Nov 28, 2010

Posted by in Guest Posts | 12 Comments

Guest Post: Early Childhood Education: Acquiring Sign Language

Please enjoy this guest post from Emily 🙂

Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language



In this diversity society we live in, bilingual ability is something that is not only an advantage to have, but is starting to become a necessity. Along with this trend is the ability to communicate articulately in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled- primarily the deaf.


While learning sign language is a advantage in life in general, if is as particularly an advantage in a tilted economic time. With a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language, career opportunities have been very available in the area. If this 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.


Signing Before They Can Speak


A great deal of research has come to the conclusion that ages 2 to 5 is the prime time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. 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. This can be taught at home or some child care programs incorporate it into their curriculum.


Many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to communicate 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. So it’s really not as odd as you may 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 author also cites study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age 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 Best Time To Start


Signing during early childhood education not only gives them a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Texas child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child 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.


  1. I’ve always been really interested in sign language for my kids. I’ve only used the signs for “hungry” “more” “milk” and “potty” but I’d love to learn/teach more. I’d be interested in parent/child sign language classes if they were offered anywhere. I think that would be cool.

  2. Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article

  3. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  4. I just added your blog site to my blogroll, I pray you would give some thought to doing the same.

  5. You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

  6. I was trying to find this. Thanks a lot.

  7. Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time 🙂

  8. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!

  9. I see I already commented here on December 6th. I want to add to my last comment…I used sign language a lot with my 2nd child, and it has helped immensely. Especially signs like “hurt” “help” “hot” and signs for specific (favorite) foods like “cheese” “apple” “cereal” etc. It has made communication far easier for my now-almost-two-year-old than it was when my older child was this age.