Monday, November 12, 2012

It’s Not Just for Babies Anymore

Although the federally-funded research Dr. Susan Goodwyn and I conducted was focused on documenting the benefits of signing with hearing infants and toddlers, it’s increasingly clear that signing also has benefits for older children. We hear this especially from teachers who have introduced signing into their preschool and early elementary school classrooms. Here are some of the benefits cited most frequently.

Gives language delayed kids a way to communicate. As Speech/Language Pathologists can attest, a significant proportion of children lag behind their peers in their ability to verbalize their thoughts. For these children, having signs available to communicate can help relieve tremendous amounts of frustration and anger.

Provides another modality to give instructions—esp. helpful in stressful situations. Even children who, under normal conditions, understand what is said to them, can become immune to verbal instructions when tension levels are high. It’s almost like their accelerated heart rates plug up their ears with competing sounds! In such situations, a highly visible sign made by the adult can work wonders by both grabbing their attention and reinforcing the verbal message (like “Stop!” “Wait!” “Gentle!” or “Sit Down!”).

Gives children an alternative physical action. Even preschoolers, when frustrated, often act out in anger—pushing or shoving their peers. Providing them with the physical action required to produce a sign (like “Stop!” or “No!”) helps release this tension while at the same time sending a clear message to the offending chum.

Allows teachers and children to communicate quietly & from a distance. Sometimes words are either not appropriate or not effective. A child who, during nap time, can signal “Potty” to the teacher, or the teacher who can signal “Sit down” or “Listen” to a restless child in a group, can get his/her message across quite easily.

Enables communication with and by special needs children. As more and more special needs children are being mainstreamed in classrooms and activities, how wonderful to have a way for the two groups of kids to be able to communicate!

Promotes appreciation of the Deaf Community. Learning simple signs is a great way to acquaint young children with the challenges faced by individuals who can’t hear as well as the richness of the wonderful solution they’ve devised to deal with that challenge—sign language..

Older kids think it’s fun! Kids of all ages are intrigued by sign language and love the idea of an alternative to words. Signs are like a “secret codes, something that kids have always found fascinating.

So, although we will continue to call our program “The BABY Signs® Program,” there’s no doubt that it’s not just for little ones anymore!

Visit for more information about Baby Signs® resources to help you and your baby enjoy all the benefits that signing can bring.

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
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