Baby sign is a term used to describe the introduction of Sign Language to a pre-verbal infant or toddler. It is also, often the first step for parents learning to sign with a child who may not ever be able to communicate orally.
A small set of signs are usually adopted first, based of common objects and terms, that would be familiar to the child's everyday life. In Australia we adopt these from AUSLAN (which stands for AUStralian Sign LANguage). We use Auslan with infants, even if the intention is not to continue signing after the child begins to articulate as it is our indigenous sign language. It is nationally recognised and used within many childcare centers, amongst family day care centers, and of course by sign dependant Australians. By choosing to learn AUSLAN, even at the Baby Sign level, your child will be able to communicate these signs with our AUSLAN users; which may include a deaf child at their childcare or school later in life.
There are systems available that are primarily based on a "made up" language, some even claim to be Auslan! We do not condon the use of such systems as they are not transferable to childcare and family day care etc. Neither are foreign systems, such as those based in ASL (American Sign Language).
Within the 'Print' section of this site you will find a list of the most commonly adopted AUSLAN baby signs. Start simple. Select 3-5 signs and introduce them into your daily communication. Then build up from there.
We also have a short flyer, with 6 Signs that can change parenting, and help get you started.
One of the reasons children's songs such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are so popular with children are the actions, which serve to make it simpler for the child to understand. This technique has simply been taken as step further with the adoption of baby sign.
So it is no surprise that the use of sign language by hearing parents, with hearing children, around the world has provided impressive research results. Proving that not only are babies able to communicate simple sign expressions from before 6 months of age, but also that these children tend to develop oral language earlier.
An extensive study in the UK, by Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (funded by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development), found that there is a clear advantage to using signs with pre-verbal children. Parents within the study experienced reduced frustration and stronger bonds with their babies.
For a great number of years now baby signing has been widely utilised throughout the US, UK, Europe and Canada. This has triggered many research studies and trials, which have generated astounding results.
In the UK, by Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (on behalf of the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development) conducted a study that has now spanned over 8 years. Within the study hearing children were provided sign language as a supplement to oral language in their "pre-verbal" years, and then compared to their peers.
The doctors have found that signing children outperform non-signing children in both language development and IQ. Seven years after initial, infant testing, the children were re evaluated, now in early primary school years. The results were even more extraordinary, indicating that as a group, children who signed as babies had a mean IQ of 114 compared to 102 for non-signers. Royal Association for Deaf people UK