Why Teach Sign Language to Hearing Children?
Not long ago if you saw a mother and child using sign language at the Montshire Museum or at the Norwich Farmer’s Market the assumption would probably have been that one or the other of them was deaf. Not any more!! Parents with children of all ages and abilities are teaching their children American Sign Language using Signing Time brought to the Upper Valley by Upper Valley Super Signers.
My name is Margot Holmes and I am a Certified Master Signing Time Instructor. I have watched the miracle of Signing Time with my two children and seen firsthand the benefits to my daughters’ reading ability and my son’s speech development. New research supports the incredible benefits of signing with young pre-verbal children as well as with children who are already speaking.
Young children and babies are capable of signing months before they have the physical ability to speak. The speech muscles tend to develop later than the muscles in the hands and children are often able to sign as early as 6 months. You can start understanding what is on your child’s mind earlier than you ever thought possible. Signing can even stem the tide of the “terrible two’s.” Often young children throw a tantrum because they are not being understood; they think they are asking for a banana and you think they want an apple. But what if they walked right up to and signed “BANANA PLEASE!” Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not! Most people have seen pre-verbal children waving “bye-bye” before they can say it, or raising their arms in an attempt to get someone to lift them up. Teaching children American Sign Language signs is the next logical step. Parents of signing children enthusiastically state that their kids began talking early, grasped the concept of language very young, and have fewer temper tantrums because of their ability to communicate with their caregivers.
Older children who have already begun speaking also benefit from this miraculous second language. As described by Dr. Marilyn Daniels, Dr. Linda Acredelo, Dr. Susan Goodwin and others children who learn sign may have a higher I.Q. score, may have improved confidence and self esteem, have larger vocabularies and may even have improved reading and spelling ability! A recent study compared “groups of children who were exposed to sign for a single school year” with groups who were taught a similar curriculum without the use of sign language (Robertson, 2007). The researchers found that those children whose education had included manual communication developed better vocabulary skills during the year they were signing, and that they retained a larger vocabulary in the following year. At the end of the multiple-year study, the researchers found that “the more varied ways a child is exposed to language, the more retention and learning of that language will take place” (Robertson, 2007).
Speech and Language professionals have been using American Sign Language signs to help hearing children communicate with their parents for over 25 years. Sign is also embraced by many parents of children with speech and other developmental delays, as most Speech and Language Pathologists agree that sign facilitates the acquisition of verbal communication (Robertson, 2007). Simply put, it works.
So, it seems that signing with your child will help them do better in school, but did you know that it can also help them make the world a warmer and more inclusive place for others? Rachel Coleman, the creator of Signing Time! (and its Emmy-nominated star) has shared how her Deaf daughter, Leah, was ostracized on the playground and on her soccer team because the other children mistakenly believed she couldn't communicate with them. After a boy on Leah's soccer team refused to play with her, Rachel took a chance at the local school and volunteered to read and sign a story to the little boy's class. At the next practice, the boy “rushed up to Leah signing, 'FRIEND-PLAY-BALL!'” Rachel continues, “He wasn’t fluent in ASL. He hadn’t taken an ASL course. He only remembered three signs. Three signs changed their world!” (Examiner, 2010). Rachel's story illustrates how just a few signs mean that when a hearing child meets a Deaf child at school or encounters someone signing at their neighborhood park, there won’t be a language barrier to their friendship.
Signing Time and Baby Signing Time classes are now being offered throughout the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Classes are held at the CCBA in Lebanon, NH and the Upper Valley Events Center in Norwich, VT. Baby Signing Time Session 1, for children ages 0-3 with a parent/caregiver, runs October 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th from 10:30-11:30am at the CCBA. Another great option a lot of parents love is the “playgroup” option. Host a class in your home with all your friends and family and receive special host/hostess gifts and prizes while being in the comfort of your own home! Classes typically cost $60 for a 4 week session but keep your eyes peeled for 10% off coupons offered through area businesses.
Classes are fun and interactive. Engaging, age appropriate activities, songs, books, and rhymes all work together in a fun environment to help you and your child learn this exciting second language.
Please visit www.UpperValleySuperSigners.com or find me on Facebook for the schedule of classes and some other great information! Don’t see a class that works for you? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-299-9172 and we can discuss other options.
I also hold classes in area preschools and daycares as well as presenting at educator workshops. I offer professional development credits for early childhood educators and am happy to work with your program to find a class schedule that fits your needs.
Come discover why parents of hearing children insist on their children learning American Sign Language. The knowledge will be good for their minds, good for their grades, and good for their hearts.
Master Signing Time Instructor
International Associate Director – Atlantic Northeast Region
Exchange Magazine. (2010). “Bilingualism boosts children’s focus, lessens distraction: York U study.” Editorial. Retrieved from:
Robertson, Shari. (2007). “Using Sign to Facilitate Oral Language: Building a Case with Parents.” Speech Pathology.com. Retrieved from: http://www.speechpathology.com/Articles/article_detail.asp?article_id=315.