Teaching children simple signs, or “baby sign language”, can supplement their communication to benefit them in a variety of ways! Research has proven that when movement and signs are incorporated into communication, children are better able to remember what they have heard (Simpson & Lynch, 2007). This helps to increase their receptive (what a child can prove they understand) and expressive (what a child is communicating) language abilities especially if they are having difficulty with verbal output. Sign language provides opportunities for children to participate in conversations; this can improve self-concept as a communicator. The most reported reason for choosing to use sign is to improve the clarity of parent-child communication, thereby reducing the child’s possible frustration of not being able to share their thoughts, needs, or desires. (Ingersoll, Lewis, & Kroman, 2007).
Attached is a link to 20 commonly used early signs that can be taught and incorporated into your child’s daily speech and activities. Signs can be taught originally by first modeling the sign in front of your child with your own hands, and then hand over hand helping your child to physically do the sign themself. Each time once they are learning the sign, you can slowly start to help them less each time until they are independently producing the signs on their own.
Examples of opportunities to use sign language:
More: During play the sign for “more” can be used to request more food during mealtimes. It can be used during play to ask for more toys. An example of this is if you are playing with a farm and different toy animals, give the child one toy at a time and have them sign “more” to get each new animal.
All done: Once a child is done with an activity, the sign for “all done” can be used to teach them how to communicate they are finished. If you can tell that your child is no longer interested in a toy, hand over hand help them to produce the “all done” sign and then immediately terminate the activity. This will teach them the effect of the “all done” sign.
Help: The sign for “help” is extremely useful in teaching a child to communicate their needs. If a child needs help opening something, or help in any activity, the use of this sign will communicate their intent. Hand over hand the child’s hands to show them that once this sign is used, you will immediately assist them with their needs.
Want: If a child is requesting for a toy, the “sign” for want will communicate directly what they are asking for. Most children will either reach, point, or make a verbalization to communicate that they are wanting something. By replacing this behavior with the sign for “want” we are teaching them the concept of functionally requesting.
Link to PDF of signs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NM8rXtQD3x-BG1uEN-LByn-2Hsy9xi7kpqTiC6SU2DY/edit?usp=sharing
Research article link: https://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1221&context=gs_rp