Babies are born with a strong desire to communicate with you. In the beginning, their means of communicating is limited to crying. Next, they try to mimic the sounds you make and begin to gesture. Babies love watching you gesture and love making gestures themselves. An example of this is clapping. Babies LOVE to clap. Why? Because their action of clapping receives a positive response from you (their parent). When your child begins to clap, you show excitement, mimic the clapping, and encourage your child to participate in the social interaction.
As many of us have experienced, it is clear that babies are able to gesture and perform hand movements (e.g., signs) before they are able to communicate through words*. Many of our babies clap before they say their first word, correct? WHY is this? Because the motor skills of the hands used to produce a sign tend to develop before the motor skills of the tongue and mouth used to produce words. This is why babies often sign before they speak.
”It has to do with how easily one can imitate and reproduce something with a great big fat hand as opposed to the mini, delicate hundreds of muscles that control the tongue,” Dr. Bates said in the interview. ”You can also see somebody using a hand, which you can’t do with a tongue.”
What does this mean? This means you have a means of communicating with your child, by using ASL signs, before your child has the ability to speak.
This leads to a host of other benefits which I will be discussing this week, I will discuss one benefit of signing each day.
*Gestures are a type of hand movement and so is producing signs, however gestures and ASL signs are not the same. Gestures are types of hand movements that everyone typically understands while ASL signs are part of a specific language and only those who have studied and learned the language will understand them.
- Berck, J. (2004, January 05). Before Baby Talk, Signs and Signals. Retrieved February 06, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/06/health/before-baby-talk-signs-and-signals.html?_r=2
- Berg, L. (2012). The baby signing bible: Baby sign language made easy. New York: Avery.