Baby Talk with a Twist, Teaching Sign Language - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Baby Talk with a Twist, Teaching Sign Language

GEORGETOWN, Del.- Imagine knowing what your baby wants before he or she is able to speak, reducing frustration, encouraging thought and enhancing language development.  Parents and even some classrooms are teaching children sign language well before they can even talk.  

At Delaware Technical Community College's Child Development Center in Georgetown, 15-month-old Rex Wright and 11-month-old Hailee Phillips are just two of the students learning sign language. 

"It's really neat to see them make the connection, to begin to understand language. Because all that they know is screaming. They're frustration turns into screams.  So sign language is a way for them to communicate with us without the frustration and the screaming.  And it's really cool when it finally clicks with them in their head.  They understand that if they sign they are telling us what they want," said Sonya Yoder, a Classroom Leader in the Infant Room at Delaware Technical Community College's Child Development Center. 

Parents say learning sign language can help children learn to speak at an earlier age than an average baby. 

"We actually would get compliments from people about him being able to put together his sentences," said Kristen Mears, who taught her 8-month-old and 5-year-old sign language. 

She says sign language has made communication much easier at home. 

"I find myself talking and communicating more with her b/c I want to implement the signs.  So at meal time I'm not just preparing the food.  I'm walking over to her and sitting down. I'm talking to her asking her if she wants to eat, if she wants more, if she's all done. So I find myself talking through everything I'm doing," said Mears. 

Why does sign language work well with babies?  Shira Fogel, a Speech and Language Pathologist, says it exposes them to three modes of learning: visual, the see the sign being made; auditory, they hear the sign being made; and kinestheticic, they feel the sign being made. Fogel says research shows babies "hear" the spoken word and store it on the left side of the brain.  They "see" the sign and store it on the right side of their brain as an image, giving them two places to recall one word and building brain power. 

Mears says she has seen her child make the connection between using signs and getting what she wants. 

"We were at my parents house and my mom was just talking to her she was playing and stopped doing something. And my mom said.  "all done" and my daughter threw her hands up and started waving the all done sign.  And I was like it's all done.. Everybody She's doing it," said Mears. 

If you are interested in teaching your child sign language, classroom leaders at the Child Development Center say start with the basics.  They say signs are typically introduced when a child is between 6 and 8 months old, mostly at meal times. 

"We always verbalize when we sign.. Like this is more.  And just the repetition and you'd be surprised by how quickly they pick up on it," said Yoder.  

Frequently used signs are more, drink, please, thank you, all done and eat.  

Of course there are critics. some say teaching children sign language actually delays speech- because they are dependent upon the signs.  The parents and teachers we spoke with did not experience that problem. 

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