Baby Sign Language @ Handy Expressions

Baby Sign Language FAQ's

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Frequently Asked Questions about Baby Sign Language

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FAQ about Baby Sign Language

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions asked about baby sign language,
including some concerns parents may have about signing with their baby.


COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT BABY SIGN LANGUAGE

What is baby sign language?
How does baby sign language work?
What are the benefits of baby sign language?
What age should I start signing with my baby?
When can my baby learn to sign?
How long will it take for my baby to learn to sign?
What sign(s) should I start with?
How do I get started?
Is it best to use lots of signs or just a few?
Is signing still useful after my baby has learned to speak?
My baby does a sign which is incorrect, but I know what he/she is trying to tell me. Should I correct him/her?
I can't find the sign I need, what should I do?
What is the difference between ASL and BSL based signs?
How can I contact other parents that sign with their baby?
I want to become a sign language instructor, where should I look?
Why do you use BSL rather than Makaton?
How suitable are your baby signs for parents of deaf, autistic and downs syndrome babies?
How long has baby sign language been around?
Where did baby sign language originate?
How many people in the UK use BSL?



CONCERNS ABOUT BABY SIGN LANGUAGE

Will baby sign language delay my childs speech?
Would baby sign language hinder my childs learning of a second (verbal) language?
My child is nearly 2 and still can't talk! Will baby signing help or is it too late to start?
When is it too late to teach my baby to sign?



If you have a question and it's not covered by one above, please do contact me and I will answer your question asap.












COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT BABY SIGN LANGUAGE

What is baby sign language?
Baby sign language is pre-verbal communication with your little one, by using visual clues (signs) before they can talk.
Baby signing gives your child a way to express their needs and wants before they are able (physically) to form spoken words. Helping your child to understand and make sense of words that they hear around them. With use it gives your child a way to communicate their wants and what they are thinking aiding them with the development of the spoken word.

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How does baby sign language work?
Babies have so much to learn right from the start. From a very early age babies learn that objects have names and that each object is represented by a particular sound and each sound gives a different shape to your mouth. Babies learn quickly when you start to sign that these objects and words/sounds can also be represented by a particular hand shape (sign). Babies need to learn that all these factors are linked, initially watching your hands as you say the word and offer the object (visually or physically) to them. From the start you can gently mould your childs hand to the shape of the sign and within a short time children/babies realize that they can use the sign to get a reaction and their message across.
As they pick up one sign at a time you can then start introducing more and more signs.

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What are the benefits of baby sign language?
Baby sign language bridges a huge communication gap by teaching young babies and children how to communicate their needs and wants by signing. A baby/child can't physically form words till much later (around 12-18 moths). They can't coordinate their mouths, tongues, throats and breathing till then so frustration can be a worry before that age where they can't communicate verbaly. Sign language bridges that gap by giving an easier form of communication to your child, as motor skills develop much earlier in in a childs development signing is much easier to grasp.

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What age should I start signing with my baby?
Truthfully any age is a good age. Though most parents won't see any results till their child is around 6 months old or older. Signing from as early an age as possible means it gives you as the parent a chance to learn the signs and it also makes signing a natural part of your everyday communication around your little one. Your little one will show understanding from around 5-7 months onwards, at this stage they will be able to wave and clap then you should find that they will start to try and copy signs that you are doing then they will move on to using signs for communication.

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When can my baby learn to sign?
As above you can start at any age and the earlier the better, this makes signing a natural part of your eveyday communication. Your little one will start to show understanding and maybe make their first attempts around 5-7 months onwards this is around the age they show understanding of 'labels' (objects have names) and vocabulary and when they start to focus on objects shown to them (connected gaze) and then try and grab them. Also this is when motor skills start to develop fully and your little one starts to clap, wave and pick up small objects.

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How long will it take for my baby to learn to sign?
Each child is different and develops their skills (from sitting to walking to signing) at different rates. Of course if you sign to your new born baby it won't sign back till he/she is around 5+ months (when motor skills come into play) old but if you start to sign to a 14 month old they will learn and sign back very quicker. The average rule of thumb for teaching a 6-9 month old is 4-6 weeks. A rule you should follow when teaching your little one to sign is to be consistent; by signing at every opportunity and by getting everyone who spends any significant time with your little one to also sign then your little one will learn to sign much quicker.

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What sign(s) should I start with?
The most common '1st signs' are signs that are relevant to your baby's world. So if your baby is just on milk then the most common '1st signs' should be 'Milk', 'more', 'mummy' and 'Daddy' and pets (eg. cat, dog, rabbit etc). As each week passes more things come into play like 'food/eat', 'drink', 'nappy', 'bath' etc. You should introduce a few signs at first and then move on with more signs as baby becomes more aware of the signs they are being taught. Don't forget to say the word as well as doing the sign and don't drop old signs just add more to your and your babys' signing vocabulary.

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How do I get started?
You can get started by various ways. You can start by going to our
baby signing galleries and picking through our catagories from basic signs upwards. Then you can choose if to purchase a downloadable signing pack or one of our laminated signing packs. Or you can choose to come to one of our baby sign language classes.

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Is it best to use lots of signs or just a few?
This is up to you. Some parents just want to learn beneficial signs like milk, food, drink, teddy, nappy etc so they know when baby is hungry, thirsty etc but a lot of parents like to learn all the signs they can so that they can enjoy this great way to communicate with their baby/child.
Of course if both you and your little one takes to signing like a duck to water then why stop learning!

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Is signing still useful after my baby has learned to speak?
YES! Just because your child has learnt to speak doesn't mean they want to stop to sign and it's usefull to keep using the signs you've both learnt in many ways. When your little one is trying to reinforce a message, like they really want their food now! When it's very noisy, your baby can still get their message across without feeling intimidated by all the noise. When your little one is tired and grumpy they can still tell you they are thirsty or they want milk. There are many other examples where signing is still usefull when little one has learnt to speak.

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My baby does a sign which is incorrect, but I know what he/she is trying to tell me. Should I correct him/her?
If your little one does a sign that isn't quite correct but you understand what your baby is trying to convey then that isn't a problem. You shouldn't correct them (as this can knock their confidence and put them back) but keep doing the correct sign and gently mould your little ones hands to the correct shape so they can feel what the sign is. It sometimes can be hard for little on to get all the signs right straight away so just keep being consistant and use the correct hand shapes.

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I can't find the sign I need, what should I do?
If you can't find a sign you need in my
Baby Sign Language Galeries then why not try and research the sign online or at your local library, if you still can't find the sign you want or one that is a similar word/meaning then why not create one of your own, just remember to make it clear and easy to do and not to make it the same as one of the other ones your little one knows.

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What is the difference between ASL and BSL based signs?
ASL (American based sign language) and BSL (British based sign language) are very similar and share a lot of the same signs. BSL tends to be more gesture based whereas ASL use a lot more of the signing alphabet. Both methods of signing are extremely valid and used by thousands. What you need to take into account is which sign language is predominantly used in your area allowing you to make best use of resources around you. Which method you use is of course up to you and comes down to your own preference and style. When you have decided which method then stick to that particular method. There are lots of resources available in both languages such as online dictonaries, TV programmes, books, DVD's and classes.

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How can I contact other parents that sign with their baby?
There are many parents signing groups/classes accross the country which you'll be able to join and take your little one to. There are other various ways to contact other parents. You can try your health visitor, local church or community centre, local groups like baby signing classes and online groups, blogs and forums.

I want to become a sign language instructor, where should I look?
Contact me for further details.

Baby sign language FAQ - Top

Why do you use BSL rather than Makaton?
Here at Handy Expressions we use BSL as our signing language. because BSL is a recognised language here in the UK and is the most used language of the British Deaf population. Makaton was created from early 1970s BSL signs from the South East region. They were created for children and adults with communication difficulties and aren't regional or changed over time like BSL. I strongly feel that by using BSL as our sign language we are also encouraging the interraction and integration between hearing and deaf communities in the UK.

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How suitable are your baby signs for parents of deaf, autistic and downs syndrome babies?
Our baby signs are (as stated above) based on BSL (with only a few modifications to a few signs). Of course learning to sign with us is fun and educational for all children and even with children whom are deaf, autistic or down sindrome The benefits of signing bridges a very wide gap to communication with your child disabled or not. BSL is so similar to Maketon (language used by Autistic and Down sindrome adults and children) that learning at such an early age would make it easier for them to learn when older and in a school environment.

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How long has baby sign language been around?
Since signing with deaf children began (around the 17th century when Dalgarno invented a finger spelling system) signing with hearing children has also occured. The first hearing children to benefit from signs being used in their communication were those of deaf parents. It is very common for a hearing baby to be able to communicate with it's deaf parent(s) through both sign and speech. Hearing siblings of deaf children also get introduced to signing from an early age. It's only over the recent decade that findings have been researched and the benefits of signing to babies of the wider hearing public has been concidered.

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Where did baby sign language originate?
Signing within the Deaf community in every country in the world have used signing with their babies and children to help them understand the world around them and to give them a means to communicate, hearing babies born into deaf and hearing families (example Deaf Mum and a Hearing Dad) have been brought up bilingually both with speech and signs. Through research findings have been made to indicate huge benefits through signing with your hearing baby/child. Originating within the USA and now all over the world.

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How many people in the UK use BSL?
It is now though that there are over 85,000 profoundly Deaf people in the UK that use BSL as their first language and then there are a further 200,000 people in the UK that use BSL to communicate alongside English and other languages.


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CONCERNS ABOUT BABY SIGN LANGUAGE

Will baby sign language delay my childs speech?
No, on the contrary! Signing often encourages speech and never hinders.
Of course there are phisical developments that have to be taken into account and these are the development of vocal chords and muscles of the mouth, throat and tongue to enable the child to develop the sounds of speech.
Handy Expressions baby sign language methods always encourage reinforcing the sign with the spoken word, (never sign in silence).
Parents often find that using baby sign language encourages them to talk to their baby much more often.
One of the main reasons for teaching your baby to sign is to bridge the communication gap. By reinforcing signs with the spoken word, not only are you showing that there are other forms of communication, you are also helping to build the link between the sound of the word, the sign and it's meaning.
Once your baby has learned to speak they will naturally try to copy the sound as they sign back to you.
Your little one will soon realize that the ability to make more complex vocal sounds allows them to use communicate in a new/different way, which gradually becomes easier and - eventually - allows a more sophisticated and diverse means of communication than signing.
Evidence shows that babies who have learned to sign tend to start talking earlier than their non-signing piers, and they will usually have mastered a much larger vocabulary by the time they reach pre-school age.

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Would baby sign language hinder my childs learning of a second (verbal) language?
When two or more languages are used at home, sign language is a great help.
It helps children with the 'building blocks' required in understanding languages before the spoken word, and acts as a great visual aid (in learning both/all languages).
Because signs are a visual interpretation of the meaning behind the word(s), it can help baby to connect words to meanings much more easily, thus speeding up the learning process.
A good example is the sign for drink, where you "mime" holding a glass and raising it to your mouth. This is - of course - the same for all languages.
When taching baby sign language alongside more than one spoken language, I advise you use only one set of signs whilst vocalising in both languages. Thus baby will learn that all 3 things have the same meaning.

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My child is nearly 2 and still can't talk! Will baby signing help or is it too late to start?
It is never to late to sign with your pre-verbal child.
Every child develops at there own pace and you'll find that your child may not be interested in speach yet but will be developing well in other areas.
Teaching your child to sign even at a later age will still be extremely beneficial as your child will be able to start communicating with you, which in turn will help your child develop speech (as mentioned above with linking words, signs and the meaning together) giving your little one the understanding of how important communication is.
When signing with a child of an older age you don't have to start with the very basic signs like 'milk' but you should start with signs that you know your child would be more interested in, eg. if your child loves going to the park and playing on the swings and slides then start with 'park', 'swing' and 'slide', then you can move on to family signs and important signs that will help you, eg. 'eat', 'drink', 'potty' etc.
Also make sure you both enjoy it and make it fun.

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When is it too late to teach my baby to sign?
As above as long as your child is pre-verbal (meaning that they don't have a big vocabulary) your child will definitely benefit (and enjoy) communicating with sign language so that you and the people around her/him can understand his/her needs and wants. I have found that all children enjoy learning sign language - I know of whole primary schools that teach hearing children to sign and even my son who at the time was 8yrs old enjoyed learning along side me and my daughter. So NO it's never to late to start.


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