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Introducing Sign Language With Lionheart Children’s Academy

Communication is at the heart of your relationship with your child. It is also a major component of their cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development. When children are able to express their needs clearly, you can more productively fulfill your responsibilities as their caregiver. This back-and-forth also builds a parent-child bond full of trust and security. In the early days and months of your baby’s life, there is definitely a learning curve to this communication. Pre-verbal children and children with hearing loss could experience significant benefits from using sign language as an alternative to communicating with their caregivers. If you are interested in teaching your baby how to communicate with sign language, Lionheart Children’s Academy is here to help. We are happy to provide parents in Ohio with vital information and helpful tips in order to introduce sign language to their little ones. Continue reading to learn more, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like more information.

What is American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a highly visual language expressed by movements of the hands and face. It has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages with its own grammar, pronunciation rules, word order, and more. Many countries have their own dialects of sign language. There are even regional variations of pronunciation, slang, and signs used throughout the United States. ASL involves different shapes, positions, and movements of the hands. Gestures, including the following, can also drastically change the meaning of what you are trying to convey:

  • Tilting the head
  • Looking in different directions
  • Furrowing the brows
  • Changing the orientation of the body

What is Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language is used by millions of families around the world – families with both hearing and non-hearing children. Baby sign language is not a complete language; rather, it focuses on using a few keywords that your baby can memorize and utilize before they learn to speak. It focuses on basic emotions, objects, and needs that your baby experiences on a regular basis. This is a great way to communicate with your baby if they have been diagnosed with hearing loss early on. It is also a helpful option for pre-verbal infants to be able to express their needs to their caregivers.

Why Is Early Language Learning Important?

Early introduction and learning are very important with sign language and spoken language alike. Research suggests that the earlier a child is exposed to language, the better their cognitive and social skills will become. Communication truly does begin during the first few months of life, and early development of language skills can create a stronger bond between parent and child in the long run. No matter what the method of communication may be, it is vital to start as early as possible. Many researchers suggest that parents start teaching baby sign language between the ages of four to six months of age for optimal benefits and learning abilities.

Does Sign Language Delay Speech Development?

Both signed and spoken words engage the same areas of the brain, so teaching baby sign language does not delay speech development for hearing children. In fact, it may speed up speech development for pre-verbal babies and make their communication more effective in the long run. It reduces their frustration by allowing them to express their needs before they learn how to talk. The parent-child bond can be improved by letting the baby express thoughts such as “I’m hungry” or “I’m hurt” and receive the help that they need.

Long-Term Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Young Children

There is a wide range of possible long-term benefits that can be achieved by exposing babies to sign language early on in their lives. These include cognitive, emotional, and psychological benefits. Having the ability to sign can help children achieve the following:

  • Strengthens the bond between parent and child
  • Increases confidence and self-esteem
  • Improves attentiveness and memory retention
  • Reduces frustration related to an inability to communicate
  • Builds larger vocabulary and ability to form longer sentences
  • Improves spelling skills
  • Establishes reading skills earlier on
  • Opens communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing

How to Teach Sign Language to Young Children

The process of teaching your child to sign can be an enjoyable, exciting experience for both you and your child. If you are ready to begin teaching sign language to your baby, Lionheart Children’s Academy is here to help. We have several tips and tricks to assist you during the process of introducing signs for the first time. Consider utilizing the following strategies, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you would like more information:

  • Learn Proper Signs: It is important to take the time to learn signs on your own time before using them in front of your child. Decide whether you are going to pursue proper ASL or use less strict baby sign language. You should ensure that you are signing correctly, using dramatic facial expressions to enhance signs, and using large, intentional gestures.
  • Demonstrate Signs Early On: Children learn quickly and have the ability to communicate earlier than we may think. Babies can begin remembering signs as early as six months of age and often begin imitating gestures and signing words by the time they are eight months old. If you start demonstrating signs when your child is four months old, they could be signing complete sentences by 24 months.
  • Start Slowly: It is essential to take things slowly to help your baby during their language development. We recommend starting with just a few words associated with common objects and needs your baby is familiar with. This may include signs for basic words, including hungry, sleep, milk, play, bath, help, more, all done, yes, and When you notice that your infant is starting to mimic a few signs, continue to use the ones they recognize while adding in a few more at a time.
  • Use Eye Contact: Make sure you always have your child’s full attention while introducing a sign. If your infant is able to hold your gaze for a few seconds, you’ll know they are paying attention and absorbing information. Maintain eye contact and use dramatic facial expressions while you say the word you are signing.
  • Maintain Consistency: Children learn primarily through repetition, especially during the first few months of life. Consistency is an essential part of teaching sign language. You should repeat signs on a regular basis to help them understand the message you are trying to convey. Maintain consistency with the signs you use, how signs are used in relation to items, and how you use facial expressions and gestures.

Contact Us for More Tips on Teaching Sign Language

ASL is a beautiful, complex language, and we encourage all parents in Ohio to consider introducing it to their children. It can be an incredibly beneficial communication tool and can open up doors you may have never thought possible for your child. Any parent interested in teaching their child how to use baby sign language or ASL should contact us today. Our team of professionals would be happy to share their knowledge and additional tips for introducing sign language to your child.

Mom and baby doing sign language