SIGN LANGUAGE – Importance of Non-Verbal Communication in the Early Years

Katlyn Bullis

{This one year old modifies the sign for ‘more’ while eating breakfast}

Everyone has had moments in their lives when they could not communicate their needs in a way others could understand. The result is a level of frustration beyond compare. Sign Language gives children a means to express needs in an effective way.  Try thinking about a time, as an adult, when you have wanted something and not been able to explain what exactly you wanted.  Well for children this often is expressed through loud crying, utter frustration or tantrums.  Which are all developmentally appropriate for young children. Now imagine being able to support your children in expressing those needs in any given moment.  Well… Sign language facilitates the confidence necessary for children to begin expressing themselves verbally.  This exchange allows for more reciprocal interactions which allows children to express their thoughts while developing social norms for communicating with others.

{These are commonly used signs for children to communicate basic needs}

Everyone has had moments in their lives when they could not communicate their needs in a way others could understand. The result is a level of frustration beyond compare. Sign Language gives children a means to express needs in an effective way.  Try thinking about a time, as an adult, when you have wanted something and not been able to explain what exactly you wanted.  Well for children this often is expressed through loud crying, utter frustration, or tantrums.  Which are all developmentally appropriate for young children. Now imagine being able to support children in expressing those needs in any given moment.  Sign language facilitates the confidence necessary for children to begin expressing themselves verbally.  This exchange allows for more reciprocal interactions which gives children means to express their thoughts while developing social norms for communicating with others.

When signing with children repetition is key. Sign the word every time you say it, and you will have more chance of them signing it back. We have been signing with babies and are working on them comprehending: Eat, More, All Done, Please, Sleep, Milk, Help, Play, Gentle, Baby & Turn. The frequency of when and how children will begin to use Sign Language will vary greatly depending on the child. Some children use signs before any words, while others use words and signs together, or they may use words and then show you the sign for reassurance of a known need. 

Children may seem resistant at first or seem to show no interest. Children are all different and respond to sign language in different ways. Sometimes children understand and respond to signs without ever trying to copy them. Learning sign language and children putting signs into practice takes time.  It may take months for a child to start using the sign we have been showing them. Even though they are not doing the signs, they are comprehending and absorbing so much from seeing these signs in action. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: