Teaching sign language to my baby – one year on
As many of you already know, I'm a CODA; I'm a hearing person and both my parents are profoundly deaf, although not from birth. Spanish Sign Language (LSE) is my first language (mother tongue), spoken Spanish is my second language, and after almost 4 years living in the UK, I'm still trying to establish English as my third language although my friends and colleagues say I am doing very well! lol...
When I discovered that I was pregnant some 20 months ago, it was clear to me that my baby was going to learn Spanish Sign Language (read here). I was definitely committed to teaching my baby LSE from the very beginning. My reasons were very clear to me - I love sign language, my baby would be able to communicate with her grandparents, because of the great benefits she will get by learning and using additional forms of communication and finally because I will always support deaf culture and sign language.
We already know that the resources say that learning sign language has many benefits such as:
Speeding up the development of spoken communication abilities
Earlier reading and a larger reading vocabulary
Improves the child-parent connection/bond
Enables children to communicate effectively and lowering frustration levels by giving them a means to express themselves before they know how to talk
Bilingualism in any combination of languages is a great booster for the brain!
Enhances the cognitive processes helping to enhance creative thinking and enrich their problem-solver skills
Now, I can speak from my own experience, and I can certainly say that IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH THE EFFORT!
Teaching my baby sign language before she can pronounce words is really making our lives much easier!
The beginning was disappointing
I started to talk to her in Spanish Sign Language when she was 6 months old, and I have to admit that I felt quite silly, signing to a baby that was staring at me as if I were performing a rain dance! She didn't copy the signs. She didn't respond to my words...
She didn't do anything!
I started to think that it was a waste of time... that she wouldn't be able to communicate fluently with her grandparents. I really thought that I had failed.
However, suddenly one day she asked me for milk! Yes, it was her first sign language word. That was the most exciting thing I've ever seen!
After that moment I realised that she was understanding every single word I was signing, she only needed time to assimilate it and acquire the necessary co-ordination to use the language herself.
What a joy!
Call it coincidence
I have to admit that my baby has been really well-behaved since the very first day.
Not crying, eating well, sleeping peacefully... A dream come true! I have been very lucky in that regard.
I have always been aware that as soon as she started to be conscious and curious about the environment and her own requirements, she would start being more demanding - aka "grumpy" – until she could communicate with us.
Being hungry, or tired, or wanting to be changed are situations that could make my baby feel upset, but she is not experiencing these feelings at all because of her ability to sign.
She is now almost 13 months old and as soon as she wants a drink or something to eat, she just signs it. No frustration, no crying, just a happy and contented baby.
OK. You will say that she is an easy baby in any event, but I am absolutely convinced that learning sign language early is saving all of us many frustrating situations.
Sign language is definitely improving her communication skills and it is helping her to be understood before her speech has developed.
In a nutshell
Teaching sign language to my baby is definitely developing her social, intellectual, emotional and physical skills.
At just 1 year old she is able to communicate with us using simple words, avoiding frustration and temper tantrums, which is improving her self-confidence too.
Any hearing parents that think sign language is not necessary for their child or that it will interfere with the baby learning to talk, please follow my own experience. Teaching sign language to your baby will give him or her many advantages, which you can enjoy together.