Using Sign to develop Spoken Language

Many parents of children with communication delays and disorders become very concerned when a speech-language pathologist proposes the use of sign language.  When probed further about their concerns, many parents have reported that they are afraid their children will learn to sign and not learn to talk, or that they will no longer be motivated to learn to speak if they can communicate with sign language.  Current literature suggests that the use of sign with children leads to earlier and clearer parent-child communication, accelerated spoken language development, reduced crying and whining, improved parent-child bonding, and increased intelligence (Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000; Thompson et al., 2007).  Additionally, Pizer, Walters, & Meier (2007) found that families of children who learned signs to communicate stopped using signs when children began to communicate well orally (around 2 years of age).  While parents may be resistant to the use of signs to help their children develop early language skills, sharing data about sign use with the families we work with may ease concerns and help increase family participation.

An excerpt from: Routines-Based Early Intervention Guidebook 

Written by: Scott Prath

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