My research question was this: At what age is there enough cognitive development, memory and dexterity together—all three of those things simultaneously—to facilitate reciprocal communications? And I found that all three came together as early as between six to eight months."
Dr. Garcia then took that research and developed SIGN with your BABY, a program that walks parents through the steps of incorporating signs into day-to-day life.
Benefits of Baby Sign Language
Carrie Roeger, a work-at-home mom from Atlanta, embraced Dr. Garcia's program as a way to ease the stress of toddlerhood. Carrie began introducing signs when her daughter Samantha was just seven months old.
I read an article about teaching sign, and that it's particularly helpful through 'the terrible twos' in terms of reducing frustration. At that age, they know what they want to say, but their language skills aren't developed enough to be able to tell you. I saw it as a great opportunity to try to make life easier for her."
When Samantha's tired and wants to go to bed, she'll sign to me that she wants to take a bath, which is our daily routine for ending the day. She is expressing her need to go to sleep rather than becoming cranky and miserable. I've seen so many other kids who are exhausted, and they can't communicate, so they just fall apart."
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State's College of Human Ecology, has also studied the benefits of signing with hearing children. Her pilot study found that using American Sign Language signs in a preschool setting greatly reduced the frustration for preverbal children and their teachers. "It is much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month-olds who can sign that they want a bottle, rather than just cry and have us try to figure out what they want. This is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize them."
Gayle Millison, a Tampa attorney, wishes she knew about signing with Marina, now seven, and Harry, six, but admits she probably wouldn't have been able to work with it since having two babies two years apart, "was all I could do to hang on to the day." But with nineteen-month daughter Noa, Gayle was looking for a way to improve communication and signing appealed to her. She started integrating signs when Noa was five months old.
There were many times when Noa was nine or 10 months old and I was involved in adult conversation and I assumed I was talking above her head. Suddenly she'd sign a word back to me and I'd realize she was listening to everything I said. She wanted to involve herself. It reminds you how much they truly understand even though they are so little. She was so right there."
Clearly then, the ability to sign offers infants and toddlers not only the opportunity to identify an object by understanding shared meaning but also to relate a sign with an experience, a feeling, or a thought.