Lindyhopper

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As the father of a six week old, I just came across advocates for teaching all infants simple signing starting at seven months of age.
Apparently, it was observed that the hearing children of deaf parents who learned ASL were able to communicate their needs by signing before most children could speak. Advocates now believe that signing facilates learning spoken language.
This is all very new to me. I've pasted some of the research below. Does anyone know anything about this?

-----
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley started a longitudinal study in November 1999 to research the use of ASL signs with preverbal babies in a preschool environment. After her pilot study conducted at Ohio State's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School, she noted "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month olds who can sign that they want their 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."

Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a professor of speech communication at Penn State University, has found that hearing students in pre-kindergarten classes who receive instruction in both English and ASL score significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than hearing students in classes with no sign instruction. Her studies demonstrate that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child's vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.
Daniels, M. (October, 1994). The effects of sign language on hearing children's language development. Communication Education, 43, 291-298.

Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208.

Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.

Other researchers have found evidence that sign language supports early literacy skills.
Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.

Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.

Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4'th Cardiff Wales)
 

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Lindyhopper said:
As the father of a six week old, I just came across advocates for teaching all infants simple signing starting at seven months of age.
Apparently, it was observed that the hearing children of deaf parents who learned ASL were able to communicate their needs by signing before most children could speak. Advocates now believe that signing facilates learning spoken language.
This is all very new to me. I've pasted some of the research below. Does anyone know anything about this?

-----
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley started a longitudinal study in November 1999 to research the use of ASL signs with preverbal babies in a preschool environment. After her pilot study conducted at Ohio State's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School, she noted "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month olds who can sign that they want their 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."

Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a professor of speech communication at Penn State University, has found that hearing students in pre-kindergarten classes who receive instruction in both English and ASL score significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than hearing students in classes with no sign instruction. Her studies demonstrate that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child's vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.
Daniels, M. (October, 1994). The effects of sign language on hearing children's language development. Communication Education, 43, 291-298.

Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208.

Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.

Other researchers have found evidence that sign language supports early literacy skills.
Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.

Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.

Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4'th Cardiff Wales)
Man... I barely had the time to potty train my 3 year old and can't imagine the work effort I'd have to put to teach an infant to do sign language.
 
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Lindyhopper

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Man... I barely had the time to potty train my 3 year old and can't imagine the work effort I'd have to put to teach an infant to do sign language.
It is sugested that only about 25 signs be taught. Also the idea is not to "teach" sign language but to sign as you go about daily life. i.e. Everytime you feed her make the sign for food.
 
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Lindyhopper said:
It is sugested that only about 25 signs be taught. Also the idea is not to "teach" sign language but to sign as you go about daily life. i.e. Everytime you feed her make the sign for food.
I don't have any studies to back up my opinion, but it seems my children learned to speak based on needing/wanting something. When they wanted juice, they learned to say the word "juice" so that I would understand their desire. Would sign language decrease a child's desire to learn spoken language since a sign would meet their needs?

I do know it worked great on my nephew's son, who has serious communication ******ation.
 

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Lindyhopper said:
As the father of a six week old, I just came across advocates for teaching all infants simple signing starting at seven months of age.
Apparently, it was observed that the hearing children of deaf parents who learned ASL were able to communicate their needs by signing before most children could speak. Advocates now believe that signing facilates learning spoken language.
This is all very new to me. I've pasted some of the research below. Does anyone know anything about this?

-----
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley started a longitudinal study in November 1999 to research the use of ASL signs with preverbal babies in a preschool environment. After her pilot study conducted at Ohio State's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School, she noted "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month olds who can sign that they want their 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."

Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a professor of speech communication at Penn State University, has found that hearing students in pre-kindergarten classes who receive instruction in both English and ASL score significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than hearing students in classes with no sign instruction. Her studies demonstrate that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child's vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.
Daniels, M. (October, 1994). The effects of sign language on hearing children's language development. Communication Education, 43, 291-298.

Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208.

Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.

Other researchers have found evidence that sign language supports early literacy skills.
Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.

Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.

Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4'th Cardiff Wales)

Come on. You can't be serious. I realize that we tend to be really "into" our first child but what, exactly, does your baby need to tell you that requires a vocabulary of 25 signs? Usually the source of crying is obvious, either diaper problem, hunger, thirst, or other physical discomfort all of which can be ruled in or out pretty quickly. And then sometime they are just bored. hand them a piece of paper and watch hours of fun.

Impressive-sounding research non-withstanding, this fad has come and gone along with "in utero" learning.

And the research is bogus. It's hard enough to get meaningful results for simple things clinical trials. Can you imagine the confounding factors for studies on the effect of teaching sign language to your baby on his future MCAT scores?
 
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Panda Bear said:
. . . does your baby need to tell you that requires a vocabulary of 25 signs? Usually the source of crying is obvious, . . .

. . . It's hard enough to get meaningful results for simple things clinical trials. Can you imagine the confounding factors for studies on the effect of teaching sign language to your baby on his future MCAT scores?
The idea is to introduce a few signs related to physical discomfort at 6-7 months. These are signs like "nurse", "food", & "more". As the child starts to crawl & explore additional signs are introduced in response to the child's curiousity.

Although there will be problems with confouders & lack of double blind studies, it seems like clever & honest researchers should be able to study child development.
i.e. Do signing infants cry more, less, or the same amount as similarly situated non-signing children? Do they begin speaking sooner or later then non-signing babies?
 

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My best friend taught her nephew sign language and how to speak by the age of one. I was amazed at his vocab by the age of 2. She is an early childhood development specialist working with children from 0-3. She uses sign language with many of her kids.

I don't have the time to read up on this article but I will later.
 

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Would sign language decrease a child's desire to learn spoken language since a sign would meet their needs?
This is an N=1 anecdote, so take it as you will... A friend of mine got into the "teach baby to sign" thing. Anyway, she says her son *was* reluctant to speak. I think she said that by age 3 or so, he still didn't speak very much but communicated well with signs so they didn't panic about whether he was "******ed." Judging from the times I've called her at home and heard him in the background, I can tell you that at 4+ he's actively exercising his lungs now. (He went to a foofy Montessori-type day care, so I guess they were prepared to indulge a 3 y.o. who could sign but didn't want to talk.)

BTW the way she heard it was, babies can learn signs as soon as they can wave bye-bye (learn abstract/symbolic associations). This sounds like a better threshold to me than starting on the day they turn 7 months, but has the possible side effect of overachiever parents badgering their month-old children to parrot a bye-bye wave...
 

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This whole "baby sign language" phenomenon is a clever moneymaking venture that plays on the natural insecurity of a new parent who wonders if he/she is truly doing "everything possible" to raise the next great Einstein.

I only wish I'd have thought of it first.
 

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I've read that teaching babies to sign is a good way to alleviate frustration on the child's part in communicating what they want to their parents. One of the things about learning to talk is that human children understand many words before they learn how to say them, so teaching them to sign seems like a good way to get them a 'heads start' on learning to communicate. However, I'm not sure if the benefits are worth the effort. I mean, your kids may learn how to sign at a year old, but they'll most likely learn to talk in a few months thereafter.

This idea may be better applied to kids with developmental issues---perhaps signing could be used as an alternative to speaking.....
 
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Lindyhopper

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NonTradMed said:
I've read that teaching babies to sign is a good way to alleviate frustration on the child's part in communicating what they want to their parents. One of the things about learning to talk is that human children understand many words before they learn how to say them, so teaching them to sign seems like a good way to get them a 'heads start' on learning to communicate. However, I'm not sure if the benefits are worth the effort. I mean, your kids may learn how to sign at a year old, but they'll most likely learn to talk in a few months thereafter.

This idea may be better applied to kids with developmental issues---perhaps signing could be used as an alternative to speaking.....
My main interest & motivation is to help limit my baby's crying. My daughter is pretty even tempered. Still a baby's cry is naturally upsetting. I think it is also upsetting to the child. Crying is pretty much a child's only means of communicating. I'm hoping giving her a simple effective means of communicating before she can talk reduces her need to cry.

The impact on the development of spoken language is a related but different issue. If we do decide to sign, & it is effective for communicating simple physical needs, we may introduce some more words helping her communicate the world around her.

Kids really do seem to understand words, before they can speak them. I remember my sister being so excited when reporting that her 9 month old seemed to understand "NO".
 

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Lindyhopper said:
I remember my sister being so excited when reporting that her 9 month old seemed to understand "NO".
The awful part is when they learn to say "no." :laugh:
 

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My son was a pretty whiny baby. We started signing with him at about 10 months because we had heard about it helping reduce his frustration. Basically you pick 3-4 words that you say often during the day and make the sign whenever you say it. The baby will start picking it up after a few days to weeks. He caught on to light, milk, more, cheese, doggie, and daddy pretty quickly. So by 12 months he could effectively communicate whether he wanted food, drink, or entertainment. This did lead to less crying and fewer headaches.

He didn't start saying many words until about 16-18 months, so we were thankful his signing vocabulary was about 25 words. We actually stopped learning new signs at about 15 months to try to force him to talk, but it didn't seem to help any. I don't know if the signing was the cause of his speech delay, though I've heard probably 4-5 other parents with a similar anecdotes.

Since nobody else here seemed to have firsthand experience I thought I'd chime in.
 
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There's a good book out there called Baby Signs, by Linda Acrelodo (sp?). I'm not doing it much with my son (12 months), just the food, drink, more, and sleep signs which he picked up fairly quickly. It lessened the crying and frustration significantly. When you think about it, babies learn to wave bye-bye, to nod yes or shake their heads for no, or to clap their hands early on, before they can say the words. So it's not a new concept. It's only the organized teaching of it that's new (and the marketing that goes with it).

I was also worried that it would delay his speech but studies (according to the aforementioned book) show that kids who sign actually speak sooner and have a greater vocab compared to other kids the same age. I'm of the "let babies be babies" school, but the decreased frustration is what sold me.
 

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Pretty interesting websites out there too, such as http://signingbaby.com

If I can this is something I want to try only because I have seen how effective it really can be. I am a huge component of learning early. I also want to teach my children spanish in elementary school.

Some other links to the whole "speech debate" - this was pretty informative - here
as well as here
 

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Dealing with crying babies? Hehe... yes folks, it's called parenting.

Children develop based on environmental/social pushing placed upon them. When forced to use words, they will. Having them learn sign language decreases that impetus for them to use words vocally. So it's no wonder to me that the anectdotes above show children with some forms of speech delay when they learned to use sign language (rather than vocally using words) to address their needs and wants.

As for those studies above, I think they have a lot of short term outcomes. A few months of speaking early? Higher scores on the Peabody picture vocabulary test during Kindergarten? Honestly, we should be more focused on long term outcomes in regard to a child's development. Mind you, no long term studies exist, or will not exist for awhile. It may be interesting to find out though, but I'm rather skeptical.

It's so funny when I do developmental assessments on young toddlers and they are just a few weeks ahead than the norm on something like picking up a raisin with a fine pincer grasp. What's the reaction I get? "Does that mean he's gifted?" I laugh inside.

The only benefit I see to this is the decrease amount of crying. And frankly, that seems to be more of a parental convience rather than a real valid developmental breakthrough. Ignore the crying and the tantrums, and the child will try to make their needs known through other means, and maybe even learn to say a few words in the process.

Don't get me wrong, in certain developmental conditions such as mental ******ation and autism, signing may be the only way the child can communicate. And I am all for that. But for children with capable brains, senses of hearing, and vocal cords, they have the ability to to communicate orally. And we should push them to do so.

Nardo,
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I'm going to suggest that the reason yer' baby stops crying when you sign to him is more because you are spending time with him than because you are having a deep philosophical conversation about mammary glands.

So, in that signing tricks obsesseive parents into spending more time interacting with their children I'm all for it. On the other hand my children responded pretty well to duck noises and funny faces.

I love my kids but it is possible to be a little too "into" them.
 

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Panda Bear said:
I love my kids but it is possible to be a little too "into" them.
Ha, that's so true! I'm not pushing it, just a few signs if he picks them up, otherwise I don't insist. They're not "out there" signs either, but signs adults use (like waving bye bye or putting his thumb to his lips for drinks). I don't see how that can hurt him. Some parents are really into it though, taking classes and all. Like someone else said, if that makes them spend more one-on-one time with their kids, it can't be detrimental...

Just wanted to mention that, with us, it's not so much crying as it is frustration and banging stuff when he wants more food, more drink, more whatever. Usually related to food. Trying to stop the "table violence" degenerated into crying. No more of that! I don't think it's really a matter of paying more or less attention to him, because it always happened when I was already paying attention (like feeding him).

Also, the "Baby signs" book I mentioned earlier does mention long-term studies (10 or 15 years if I remember correctly) that proved *some* benefits, although I'm not sure about the validity or how significant those benefits were. It was probably a small sample size as well...
 

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Baby Einstein said:
Also, the "Baby signs" book I mentioned earlier does mention long-term studies (10 or 15 years if I remember correctly) that proved *some* benefits, although I'm not sure about the validity or how significant those benefits were. It was probably a small sample size as well...
I think much of research (at least recently in the past 10 years have concentrated on "gestures" which is now transformed into sign language popularity. There are quite a few articles on PubMed about this theory. Most of them state that the gestures will help with speech development not hinder. Not many long term studies (over 5-10 yrs) really have been published (at least on PubMed that I could find with a brief search) but does that really matter? I'm not looking to create a genius here, but something that has been proven as effective communication between parents and children, how can that be ignored? I'm not stating teach full ASL.

Also I found it interesting that babies that were taught gestures also babbled with their hands more than their vocal cords.
Baby hands that move to the rhythm of language: hearing babies acquiring sign languages babble silently on the hands.

* Petitto LA,
* Holowka S,
* Sergio LE,
* Levy B,
* Ostry DJ.

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and Department of Education, Raven House, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. [email protected]
Small list what I found:
1: Goodwyn SW, Acredolo LP.
Symbolic gesture versus word: is there a modality advantage for onset of symbol
use?
Child Dev. 1993 Jun;64(3):688-701.
PMID: 8339689 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

2: Namy LL, Waxman SR.
Words and gestures: infants' interpretations of different forms of symbolic
reference.
Child Dev. 1998 Apr;69(2):295-308.
PMID: 9586206 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

3: Goldin-Meadow S.
The development of gesture and speech as an integrated system.
New Dir Child Dev. 1998 Spring;(79):29-42.
PMID: 9507702 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

4: Iverson JM, Longobardi E, Caselli MC.
Relationship between gestures and words in children with Down's syndrome and
typically developing children in the early stages of communicative development.
Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2003 Apr-Jun;38(2):179-97.
PMID: 12745936 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

5: Nicoladis E, Mayberry RI, Genesee F.
Gesture and early bilingual development.
Dev Psychol. 1999 Mar;35(2):514-26.
PMID: 10082022 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

6: Ozcaliskan S, Goldin-Meadow S.
Do parents lead their children by the hand?
J Child Lang. 2005 Aug;32(3):481-505.
PMID: 16220632 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

7: O'Neill M, Bard KA, Linnell M, Fluck M.
Maternal gestures with 20-month-old infants in two contexts.
Dev Sci. 2005 Jul;8(4):352-9.
PMID: 15985069 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

8: Thompson LA, Massaro DW.
Children's integration of speech and pointing gestures in comprehension.
J Exp Child Psychol. 1994 Jun;57(3):327-54.
PMID: 8027704 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

9: Nittrouer S, Studdert-Kennedy M, Neely ST.
How children learn to organize their speech gestures: further evidence from
fricative-vowel syllables.
J Speech Hear Res. 1996 Apr;39(2):379-89.
PMID: 8729924 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

10: Caselli MC, Vicari S, Longobardi E, Lami L, Pizzoli C, Stella G.
Gestures and words in early development of children with Down syndrome.
J Speech Lang Hear Res. 1998 Oct;41(5):1125-35.
PMID: 9771634 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

11: Namy LL, Waxman SR.
Patterns of spontaneous production of novel words and gestures within an
experimental setting in children ages 1;6 and 2;2.
J Child Lang. 2002 Nov;29(4):911-21.
PMID: 12471979 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

12: Zoia S, Pelamatti G, Cuttini M, Casotto V, Scabar A.
Performance of gesture in children with and without DCD: effects of sensory
input modalities.
Dev Med Child Neurol. 2002 Oct;44(10):699-705.
PMID: 12418796 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

13: Schembri A, Jones C, Burnham D.
Comparing action gestures and classifier verbs of motion: evidence from
Australian Sign Language, Taiwan Sign Language, and nonsigners' gestures without
speech.
J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ. 2005 Summer;10(3):272-90. Epub 2005 Apr 27.
PMID: 15858072 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

14: Morford M, Goldin-Meadow S.
Comprehension and production of gesture in combination with speech in one-word
speakers.
J Child Lang. 1992 Oct;19(3):559-80.
PMID: 1429948 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

15: Bernardis P, Gentilucci M.
Speech and gesture share the same communication system.
Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(2):178-90. Epub 2005 Jul 7.
PMID: 16005477 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

16: McEachern D, Haynes WO.
Gesture-speech combinations as a transition to multiword utterances.
Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2004 Aug;13(3):227-35.
PMID: 15339232 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

17: Goldin-Meadow S, McNeill D, Singleton J.
Silence is liberating: removing the handcuffs on grammatical expression in the
manual modality.
Psychol Rev. 1996 Jan;103(1):34-55.
PMID: 8650298 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

18: Thompson LA, Massaro DW.
Evaluation and integration of speech and pointing gestures during referential
understanding.
J Exp Child Psychol. 1986 Aug;42(1):144-68.
PMID: 3772293 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

19: Iverson JM, Goldin-Meadow S.
Gesture paves the way for language development.
Psychol Sci. 2005 May;16(5):367-71.
PMID: 15869695 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

20: Acredolo L, Goodwyn S.
Symbolic gesturing in normal infants.
Child Dev. 1988 Apr;59(2):450-66.
PMID: 2452052 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
 

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We did signs with our daughter and it was very fun. She was able to communicate with them by 9 months and used them until about 15 months when her language really kicked in. We started with about 4-5 and then just added them. She seemed to like communicating with us. She learned: milk, done, tired, sleep, cheese, blanket, thank-you, please, bread, egg, hurt, change (for diaper change), rain (we live in Seattle), more, and several others. It doensn't seem to have had any impact on her verbal skills and it didn't cost a cent because we looked up the signs on the internet. I'd recommend it to everyone.

Ed
 
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As a new parent I'm naturally concerned that signing may reduce the need for and, therefore, delay spoken language. As I looked into this I've found a truly fascinating body of neurophysiological studies & evolutionary theory that connect anatomical control of communicative gestures and spoken speech.

A July 06 neurophysiological study demonstrate that Broca's area is activated by both communicative gestures & spoken words but not noncommunicative movements. Communicative gestures & spoken speech are one integrated system.
The neurophysio studies author's relate this to the evolution of language. In monkeys Broca's area is part of bilateral system that controls communicative gestures. The evolution of speech began as a successful amplication of these communicative gestures.

The neuro physio studies, the evolutionary theories, & the child development data indicating that signing children speak sooner convincingly dovetail. Signing children appear to speak sooner because the neural pathways of Broca's area that control gestures & speech are more developed.

----
J Cogn Neurosci. 2006 Jul;18(7):1059-74. Books, LinkOut
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of Broca's area affects verbal responses to gesture observation.
• Gentilucci M,
• Bernardis P,
• Crisi G,
• Dalla Volta R.
Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Universita di Parma, Italy. [email protected]
The aim of the present study was to determine whether Broca's area is involved in translating some aspects of arm gesture representations into mouth articulation gestures. In Experiment 1, we applied low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over Broca's area and over the symmetrical loci of the right hemisphere of participants responding verbally to communicative spoken words, to gestures, or to the simultaneous presentation of the two signals. We performed also sham stimulation over the left stimulation loci. In Experiment 2, we performed the same stimulations as in Experiment 1 to participants responding with words congruent and incongruent with gestures. After sham stimulation voicing parameters were enhanced when responding to communicative spoken words or to gestures as compared to a control condition of word reading. This effect increased when participants responded to the simultaneous presentation of both communicative signals. In contrast, voicing was interfered when the verbal responses were incongruent with gestures. The left stimulation neither induced enhancement on voicing parameters of words congruent with gestures nor interference on words incongruent with gestures. We interpreted the enhancement of the verbal response to gesturing in terms of intention to interact directly. Consequently, we proposed that Broca's area is involved in the process of translating into speech aspects concerning the social intention coded by the gesture. Moreover, we discussed the results in terms of evolution to support the theory [Corballis, M. C. (2002). From hand to mouth: The origins of language. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press] proposing spoken language as evolved from an ancient communication system using arm gestures

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006 Apr 16; [Epub ahead of print] Books, LinkOut
From manual gesture to speech: A gradual transition.
• Gentilucci M,
• Corballis MC.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Parma I-43100, Italy.
There are a number of reasons to suppose that language evolved from manual gestures. We review evidence that the transition from primarily manual to primarily vocal language was a gradual process, and is best understood if it is supposed that speech itself a gestural system rather than an acoustic system, an idea captured by the motor theory of speech perception and articulatory phonology. Studies of primate premotor cortex, and, in particular, of the so-called "mirror system" suggest a double hand/mouth command system that may have evolved initially in the context of ingestion, and later formed a platform for combined manual and vocal communication. In humans, speech is typically accompanied by manual gesture, speech production itself is influenced by executing or observing hand movements, and manual actions also play an important role in the development of speech, from the babbling stage onwards. The final stage at which speech became relatively autonomous may have occurred late in hominid evolution, perhaps with a mutation of the FOXP2 gene around 100,000 years ago.


Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(2):178-90. Epub 2005 Jul 7. Books, LinkOut
Speech and gesture share the same communication system.
• Bernardis P,
• Gentilucci M.
Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Universita di Parma, via Volturno 39, 43100 Parma, Italy.
Humans speak and produce symbolic gestures. Do these two forms of communication interact, and how? First, we tested whether the two communication signals influenced each other when emitted simultaneously. Participants either pronounced words, or executed symbolic gestures, or emitted the two communication signals simultaneously. Relative to the unimodal conditions, multimodal voice spectra were enhanced by gestures, whereas multimodal gesture parameters were reduced by words. In other words, gesture reinforced word, whereas word inhibited gesture. In contrast, aimless arm movements and pseudo-words had no comparable effects. Next, we tested whether observing word pronunciation during gesture execution affected verbal responses in the same way as emitting the two signals. Participants responded verbally to either spoken words, or to gestures, or to the simultaneous presentation of the two signals. We observed the same reinforcement in the voice spectra as during simultaneous emission. These results suggest that spoken word and symbolic gesture are coded as single signal by a unique communication system. This signal represents the intention to engage a closer interaction with a hypothetical interlocutor and it may have a meaning different from when word and gesture are encoded singly.
PMID: 16005477 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
 

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Lindyhopper said:
As a new parent I'm naturally concerned
Just FYI, it isn't "natural" to be concerned that signing may delay your kids speech development.

(I mean that as a joke, and as a compliment. Too many parents let the TV raise the kid.)

Lindyhopper said:
that signing may reduce the need for and, therefore, delay spoken language.
Chill bro/sis. Signing (or not signing) won't get your kid into Harvard. Probably won't keep them out either. Good luck and congrats on parenthood.
 
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My child psychology professor was telling us about this baby-signing movement. According to him, babies who learned to sign did not start speaking later than non-signing babies. And because they were used to communicating and differentiating between problems (diaper, hungry, tired, etc), their vocabulary was slightly larger, but probably not enough to be statistically significant. By the time the two cohorts entered school, differences were minimal to nonexistant. I don't have the notebook here, so I can't reference the studies he cited, but they seemed legit.
 
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I haven't made a life's study of child development, but as far as I can tell ALL of the evidence from varying prospectives indicates that signing is a good idea.
There seems to be four different strands of evidence.
1. The neurophysio studies indicating that Broca's area controls both communicative gestures & speech, but not noncommunicative movements.
2. The current theory of the evolution of spoken language as an amplification of gestures.
3. The data that signing children speak sooner.
4. The data such as the U of Chicago study below indicating that one word speech plus gestures are a stepping stone to speaking in sentences. Their conclusion, "Gesture thus continues to be at the cutting edge of early language development, providing stepping-stones to increasingly complex linguistic constructions"

I admit I'm not an expert, just a scientificly literate parent who has read some of the current research. If anyone knows of other evidence I'd be glad to consider it.
It seems to me that the "common sense" argument that giving the infant an alternative way to communicate will delay speech probably does not take into account the organization of the brain's Broca nor the evolution of the spoken word.



Cognition. 2005 Jul;96(3):B101-13. Epub 2005 Mar 23. Books, LinkOut
Gesture is at the cutting edge of early language development.Ozcaliskan S, Goldin-Meadow S.
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, 5848 S. University Avenue, Green 317, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. [email protected]

Children who produce one word at a time often use gesture to supplement their speech, turning a single word into an utterance that conveys a sentence-like meaning ('eat'+point at cookie). Interestingly, the age at which children first produce supplementary gesture-speech combinations of this sort reliably predicts the age at which they first produce two-word utterances. Gesture thus serves as a signal that a child will soon be ready to begin producing multi-word sentences. The question is what happens next. Gesture could continue to expand a child's communicative repertoire over development, combining with words to convey increasingly complex ideas. Alternatively, after serving as an opening wedge into language, gesture could cease its role as a forerunner of linguistic change. We addressed this question in a sample of 40 typically developing children, each observed at 14, 18, and 22 months. The number of supplementary gesture-speech combinations the children produced increased significantly from 14 to 22 months. More importantly, the types of supplementary combinations the children produced changed over time and presaged changes in their speech. Children produced three distinct constructions across the two modalities several months before these same constructions appeared entirely within speech. Gesture thus continues to be at the cutting edge of early language development, providing stepping-stones to increasingly complex linguistic constructions.

PMID: 15996556 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
 

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Lindyhopper said:
I haven't made a life's study of child development, but as far as I can tell ALL of the evidence from varying prospectives indicates that signing is a good idea.
There seems to be four different strands of evidence.
1. The neurophysio studies indicating that Broca's area controls both communicative gestures & speech, but not noncommunicative movements.
2. The current theory of the evolution of spoken language as an amplification of gestures.
3. The data that signing children speak sooner.
4. The data such as the U of Chicago study below indicating that one word speech plus gestures are a stepping stone to speaking in sentences. Their conclusion, "Gesture thus continues to be at the cutting edge of early language development, providing stepping-stones to increasingly complex linguistic constructions"

I admit I'm not an expert, just a scientificly literate parent who has read some of the current research. If anyone knows of other evidence I'd be glad to consider it.
It seems to me that the "common sense" argument that giving the infant an alternative way to communicate will delay speech probably does not take into account the organization of the brain's Broca nor the evolution of the spoken word.



Cognition. 2005 Jul;96(3):B101-13. Epub 2005 Mar 23. Books, LinkOut
Gesture is at the cutting edge of early language development.Ozcaliskan S, Goldin-Meadow S.
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, 5848 S. University Avenue, Green 317, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. [email protected]

Children who produce one word at a time often use gesture to supplement their speech, turning a single word into an utterance that conveys a sentence-like meaning ('eat'+point at cookie). Interestingly, the age at which children first produce supplementary gesture-speech combinations of this sort reliably predicts the age at which they first produce two-word utterances. Gesture thus serves as a signal that a child will soon be ready to begin producing multi-word sentences. The question is what happens next. Gesture could continue to expand a child's communicative repertoire over development, combining with words to convey increasingly complex ideas. Alternatively, after serving as an opening wedge into language, gesture could cease its role as a forerunner of linguistic change. We addressed this question in a sample of 40 typically developing children, each observed at 14, 18, and 22 months. The number of supplementary gesture-speech combinations the children produced increased significantly from 14 to 22 months. More importantly, the types of supplementary combinations the children produced changed over time and presaged changes in their speech. Children produced three distinct constructions across the two modalities several months before these same constructions appeared entirely within speech. Gesture thus continues to be at the cutting edge of early language development, providing stepping-stones to increasingly complex linguistic constructions.

PMID: 15996556 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
I can honestly say I wish more and more parents were like yourself, Lindy.... dedicated to nurturing your child in a way which may yield the most benefit.

Granted, a lot of the articles you cited show that there is indeed no detriment to those children who have normal hearing, and have used gestures/sign language in infancy/toddler stages of life. So that "common sense" response was premature and without evidence.

BUT

The articles you cited showed no long term benefits from teaching sign language to children who have normal hearing. By the time they reach school age, do things seem to just about even out? As a Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician, that is what's important to me. Speaking a few months earlier or developing Broca's area a few months earlier may do some good in the short term, but really, has there been any real study showing academic performance or cognitive functioning at a later age when children/teens who have had sign language teaching over those who have not?

It's hard as a DB pediatrician, parents want to try new fangled things and will present to me studies as TRUTH. But when looking into those studies we see very short term benefits. If I were to espouse short term interventions on children without any clear long term benefits to my parents, well.. that would simply be a disservice to them. Is there a good study showing academic performance in elementary or high school? I tried doing a pub med search myself and really couldn't find one.

My take on this.... it should be studied more. And it may take awhile before any real long term studies show a true benefit to this. But for now, I'm going to be an advocate for nurturing and spending more time with your developing child, stimulating him/her in any way possible. If teaching them sign language is a good way to bond with your child, all the power to you. But it's going to take more than a few short term studies before I start telling every parent that comes into my clinic/office, "You should start teaching them sign language." BOND with your children.... and it could be as simple as making funny faces and noises, as what Panda Bear said... or you can make it more intense by teaching sign language. Any of which, I'm all for. But I am not yet at the stage to recommend singing to all hearing children... there is simply not enough long term evidence out there to lend any new breakthroughs in the field of DB Peds.

Good luck as a parent and I think your children will do fine.

Regards,
Nardo
DB Peds fellow
 

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I haven't read the articles. But I do sign with my 15 mo daughter. Just like another poster said, you sign at the same time you speak. Limiting the words isn't hard- I only know a few, and I have to look up new ones to add them to my vocabulary. Forget the baby signs books, which often use non-ASL signs; there are much better resources on the web, like http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm .

We use sign because of the frustration factor. Our daughter has been signing "potty" since about 9 months, and "milk" (for nursing) shortly thereafter. To differentiate those 2 things, and now "food" and "water", is fantastic, imo. I don't have to guess at what she needs or wants, she just tells me. She also babbles incessantly, so I'm certainly not worried about any delays. She often says and signs things together, like "dog", "hi", and "book"; she enjoys both ways of communicating.

Sometimes my daughter is not as clear with words that have more syllables, so I don't understand them as well, which can be frustrating to both of us. I'll look up a sign if it's a word that has been causing us angst. This isn't evidence-based, but it seems to me that if we avoid frustration, we can by and large avoid tantrums. I say save those for disagreements (no, you can't play with the nail clippers) instead of the miscommunications. She will gain mastery of her vocal apparatus soon enough; it's just not about that.
 
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