The benefits of early childhood education in signing are endless. In addition to giving kids a way to communicate, it also provides them with an opportunity to form a bond with their parent(s). The hope is that eventually it will become know as one of the "firsts" that no parent wants to miss, such as the first time they walked or their first tooth. Signing is likely to allow communication much earlier than verbally.
Ages 2 to five –are an ample time to educate children in different modes of communication and language because of their brain development course. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.
American Indian nations have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate. Therefore it is not as strange as one would think.
In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:
"...by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development are also referred to by the author, demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age whether at day care or at home, actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).
The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways and languages to the widest possible audience is a great way to stay ahead and ensure a decent standard of living in our suffering economic state. This is not limited to speaking different languages but also non-verbal communication: signing.
However, the shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language that has led to more career opportunities is dwindling– and if current trends continue, it's likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Austin day care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose day care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.