A story on NPR this morning highlighted the trend in the US for more parents using sign language to communicate with their pre-verbal ones. Its a frustrating time for parents and children when the babies reach an age that they try to communicate needs and wants, but simply can't. Evidently, children learn more hand gestures and movements much earlier than how to make the mouth, tongue, vocal chords coordinate to make words.
I can see us approaching that stage with Peanut, too.
At Gymboree, where we go to play once a week, there are also baby sign classes that start as early as just a few months old! And, here in Coppell, the local Kindermusik also teaches a baby sign class.
Peanut & I went to a preview of the Korner Kottage Kindermusik class one day at the library. We went through a mini-lesson which included learning signs for 'the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.' Not very useful. However, useful were 'its time to clean-up' and 'jumping' and 'stop'. Ideas like 'please' and 'thank you' seemed a bit too abstract for me when we still haven't mastered 'milk' or 'sleep'. The instructor made several claims about the benefits of baby sign that I also found difficult to believe:
- raise child's IQ !! (how on earth would you know?!)
- learn words faster - a signing baby has vocab of 20 or more signs at 12 mos
Alex is one of 140 sign language babies followed by researchers for the past 16 years as part of a long-term study on the effects of signing with babies.
These days, Alex is an A student who is outgoing and involved in athletics. Acredolo says children like Alex, who've learned sign language at an early age, seem to be high achievers.
Acredolo says when these children had their IQs tested at 8 years old, they scored an average of 12 points higher than the control group. She says the same children also achieved higher-than-average scores on their SATs.
Though we haven't followed 'real' baby signs, we do have a few of our own around the house with Peanut. One of the most effective ones has been rubbing her palms together at the table to let us know when she is done eating. We also have signs for brushing teeth ( imitation of tooth brush on teeth) and water (action like bringing cup to mouth).