Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sign Language and Non-Verbal Communication

While I was pregnant with my daughter I read quite of number of parenting books and guides ranging from those that were dry with information and others that were chock full of funny mom anecdotes.

In my quest to learn as much as I could to help prepare for the arrival of our child I came across information about the benefits of sign language for hearing children and thought I absolutely wanted to do that. Well, with so much to learn and get ready before baby arrived including childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, etc. you can imagine that sign language kept getting pushed further and further down on the list of things to accomplish.

Therefore, I took to the Internet and came across a number of Web sites where I learned a few basic signs from people showing me, the practical learner, hands on how to deliver specific signs. I learned a few key physiological needs such as hunger and thirst, taught them to my husband, and together we tried hard to learn and incorporate these signs into our daily lives to communicate with our daughter.

Fast forward baby has arrived and now approaching 18 months old. At around 10 months of age after a month or so of trying to encourage sign language, I was about to give up when my daughter told me she was hungry with her hand splayed over her mouth. I realized that learning this language like any language for a child, and parent, also takes time and can’t be forced. Just like wanting to get your baby to say “Mama” as his or her first word, sign language takes time as well. In some instances our daughter would mimic a sign as we did exactly and then other times she made the sign her own. For hunger, she got that sign down pat. For thirst, since she was drinking from a straw cup, she chose to do her own sign and it has since been the universal sign for her being thirsty ever since.

For those that have to go at things full throttle, all the more power to you. For moms who even just a little can do a lot, I advise learn a few signs, add them to your ongoing language with your child and soon they will either pick up that sign or make a sign his or her own when verbal language has not yet been mastered. I am thrilled to say that my daughter’s sign language repertoire includes hunger, thirst, milk and help. And, while these are just a few words they speak volumes considering that the majority of her time besides playing, napping and learning is eating and drinking.

Even now, at nearly 18 months of age, our daughter still uses her signs with verbal language and we continue to try to grow her sign language and non-verbal communication to help make it somewhat easier and less frustrating for her and for us. Maybe sign language can be of help to you as well.


  1. Very nice post Caren. You sum it up well! Have fun! :)

    Sara Bingham, WeeHands founder
    author of The Baby Signing Book

  2. Great blog! Thank you so much for your personal insight!


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