Communication Basics: Sign Language

Good Morning,

Today’s blog continues my series of blogs centered on communication.  The last few blogs have shown how to hold better family meetings and how to use 1-way communication as an effective form of discipline.  Today, I would like to dive into sign language.  We will examine what it entails and why it is a popular teaching method for young children.

What is sign language?  Sign language employs forms or gestures made with the hands as well as other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body.  Sign language historically springs up in deaf communities.  This is another form of communication, and in many ways is analogous to the spoken word.

Popularity
For a several years, people have been signing with young children as an entre into education.  In the last 5 years, suggesting that parents sign with their children has become very popular with websites, books, and signing professionals.

Who teaches sign language?
Anyone who knows sign language can privately teach.  Many people saw the young child signing trend as a way to work from home by offering baby and toddler classes.  It is also common for music teachers to offer musical/signing classes or story time with signing.  Numerous studies link signing to higher academic achievement.  You can find a large number of studies online, and ASL websites feature the benefits of signing at a young age.

Questions/Concerns
It seems very likely that parents who show a greater interest in their child’s overall achievement will show a greater interest in classes such as sign language.  Many studies show that kids in a signing environment are talking, reading, and writing at younger ages and have higher academic scores, but I would point out that these children are part of the same group that show higher scores based on their family environment!  In order to create a truly apples-to-apples comparison, we need tight controls on the child populations involved in the studies.  I cannot say there are no studies that have done this (acknowledging that I have not done an exhaustive search), but I have not seen any so far.  If a study compared parents working with their children in similar ways, with certain child groups taught signing and others not, that would be a more meaningful comparison.

Personally, I have not seen the impact of signing in the classroom.  The children that learned to sign may show a higher level of achievement, but this group shows higher achievement regardless.  It seems obvious that families teaching sign language are altogether more involved.  This involvement leads to higher achieving kids.  They are involved in the same types of activities, such as advanced educational classes, sports, travel experiences, and other academic opportunities.

I have designed this post mainly to spur conversation in the community.  I would love to hear your feedback on signing to your child.

Good luck,

Katherine

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