Baby sign language is helping
parents understand 'baby talk'
By Angel Larsen
May 3, 2006 | Ever tried calming a crying child to
only worsen his or her shrieking? Ever sat wondering
what thoughts wondered through that toddler's head?
Well, those mysteries are unraveling for some parents.
Using baby sign language, parents are able to communicate
with their children before they speak. The language
once used to communicate within the deaf community is
now benefitting hearing parents and their children.
Bert and Lisa Larsen began teaching ther now 3-year-old
son, Skylar, when he was about 7 months old. At first
they would sign to him and he would only mimic them.
Then at about 10 months he started signing what he wanted
"It was great that he could ask for things he couldn't
say," Bert said.
The Larsens taught Skylar American Sign Language (ASL)
without a baby sign language organization or classes.
Bert has nine years experience while Lisa has 10.
"We figured we both have enough experience with ASL
and deaf culture," Lisa said. "We are trusting our instincts
on this one."
Lisa also said that they did not want Skylar learning
different signs than ASL. They want him to be able to
use his sing language when he is older and have people
in the deaf community understand him.
To teach Skylar they picked a simple sign like "mom"
and would constantly repeat the sign until he could
repeat it. Then they would start teaching him a new
sign like "milk" whie still using the old sign as well.
Other than repetition they only used "a book that
has pictures of little kids doing signs," Lisa said.
Skylar learned the simple signs, ones that do not
require a lot of finger movement, the fastest. Now he
knows over 30 signs as well as talking constantly.
While learning, Lisa said he would mix up signs like
"mom" and "dad." She said he still occasionally signs
"please" on his stomach instead of his chest but Lisa
said it is the idea that he is learning it and "you
have to choose your battles."
Now with their second son, Camden, being 8 months
old they are planning to start teaching him in about
two or three months.
"He needs better hand control," Lisa said.
"He just flaps too much," Bert said.
Although the Larsens only used a small sign language
book to teach Skylar, there are numerous tools available
to parents desiring to teach their children sign language.
Baby Signs, Sign2Me
, and Sign
Babies , just to name a few, offer assistance for
parents. These organizations offer classes with instructors
certified in baby sign language as well as multiple
products meant to help teach children sign language
Baby Signs offers a one time Parent workshop or a
six week Sign, Say and Play course. Classes and certified
instructors can be
located all over the United States and now internationally.
For example, Lourdes Sanchez lives in Sweden but still
uses sign language to communicate with her 3-year-old
son. She is also starting to teach her 6 month old as
"I am in the Baby Signs group because at the end it
doesn't matter from where your signs are from, the main
purpose is the same," Sanchez wrote in an e-mail. "Signing
has been wonderful for us. [My son] is very receptive
Although Sanchez uses Swedish sign language, she still
can communicate with her son.
But is baby sign langauge different than ASL. According
to Sign Babies creator, Nancy Cadjan's forum post she
said that "[b]aby signing introduces children to basic
"Parents continue to speak but add a few ASL signs
for the words babies need most," Cadjan said. "No attempt
is made to use ASL suntax or structure because the goal
is not to teach a new language."
Cadjan says "by using standardized ASL signs, children
have the opportunity to communicate with other babies
and children who have also learned the same ASL signs...
By using ASL signs, children gain added advantages like
the ability to communicate with more people and a start
to learning a beautiful language."
Cadjan also created Sign Babies ASL
Flashcards . The cards show ASL signs that help
children "learn to recognize common objects, actions,
and emotions," according to the web site.
Besides just helping introduce children to sign language,
benefits from teaching them sign language helps "reduce
tears, tantrums and frustration, allows babies to share
their worlds, increases respect for babies, strengthens
the parent-infant bond, boosts self-esteem and self-confidence,
makes learning to talk easier [for the child] and stimulates
intellectual development," according to the Baby Signs
Web site .
These findings were researched by Dr. Linda Acredolo
and Dr. Susan Goodwyn for over 20 years. Their research
and insight into baby sign langauge is available in
books : Baby Signs, Baby Minds, and Baby Hearts.
Each adds more depth for parents desiring to better
understand their child's development and with the help
of sign language.
Besides Acredolo and Goodwyn's book is Joseph Garcia's
SIGN with your BABY complete learning kit with
book, training video and a quick reference guide. This
kit can obtained through the Sign2Me company which is
focused on ""the development production, publication,
and distribution of print, video, and multimedia resources
to help establish two-way communication between hearing
parents and their hearing children through the use of
American Sign Language signs."
Along with Garcia's book, Sign2Me has a variety of
products from flashcards to reminder posters to
Also through Sign2Me can parents find Level I Certified
Presentors who over classes all over the country and
Canada. Presentors may have their own companies with
different names but they are all qualified through Sign2Me.
"American Sign Language is an incredible gift from
the Deaf community, which can be used by hearing individuals
to bless and enrich their lives in countless ways,"
according to Leslie Briggs's website,
Signing with Baby . Briggs has been a Level I Certified
Baby Sign Language Instructor since 2002. She teaches
workshops for parents as well as works with schools
and childcare programs desiring sign language instruction.
And a final tool available to parents are discussion
forums connected with either
Baby Signs ,
Sign2Me , or Sign Babies . Parents can discuss their successes and failures
with other parents experiencing the same things as them.