Scientific research is revealing that a baby can understand and express much more than what was previously thought. Consider the fact that hearing babies can understand spoken words early in life, though spoken words are frequently more abstract than signed words. The sounds "m" and "ah" have no inherent meaning but, when combined to form the word "mama", babies quickly learn to associate this symbol with the nice woman who feeds and takes care of them! To some degree, all words and signs are abstract symbols. If we consistently use the word "mama" in context, most babies will learn to understand what this symbol means. If we also use the sign for "mama" whenever we say that word, babies will come to understand and relate this symbol as well.
Incorporating signs into your daily routine does not require fluency in American Sign Language. Rather, it teaches that even a few simple gestures can make a big difference in empowering and meeting the needs of a child. Parents and caregivers should start slowly by introducing several ASL signs that represent ideas babies can understand, like "more", "eat", and "milk". When babies are able to replace some of the screaming, whining, and crying with a few simple hand gestures, it can dramatically improve their relationships with caregivers.
With each day, more and more people are coming to recognize the power of signing as it changes the way they view and interact with preverbal children. We invite you to visit the following links for more information about the growing community of parents, educators, and professionals who embrace the benefits of signing with babies.