Updated September 13, 2015
Over the years, dozens of studies have shown the benefits of sign language for infants. Joseph Garcia was a pioneer in this field, and among his findings were that 6-month-olds who are exposed regularly to sign language can begin communicating expressively by the time they are 8 or 9 months old. Some research shows that at age 8, children who were exposed to early sign language have IQ scores 8–13 points higher than non-signers.
“Benefits of sign language in an infant’s development include providing a foundation on which to learn written English and build speech, reducing frustration and building self-esteem and confidence, opening up receptive and expressive interactive communication prior to speech development, and developing cognitive abilities earlier,” says Tami Hossler, MA Ed., editor of The Endeavor Magazine for the American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC).
One misconception about sign language with infants is that it delays speech development, but, according to Hossler, this notion has been disproved in studies. “There is no evidence that signing removes a child’s motivation to speak or interferes with learning to speak, and sign language learned after speech will not affect how often a child uses their voice,” she says.
This unfounded fear has been almost universally debunked in studies over the years. In fact, in one study published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology in 2009, the researchers found that not only did sign language not delay speech, but that children would gradually phase it out on their own, without prompting, as they reached 2 years of age.
How to use sign language at home
Expert tips for introducing sign language to your baby:
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