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According to studies, teaching your children Sign Language while they are still young presents several advantages. Just as learning English or any other language is important to your child’s growth, so too can Sign Language prove beneficial along the way.
This concept is not really new among parents, but encouraging kids to learn another language will always be a net positive. It will help them immensely as they grow older and start to discover more of their personality and talents. Kids learning a foreign language have been proven to be more emphatic, have better social and language skills, and can expand their world view at a much faster rate. Similarly, kids who can learn Sign Language can reap the same benefits as well, and can even develop their ability to communicate faster than other children.
American Sign Language (or ASL) is the most commonly taught sign language in the world. Babies can learn this as early as 3 months old, signifying its importance in early child development. Surprisingly, not all deaf or mute people are able to use sign language, while there are kids who grew up to sign even before they uttered their first word. From preparing for unforeseen circumstances, to building prospective career choices, teaching sign language to your babies or young kids can be a challenging but rewarding experience.
Starting Them Early
It is generally accepted that babies first learn to make signs with their hands before developing their ability to speak. Its as natural to them as learning how to talk. There is available research that points to this; however, some parents are hesitant to start them early for fear of delaying their speech. They will be happy to know though that through several controlled experiments, children who started learning to communicate through sign language learned language faster compared to the other groups. In fact, they learned to construct longer sentences faster and had a much bigger vocabulary.
Another key value in teaching kids sign language early is providing an alternative to using words. This does not only benefit the kids, but the parents’ well being as well. There have been examples of children throwing fewer tantrums and cases of less stress and frustration in the family. Its been shown that interactions between parents and their children were more close and that parents have an easier time communicating when their kids act up. Children who started with sign language also use it to control their own emotions and direct themselves towards more accepted behaviour. When your kids start conveying simple terms such as “more”, “help”, or “drink” through sign language, he would be less likely to shout, scream, or cry out to communicate what he wants.
Widen Their Horizons
In preschool, researchers have stated that children who studied ASL were more likely to do well in vocabulary tests compared to their peers who weren’t taught how to sign. This is because signs are visual representations of the actual words- a person would easily understand someone who is angry faster if its communicated visually. Kids, in turn, can even develop their own visual cues for certain objects or persons they would often see. They could imprint concepts faster and be able to understand the world around them through their own perspective.
If your child right now is learning to read and write letters, introducing ASL hand symbols could help hasten his learning. Most of the gestures used in ASL already represent the letters in the alphabet. This means that you can give them a mental boost by allowing them to visualise the letters in their head through signs before they start writing. And because they could learn both systems at the same time, they could eventually learn to read, write, and comprehend much harder words.
Beauty in Silence
There is no guarantee that all young kids could be expressive at such a young age; their vocal comprehension skills are still catching up. Remember how some kids can throw tantrums or fight other kids if their needs are not met? Giving them another form in sign language allows them to pass on their thoughts and feelings better. Once your child has mastered a few signs and words, you can now start to incorporate emotions such as anger and happiness. Body language and expressions are usually the easiest way for babies and young children to communicate.
Being fluent in sign could also help your child get ahead in life. Many companies today consider sign language as a valuable asset, and it could prove useful in tense and critical situations. Imagine communicating with someone in a noisy, time pressured environment. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your kid was able to use sign language to get deals at work done?
One Sign at a Time
There are literally millions of people who have learned and practice sign language. ASL is just one of the most commonly used forms of sign- there are many versions that have been adapted from their native lands. So when your child becomes a world traveler or volunteer growing up, be confident knowing that he can thrive with his ability to speak sign language.
Similar to learning a new language, it will take years of learning and practice to become fluent in ASL or in any sign language. Your child could also benefit from having a practice partner who could speak with him on a daily basis. So if you do choose to push through with your child learning this wonderful language, remember to carry with you bags of patience and confidence.
Even if it takes a lot of hours every day to learn, know that you’re giving your child (and the world!) love and a great service by encouraging him to learn how to sign!