Baby Sign language can look much different than American sign language in the way that the signs are articulated. While some signs do remain the same, quite a few are modified to accommodate their developing cognitive and fine motor skills. The modifications serve as a platform for baby’s and toddlers to more easily and efficiently convey their message, while also still learning and ironing out other new skills that they are acquiring. Our babies, at Young Scholars Academy, are communicating with us daily through the help of our highly trained teachers and their abilities in ASL. The question is… are you listening to these messages? If not, you are probably like most parents that are completely in the dark on what their small children are saying to them. Just like cooing and crying, these small jerky and sometimes uncoordinated hand motions are a form of communication.
Here are some pointers on what to look for when looking for signs in your babies and toddlers.
- Repetitive motions- for the the most part, sign language is depicted by repeating a motion at least twice. Small children will typically repeat the motion that they witness using added emphasis. This is typically seen in the form of agressive repetition, meaning they might repeat the motion five or six times in a row to obtain your attention.
- Body language- what does your toddler’s body language suggest? This can play a major factor on how the sign looks and what it means. If they are frustrated the sign may be a little more hasty and to the point. Are they tired? The sign could look a little more drawn out, slow or even sloppy. Sign language illustrates a ton of nonverbal emotion in addition to the vocabulary they are portraying, therefore, it is extremely important to pay attention to these body language cues.
- Verbal communication- Toddlers will inevitably begin ununciating small words in addition to signs they have learned along the way. Most of the time, toddlers begin verbal communication by saying the word they are trying to articulate with the sign that the word is also associated with. Make sure you are paying close attention to signs that are present when a word is being used in conjunction. You may not always connect the two but understanding one or the other will help you understand what you didn’t pick up on.
Finally, sign language is a “complete natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken language,” therefore signs that your baby learns count as a portion of their early vocabulary. Additionally, studies have been conducted to compare babies who learned sign language over babies that only learned verbal communication to “show how babies and toddlers who know signs have improved cognitive and emotional development which also lead to increased rates of verbal development in toddlerhood.”
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Parent Connection Coordinator