way in each language. A great article on this topic can be found here.
Q: It seems very time-consuming.
Like anything rewarding, teaching baby ASL does require patience and committment. For many parents, though, reducing the frustration caused by misinterpreted wants or needs outweighs the extra effort it takes to get there. When they catch on and begin to communicate with you beyond grunts and cries, it will all be worthwhile.
Q. Can't I make up my own signs?
Some programs do advocate for making up signs that are unique to you and your family. I have chosen an ASL-based program for two reasons: Firstly, ASL is a widespread language that may be more readily-accessible to other babies who sign, as well as your child(ren)'s caregivers - and just imagine the complex task of writing down all of your family signs! Secondly, ASL is a beautiful language with a rich culture. Tapping into this gives your baby an appreciation for diversity and a step-up toward future bilingualism!
You can get answers to all of you questions by following us on Facebook and Twitter: