Pat Kuhl, Neuroscientist, stated that we used to think language began at the one year stage when kids started producing their first words and they started to understand words. Now what we’re learning is well before the stage at which babies understand or produce any words at all, their hearing systems are beginning to be sculpted by language input (Hochberg, May 1997)
Dr. Joseph Garcia, author of Sign with your Baby has discovered that babies as young as 6 months are able to produce basic signs such as ‘milk’ or ‘more’.
11-month-old signing baby To view this video go to: http://www.mysmarthands.com/Si te/Baby_Signing_Interview_with_ a_signing_baby_in_action.html
Why use ASL, why not make up your own signs? Eat
There was a recent study which found that six-month-old hearing infants exposed to ASL for the first time prefer it to pantomime lending new evidence that humans show a broad preference for languages over “non-languages”. (Schwarz, 2002)
When did the use of Sign Language with hearing children come about? A) 1852 B) 1952 C) 1982 D) 2002 Answer: 1852
Short term effects of using ASL with infants. Reduces frustration Promotes parent/child bonding Begins to develop confidence water
Long term effects of using ASL with infants Higher IQ’s when tested at ages 7 & 8 Increased spelling skills and reading comprehension Increased confidence Finished
Can teaching a baby Sign Language delay speech? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!
Dr. Marilyn Daniels designed a study with 16 hearing children who knew ASL; all but one of the children had deaf parents. She found they scored 17% higher on the tests she administered than hearing children who didn’t know ASL. Subsequent research studies with larger groups have found the same results. (Daniels, 2001)
Why would this be? One reason may be that sign language increases overall brain activity, stimulating the formation of more synapses, or connections, among brain cells. Studies with PET scans have shown that children’s brains process signing both as a language, in the left side of the brain, and as image and movement, in the right side of the brain. This give the child two places to recall language.
They are also being exposed to three different inputs: visual, observing the gesture; audible, hearing the word spoken along with the sign; and physical, feeling the sign used. And, as a growing body of research on early brain development shows, the more stimulation a child is exposed to at an early age, the more intelligent he or she is likely to be.
13-month-old signing baby. To view this video go to: http://www.mysmarthands.com/Si te/Information_piece_on_the_ben efits_of_using_sign_language_wi th_babies.html
Why would the use of ASL increase vocabulary and language development? One reason for higher IQ’s could be that signing babies communicate about complex things earlier, helping them build the circuitry of their brains. A child who signs can elicit more communication and responses from adults and older children around him; providing him with a language-rich learning environment that allows him to develop a large vocabulary.
Research has demonstrated repeatedly that children retain what they learn through fun, playful activities that encourage the use of multiple intelligences: 1. Physical learning (movement) 2. Visual learning (seeing) 3. Verbal learning (speaking or listening) 4. Musical learning (music or rhymes) 5. Mathematical learning (reasoning) 6. Interpersonal learning (with other people) 7. Intrapersonal learning (individual learning)
Laura Bush has stated that, “The years between diapers and the first backpacks will determine whether a child will succeed in school and make it to college.” Hillary Rodham Clinton asked physicians to suggest parents read to their young children, and she called for greater investment in children aged zero to three.
Penelope Leach states that “The more language they (children) have, the faster thinking will progress. But the more thinking they are doing, the more language they will use. So language and thought even language and intelligence, are intimately entangled.” Milk
Research shows when signing is added to the preschool curriculum, children not only find signing fun but also show a significant improvement in receptive English vocabulary and retain information for a longer period of time. Marilyn Daniels found that the significant vocabulary gains made in their pre-kindergarten years are sustained through their kindergarten year and remain with them. There is no memory decay over time. (Daniels 40-49)
2-year-old signing toddler. To view this video go to: http://www.mysmarthands.com/Si te/Can_signing_delay_speech__ NO%21__Hear_how_advanced_t his_2-year- old_signing_babys_language_skil ls_are%21.html
Confucius, over 2000 years ago said: If you tell me…I will forget; If you show me…I may remember; If you involve me…I will understand.
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, developer of American Sign Language, saw that hearing children’s language development increased from the use of sign. This led him to believe that “the more varied the form under which language is presented to the mind through various senses, the more perfect will be the knowledge of it acquired, and the more permanently will it be retained.”
During the early years of the educational process one of the most important skills, if not the most important skill, children are required to learn is reading. ASL has been shown to be beneficial in helping children in the first years of elementary school to learn and remember many of the skills necessary to become great readers.
Teague, Teague, and Wilson conducted a study with seven regular first grade students who were having difficulty learning to spell. At the time the students were selected, they spelled only 25% to 46% of their words correctly on spelling tests. When the students used both fingerspelling and sign language to learn their spelling words, their spelling test scores improved to a range of 56% to 90% words spelled correctly. The students’ retention of the spelling words at the end of the study ranged from 60%-90% words spelled correctly.
Jerry Johns, president-elect of the International Reading Association, says that use of ASL in classrooms has yet to catch on with mainstream educators. But, he adds it does utilize techniques that improve reading skills.
How to incorporate signing in library programs Books Songs Alphabet / Games
Books When reading and signing to a baby or toddler, the child will frequently be more involved with the activity. Most infants are visual learners and associate books as fun. When signing with him/her it becomes a game. An early introduction of sign language through books establishes the joy of reading in a child’s life.
Songs Children love putting actions to songs, why not use signs from a real language as opposed to made up movements. You can teach specific words and signs and then use them in a song; these can be based in themes.
Alphabet / Games Children have an easier time learning their alphabet when movement and muscle memory is involved in their learning. You can teach songs with letters in them and have the children sign the letters. eg. E-I-E-I-O You can play a game with them having one child fingerspell a simple word and then having the other children guess the word. This is a fun way to practice spelling skills. The letter: F
Hopefully, parents, daycare workers, librarians and teachers will soon realize the value of incorporating sign language into their daily lives!
Important websites: My Smart Hands, ‘educating young minds’ www.MySmartHands.com Mind Bites (videos on how to sign words and songs, go to the parenting & kids section) www.mindbites.com Babies and Sign Language www.babies-and-sign-language.com
Recommended Readings: Daniels, Marilyn, (2001) Dancing With Words, Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy, Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT. Garcia, Dr. Joseph (2005) Sign with your Baby, Northlight Communications, Inc. Seattle, WA
Resources Blackburn, D., Vonvillian, J., and Ashby, R. (January 1984). Manual Communication as an Alternative Mode of Language Instruction for Children with Severe Reading Disabilities. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools,15, 22- 31. Bonvillian, J., Cate, S., Weber, W., and Folven, R. (Fall 1988). Early Letter Recognition, Letter Naming and Reading Skills in a Signing and Speaking Child. Sign Language Studies, 271- 289. Carney, J., Cioffi, G., and Raymond, W. (Spring 1985). Using Sign Language For Teaching Sight Words. Teaching Exceptional Children. 214-217. Christensen, K. (1984) Reading Sign Language - Use of a Visual-Gestural Mode to Supplement Reading Acquisition. Claremont Reading Conference Yearbook. 228-231.
Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing Language: The Effect Over Time of Sign Language on Vocabulary Development in Early Childhood Education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208. Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183. Good. L.; Feekes, J.; Shawd, B. (1993/94). Let Your Fingers Do The Talking, Hands-on Language Learning Through Signing. Childhood Education, 81-83. Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press. Hochberg, Lee (1997). Child’s Play. www.pbs.org Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4'th Cardiff Wales). Schwarz, Joel (2002). Hearing infants show preference for sign language over pantomime. www.washington.edu Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.