Look Who's Talking in Sign Language
Jump-Start on Speech
Monica Beyer says sign language quieted the noise level in her
house. She began teaching her son, Corbin, to sign when he was 11 months old.
Soon, the movement of his hands replaced the screams he used to express his
wants. Now, at almost 2, Corbin knows about 60 signs, stringing two or three
together as though speaking in sentences.
"Just knowing that he can communicate what he wanted really
made our lives a lot happier," says Beyer, who now teaches signing to
parents in St. Joseph, Mo. "It is just amazing to see their little hands
going, and the delight you see on their faces when you understand what they are
Like Jordan, Beyer began teaching her son with the sign for
"milk" -- a squeeze of the hand as though you were milking a cow. They
both used American Sign Language gestures - a style recommended by Joseph
Garcia, a researcher and author of Sign With Your Baby. Garcia, who
began studying baby signs in 1987 as part of his master's program at Alaska
Pacific University, says he prefers using a standardized language to making up
signs in order to maintain consistency. Once baby signing becomes more
widespread, he envisions babies being able to communicate with a variety of
caregivers, from teachers to sitters.
"Uncle Bob can come from New Jersey and have the same
signs," says Garcia, who has developed a signing kit for parents to use
with their children.
However, Acredolo recommends making up signs so that parents
don't have to learn another language. It is easier to invent your own gestures
and sign what comes naturally, she says, than to run home to look up
"caterpillar" in a book after your child spots one on the playground.
Zero To Three, a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting the
healthy development of babies and toddlers, says no matter what
style parents adopt, they should continue to use their voices when they
"Many babies gesture before they talk. They point. They
reach. They do all kinds of things. This is just formalizing the system a
little more," says Victoria Youcha, EDD, a child development specialist with
the national organization. "I think it's fine, as long as it's enjoyable
for both parent and child."