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Sign Language For The Hearing Baby

Updated on May 2, 2011
Every year in Australia 500 babies fail to pass their early screening hearing test. Only 5% are born into families who are familiar with hearing impairments.
Every year in Australia 500 babies fail to pass their early screening hearing test. Only 5% are born into families who are familiar with hearing impairments.

The Statistics.....

  • There are over 16 000 deaf or hearing impaired children under 21 in Australia.
  • 500 babies are born each year in Australia with hearing loss
  • 95% of those babies are born into families with little or no experience with deafness.
  • Approx. 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss.
  • Children with hearing loss are more likely to develop depression due to isolation from their peers.
  • 5 out of every 1000 children in Britain will require surgical treatment for glue ear or middle ear infections and complications.
  • 93% of of Indigenous Australian children will experience glue ear or middle ear infections in early childhood.

I have my suspicions about Baby David (2) - his main form of communication is Signing and body language. He would not be the happy child he is without this way of expressing his needs.
I have my suspicions about Baby David (2) - his main form of communication is Signing and body language. He would not be the happy child he is without this way of expressing his needs.

Scary huh?

The statistics alone are pretty shocking but you'e possibly wondering what has this got to do with you? Every new parent reaches that frazzled stage (probably every day) where they ask the big question - "why are you crying!?!" Sign Language will help you take the guesswork out of your babies tears and your toddlers tantrums. In addition to that, by creating a Sign and Say environment your hearing baby will benefit enormously.

Ready to learn some Signs? Let's look at the benefits and research first.

Sign Language changed my life...

When my eldest son was about 8mths old, he suffered his first Febrile Convulsion. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, these convulsions are brought about when the body overheats and is usually related to a virus. Unfortunately, it's often the first sign of a virus - the body overheats, shuts down (stops breathing) and once it has cooled down enough it will reboot once again. This usually occurs within a minute but it is incredibly traumatic both for the infant who experiences it and the parents who have to watch their baby turn blue.

It was after my sons first convulsion that we decided that prevention was the best cure. With in a few weeks he had learned his first sign - "hot". He wasn't just copying us...he was actually hot. Each time we gave him some Panadol, each time he felt hot, we would say the word as we made the Sign. After learning his first Sign many other Signs quickly followed. Food/hungry, milk, more, all done. But that one Sign - hot - had a huge impact on our lives. It allowed us to act before his became so unwell medical intervention was required.

And all these years later, I have my suspicions about my youngest (pictured above) whom we fondly call Baby David - I suspect he may be a selective mute. He is two years old and yet to speak. I know, I know...he's a bit little to be concerned about, he has his brothers to do all the talking for him, Einstein himself didn't start talking till he was five - but another part of me is screaming for early intervention.

I am so appreciative of the fact that I know the few Signs I do and believe Baby David would be a very different child than the happy baby you see were he not able to communicate with us. I sincerely believe that every family should create a Sign and Say environment for their baby - it's fun, it's easy and it's just plain old common sense.

Sign Language Rules

Example of teaching "food" to your baby:

  • Hold your hand in front of your face
  • Make eye contact with your baby
  • Make the Sign EVERY time to feed your baby and EVERY time you mention the word
  • Repeat the word and Sign several times (this is why they learn to speak earlier)
  • You may like to take baby's hand and gently help her to make the Sign
  • This can take a few weeks - be consistent.
  • Be patient - every baby learns at a different pace
  • Make a HUGE fuss when your baby learns a new Sign
  • Once baby learns one Sign, the others quickly follow.
  • Signing starts at about 7-8mths but baby will recognize the Sign long before having the motor skills to make it.

The benefits of teaching your baby to Sign...

There are hundreds of great and very rewarding benefits of teaching your baby some Signs but before we get to the studies into Sign Language, I want to share what I have observed:

  • That babies who Sign seem happier - translation...happier Mom's.
  • Some children learn to Sign at 7 or 8 months - it takes the guesswork out of crying.
  • Babies who Sign are less frustrated and throw less tantrums because they can express their needs better.
  • Children who Sign as babies have an earlier grasp of spoken language too.
  • It's great for baby's self-esteem - you can just imagine the reaction everyone makes when baby makes his first Sign!
  • It's builds strong bonds (especially good for Dad''s and Grandparents to get involved) and helps you to tune onto what your baby needs.
  • It can be used to avoid dangerous situations - like avoiding Febrile Convulsions(!) as well as teaching baby danger Signs (like "hot" don't touch the oven)
  • Middle ears infections interfere with the way children hear words - which in turn affects the way they learn, the way they behave and follow instructions, the way they interact with other people.
  • Children prone to glue tend to have trouble at school because they just haven't had enough experience with language - they have poor self esteem and become unmotivated learners.

And my favorite reason to learn Sign Language?

You can tell them off in public without yelling at them!!

Studies have shown...

There has been some debate about the impact of Sign Language in hearing children and the effect on speech development.

  • Studies have shown that babies who learned sign as infants had a higher IQ overall than babies who didn't learn sign.
  • Children who have learned sign have been shown to have more advanced language skills than children who have not learned sign.
  • Signing in the classroom has led to improved math scores among students.
  • Learning sign language at an early age helps develop the brain in the critical early years of language development.
The great thing is, it's never to early - or to late - to teach your baby some Signs. Many parents start very young (from birth even) but remember how old my son was when he had his first convulsion? Are you ready to get started now?

eBook's with DVDs can be a great way to learn. My favorite (Sign Language For Babies and Beyond) is praised by Moms and Speech Pathologists alike. See below for details.
eBook's with DVDs can be a great way to learn. My favorite (Sign Language For Babies and Beyond) is praised by Moms and Speech Pathologists alike. See below for details. | Source

Ready to learn some Signs?

MILK - Every mother's favorite first Sign - this one really takes the guess work out of the picture!

This Sign is made with one fist by imitating the motion of milking a cow - it's so cute to see your grumpy faced baby waving his little fist around!

COLD - This is a great one often used at bed times and after baths.

The Sign is made with raised shoulders and two arms crossed over your chest, hands on your upper arms (it helps too shiver a little too)

FOOD/HUNGRY (PICTURED) - A definate must know Sign for every baby.

This Sign is made with all the fingers and thumb of one hand pointed together. Touch your finger tips to your lips as though you were feeding yourself. Babies tend to use there fist instead of finger tips.

MORE - Great at meal times especially when companioned with the Sign for "all done."

This Sign is made with two hands - just touch your fingers and thumbs together in front of your chest.

Do you want to know what I know?

There you have it, dozens of great reasons why creating a Sign & Say environment will change your life the way it has mine. It's the first rule we learn as parents - expect the unexpected! We just have no idea of what the future will bring and the statistics outlined at the beginning should be reason enough for every school to include the Sign Language basics in the curriculum. Until that day, the onus is on parents to give our children the best head start in life.

Click here for more information about Sign Language

Let us know about your experience with Sign Language - have you tried it? Would you recommend it?

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    • Artist-For-Hire profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Western Australia

      Darling little sponges, aren't they! Mine were early talkers and signers (apart from the last one) ...they say the average is 7-8 months but I know of the much younger one's you mention.

      There are so many social obsticles that the hearing impaired already face - I just don't understand why learning some basis signs isn't encouraged in our school systems. I bet you could even find volunteers to teach it.

      Thank you so much for your contribution here, I really appreciate your feedback.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you so much for posting this! I am not Deaf, but I have many Deaf acquaintances and know American Sign Language. You are right on so many points! One thing I would add... babies will learn their first sign 3-6 months and will know 3-5 signs before they can say their first word!

      Thanks again!

    • Artist-For-Hire profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Western Australia

      Why thank you very much - I'm in an awareness raising mood this week! lol

    • khauler profile image


      8 years ago

      really intresting


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