As a Speech-Language Pathologist working with toddlers who are having difficulty learning to talk, parents often ask me why I start by teaching their child to sign. Here are some of the reasons why sign language is beneficial for late talkers:
- I can‚Äôt make a child talk, but I can use physical support to teach them how to sign to communicate their wants and needs.
- Signing can help teach the cause-effect relationship of communication. They may start to think ‚Äúwhen I move my hands this way, mommy understands what I want.‚Äù This realization will facilitate to the desire to communicate more often and stimulate verbal language by reinforcing communication attempts.
- The ability to use signs reduces frustration. Signing gives the child a way to communicate before they are ready to use verbal language.
- The physical ability to sign can be less complicated than the coordination required in moving the small muscles of our mouth in order to form words.
- Signing uses multi-sensory cues which can support imitation. The word is spoken when the sign is presented, the sign is modeled visually to the child, and the sign is felt by the child when they are provided physical guidance to do the sign. This multi-sensory cueing also helps the child to process and store the event more easily than when language is only presented in spoken form.
- There is research to suggest that children who learn sign language before they start talking may demonstrate higher language and cognitive skills later on.
- Signing supports comprehension. You may notice how often you provide gestural cues to help your child follow directions (e.g., holding out your hand when you ask for an object). Using signs when you model words works in the same way to support your child in their understanding of new vocabulary.
- Signing works their fine motor skills too!
If you are concerned that your child is not talking yet, please contact our office to schedule a Speech-Language evaluation.