Local News

More Parents Teaching Children How To Use Sign Language

Posted May 25, 2005 9:17 a.m. EDT

— A child can wave bye-bye before saying bye-bye. The ability to gesture comes before the ability to speak. Toddlers cannot always tell you what they want or need, which can be frustrating. More parents of children who can hear are using sign language to communicate.

At 22 months old, Emma Grace can say a lot of words, but she can also sign them.

"I started signing to her early on when she was like 3 months old," said Deanna Dannels, Emma's mother. "My husband actually thought I was a little crazy because I'm signing to this baby. She signed back at 8 months old."

Children develop gestures before speech, so using sign language can improve communication for toddlers. For parents of special needs children, sign language can be crucial. At 6 years old, signing is the only way Riley communicates.

"I mean Riley will tell you that she has words and that she has them in her head and she will point to her head that her words are in her head, but she has no way to get them out through her mouth, so the signing has enabled her to do that," said Renee Floyd, Riley's mother.

At the

Frankie Lemmon School

, a speech pathologist works with the children one-on-one. The parents pick up at home.

"We did the sign for 'book' at least 2,000 times before he got it, once he got it, it's 'I could do this, and get what I want,' and it was just like magic," mother Lisa Stout said.

For some mothers, a first sign is like a first word.

"I remember his tiny little hands in the more signs. It was the cutest thing," mother Kym Gaster said.

Many books and videos are available, so you can teach you and your child signs. Experts said the key is consistency -- using a sign every time you say a word. Research shows as early as 6 to 7 months, children can sign back.


Debra Morgan