Helpful Hints for Using Sign Language with Your Child
- Be Consistent – this is probably the most important thing to remember. Consistency – from the very beginning of your signing experience with your child – will be the most helpful to you both and essential for your success. Use the same sign and she will be able to sign it back to you sooner. Don’t kill yourself trying to learn an entire signed language in a week, however – concentrate on a few to a handful of signs and build from there.
- Be Happy – Frowning and bored voices will not make a child eager to sign.
- Be Open to Interpretation – Children will not always make a sign correctly the first time they sign it, just like they won’t speak a word correctly the first time they speak it. Keep signing the word the correct way and your child will soon grow more precise as he matures and his fine motor skills improve.
- Be Open to Suggestion – Sometimes a child will create a sign for herself. Feel free to continue using it, and applaud her creativity. You can also easily adapt a made-up sign to a more formal sign (such as ASL) just as you would encourage her with proper speech. Acknowledge your child when she uses her invented sign and model back with the ASL version. She will soon “correct” herself.
- Be Full of Praise – Act excited when the child uses a sign correctly, and let your child know how wonderful you think he is.
- Be Expressive – Use your face and body in addition to your hands. You should also always say the word as you sign it. Alter the tone of your voice depending on the context. Make it sound fun and interesting.
- Be Varied – Not as in the sign of course, but as in the places you sign. Don’t just sign at home, for example, or when company’s around, or when you’re not in the public eye. Signing with your child works best when it’s worked into your life as a natural means of communication instead of something you only do part of the time or only in certain places.
- Be Patient – Children can take weeks or even months before they make their first sign. And sometimes even when they’ve done a sign correctly for days and even months, they may stop using it. Keep on doing what you are doing and eventually they will get back on track.
- Be Prepared and Amazed – Your child will open your eyes to his world and it’s a great place to be!!
Advantages of signing with your child:
Infants taught sign language:
- Can communicate wants and needs to their caregivers at an early age
- Will have an earlier understanding of the English language
- May learn to speak earlier
- Could have an above-average ability later in life to learn a new language
- May possibly have a higher IQ
Parents who sign with their children may experience:
- Lower frustration levels (for parent and child) because the child can communicate with you
- Deeper bonding with their child because they have greater insight into their baby’s mind
- A higher level of trust from their child because he/she knows that you understand them
- Satisfaction. What a great feeling it is to know that you can effectively communicate with your pre-verbal infant!