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Baby Signs:

Baby Signing: How ASL Improves Language Development

by LaTasha Ortiz
12/12/06

American Sign Language may seem difficult to learn to some people who have never been exposed to the language. Although it may seem difficult, babies around the world are being exposed to the language. In fact, Dr. Daniels, a professor of speech communication and a researcher who is working in the field of babies and signing has found that teaching sign language to babies can help improve their vocabulary, language, and reading skills as they continue to mature (Snoddon, 2000). American Sign Language is accepted throughout the United States. It is so common that ASL has even become an acceptance as a foreign language requirement in some schools.
Understanding ASL is just like knowing another language. A child would be considered bilingual if he or she knew ASL, as well as English or any other language they make speak. The fact that ASL is considered like any other language is a benefit to babies as the language part of their brains develops. Dr. Daniels states that because ASL is such a common language, it is stored in a separate memory store in the baby’s brain and this occurs in the beginning stages of learning the language (Snoddon).
Baby’s brains that are exposed to a second language and learn it, such as ASL, develop further than baby’s brains that are not exposed to a second language (Snoddon). Teaching babies ASL can also help develop the eyes sooner in young children. This is because ASL is a very visual language and taking in information causes you to use the right side of your brain. While other languages that are not as visual as ASL causes you to use the left side of your brain. Babies who learn ASL are actually using both sides of the brain which causes building of synapses (Snoddon). Children who are taught sign language has demonstrated better spelling and larger vocabularies than children who did not learn sign language. They also have a tendency to show better speech and communication skills.
Anne Websdale, a spokesperson for the deaf and hard of hearing services, has suggested that not only does signing help with language development but it can also help improve parent baby bonding (Saccone, 2005). Children also find it fun to learn sign language because it uses movement and they may pay attention more. This causes the motor parts of the body to develop much sooner than the mouth. Sign language can also help improve IQ scores and advancement in scores on English parts of exams.
Learning how to sign is only an advantage for the child. It could not hurt their language development, it can only help. Not only can it help with language development but the child will also be bilingual at such a young age. Knowing ASL is also an advantage if the child were to come about a deaf child or adult. The child will be able to communicate with the child or adult and it can also be helpful in the child’s future as they continue to grow and choose a profession. The world is full of diverse individuals and knowing a second language can only benefit the child.



References:

Snoddon, Kristin (2000). Sign baby sign. Magazine of The World Federation of The Deaf. Volume 13, No. 1.

Saccone, Julie. (2005, February, 28). Babies learn sign language to communicate. The Starphoenix. Deaf Today. Retrieved 8, December, 2006:
http://www.deaftoday.com/v3/archives/2005/02/babies_learn_si.html

Berke, Jaime. (2004). Sign language-baby signing. About: Deafness. Retrieved 8, December, 2006:
http://deafness.about.com/cs/signfeats1/a/babysigning.htm
 


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