Speech and Sign Language
Will Signing Prevent My Baby from Learning to Talk?
Not at all. In fact, studies have shown that children who have been taught baby sign language have larger vocabularies by 2 years of age than children who haven't, says Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, coauthor of How Babies Talk (Penguin).
"A hearing parent who uses sign language doesn't just make the sign for 'airplane,'" says Golinkoff. "She says the word and talks about an airplane flying up in the sky. That means that the child is getting two sources of communication -- a sign with the hand and spoken words. The redundancy may be what makes the difference."
Sign language also helps reduce kids' frustration level, says Golinkoff, pointing to a Columbia University study that found that highly emotional kids speak later than other children. (The emotional energy they use may sap their intellectual energy.) "But if you lower their frustration level by teaching them signs," she says, "they may learn to talk faster and better."
Moreover, parents who use signs are spending more time with their child labeling things. That may also explain the boost in language development.