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May 6, 2003

Parents Using Sign Language To Speak To Babies

From: KMGH, CO - May 6, 2003

With Signing, Babies Can Communicate Before They Can Talk

DENVER -- There's a whole new kind of baby talk that's catching on with parents and children nationwide.

It's called "Signing Smart," and it's a way of using sign language to communicate with your baby before he or she can talk.

As parents of most infants or toddlers know, children usually grunt, point, and cry to tell you what they want before they know how to talk. Communication can break down into frustration for both the baby and the parents.

But what if you had a way to know what your child was telling you?

Meredith Lambert, at 15 months old, can't say the word "flowers" yet but she can sign it.

Meredith and her mother, Elaine Lambert, have been taking baby sign classes for several months.

"There's so much more of a rich communication. I can understand what excites her, what's interesting to her," Elaine Lambert said.

Parents of deaf children have known for generations that communicating with babies and toddlers can begin at a much earlier age through sign language. Now, parents of hearing children are learning that, too.

"The door to communication interaction just opens and the floodgates are set forth. You start seeing things kids are capable of, that you had no idea they were thinking about," said sign language instructor Michelle Anthony.

Anthony said it's not just about teaching babies the signs, it's about giving children a foundation, a means to talk about things they couldn't communicate to you before.

"What signing does is it takes what they know conceptually and gives them the means to express and ask about the things that are interesting to them," Anthony said.

With babies 10 months or older, it takes anywhere from a day to a few weeks for them to pick up some sign language. For younger infants, it may be a bit longer. The key is to be consistent, experts said.

The result is that you have babies communicating specific thoughts, feelings and opinions before they can effectively form the words, and that means less frustration for parents and their, parents said.

Eventually, children drop the signs altogether and continue using only words, experts said.

Ultimately, you're encouraging language development while at the same time giving your child the tools to communicate effectively, Anthony said.

A study tracking two groups of children from the age of 10 months found that children who had been using signs as toddlers scored an average of 20 percent higher on IQ tests at age 8.

Signing can also help with more serious issues such as letting your child tell you when he or she is hurt or sick.

Some parents worry that teaching children to sign could delay their child's ability to talk, but a study done in California in 2000, and published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior found that signing does not hamper verbal development, and in fact, may even facilitate it.

If you would like more information on signing with your baby, go to , where you can find information on Anthony's classes, workbooks and videos.

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