Guest blog written by Kyle Simpson
Have you ever felt frustrated by the fact that your child seems to be trying to communicate with you but you have no idea what it is they want? Chances are that they’re equally upset…you can tell because it usually leads to wailing. Many people have made the claim that babies can communicate prior to formulating words, through the pitch or duration of their cries or in the way they move their bodies. But until recently, nobody realized that you could teach them a better way to communicate before they ever say “mama”.
As early as six months of age, your child can begin learning American Sign Language (ASL) as a way to effectively communicate wants and needs. You can begin by teaching them simple signs like hungry (hand rests on throat, then slides down to stomach), thirsty (index finger points to chin, then slides down throat), diaper (put hands on hips, fold ring and pinky fingers closed, and spread and bring together index and middle finger and thumb several times), pacifier (make a closed fist with your index finger pointing out, then touch your thumbnail to your lips), and sleep (place open palm on face with fingers touching forehead, then draw fingers down to chin, simultaneously drawing them together to close the hand). Modified baby sign language may differ in some respects from ASL due to the fact that your little ones are still honing their motor skills (and certain movements or combinations may be too complex for their unwieldy digits). But babies will certainly be able to manipulate their hands before they learn to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, so sign language seems like a natural method of communication.
Although many parents look at this as a positive step towards understanding the needs of their child earlier than expected, some people have concerns. Many wonder if it actually works. While there will certainly be variations amongst children as to how quickly they adopt signs and their willingness to use them, most babies should be able to use sign language before they learn to speak verbally because of the way their minds and bodies develop. Another fear that most parents face is speech delay. If babies can simply use sign language to get what they want, will they even try to learn to talk? The truth is, unless your child has some sort of disorder that precludes them from learning to speak (in which case teaching them sign language may be necessary anyway), they will develop just like every other child, precisely when they are ready.
So if you’re tired of spending sleepless nights listening to your baby cry and wishing you could do something to calm them, consider sign language as a viable option. Many of the signs are easy to learn and teach and they can be modified for your child’s skill level (as long as you understand them, that’s all that matters). You may be surprised by many of the things they can learn to say (such as please, thank you, and I love you). They will quickly go from simple desires like eat to more complex requests like banana, and they can even express emotional states like happy or scared.
As your child gets older, use a child-safe web browser like Zoodles to play fun, educational games and videos that teach children how to sign while learning the letters of the alphabet, as well as the signs for numbers and colors. The thing about baby sign language is, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by implementing an additional means of communicating with your young child. And everyone will be happier when baby gets what s/he wants!
Kyle Simpson writes for Medical Coding Certification where you can find more information about a career and training in the medical field.