Developmental standards...sign language or not?

Jowanna - posted on 10/03/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )

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There are so many developmental standards for infants and toddlers, and they have changed in the past few years. I get so disgusted with my son's daycare and their ideas on what appropriate developmental milestones are for certain ages. Each child develops differently. My son is 2 1/2 years old.My son was not able to hear until he was a little over a year, and his speech is delayed because of it. My son does not communicate with words well, he can say words, but chooses not to. I have allowed for speech therapy while he is at school. Lately I have noticed that he is doing alot of signing with his hands. Sign language is fine, but now I am wondering if they are more focused with teaching him sign language rather than encouraging him to use his words. This aggravates me alot! I am very defensive when it comes to my sons speech delay, in my experience it seems that people who are working with him won't take it for what it is and would rather assume something is wrong with him. I know sign language is being used as a communication tool in this situation, but, my son is not deaf nor is he cognitively impaired. Should I be mad about this and discuss it with them? Or go along with it and work on the sign language at home? I don't think it is wise to encourage him to sign rather than to use his words.

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Julie - posted on 10/06/2010

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NO! They are doing the right thing! Many studies have shown, even in "normal" kids that signing uses, exercises if you will, the same vocabulary part of the brain as spoken words. I read a study where they taught signs to kindergarteners, but only half the class. I believe the kids only used the signs for a short period of time. But at the end of the year and maybe even 5 years, the group that learned signs "way back when" STILL had a significantly better vocabulary!

So, ask them why they chose to teach your son signs. It may be along those lines. They probably have research to support the benefits. They are NOT trying to undermine his "normalcy", they are trying to give him every edge that they can! Plus, signs DO cut down on frustration until he is using his words properly. Trust me, speaking is more effective, so he WILL drop the signs when he is comfortable with his speech.

My son was severely speech delayed and we taught him signs to get his communication started. He was up to 20 or so when he was able to start using words. Now that he is talking (very well) he almost never uses signs except for when he is being emphatic about something "please" or "more" and he always speaks as he signs.

Please, speak to the speech therapist. I'm sure they only have the best interests of your son in mind.

Aicha - posted on 10/05/2010

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you could use signs with him as well as talking to help him connect the signs to spoken words

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I completly agree with Amy! My son had no physical impairments, but just CHOSE to be a late talker (He was almost 2 and the only words he said were "hi" "mom" and "bellybutton" - I kid you not!) That is just my son though - he won't do anything until he has it mastered. A lot of children talk late - and you can't force your child to talk. Having the sign language as an effective means of communication with only strengthen your son's linguistic skills long term. When your son starts talking he will most likely be talking in full sentences and have a better grasp of grammar and sentence structure than his peers.

Now in regards to his daycare situation, I think you do need to sit down and have an honest conversation with them. Express your concerns, and then, LISTEN to their reasons! try doing it in a way where you are asking for their advice, not making accusations. ex: "I want to encourage my son to talk more, what methods do you think would work best? should we be doing more sign language or less?" Taking the approach of working together usually works the best.

Good luck!

Amy - posted on 10/04/2010

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I taught my daughter sign language, just the basics, please, thank you, more, colour, all done, eat. She too is delayed in her milestones for speech, and only has slight hearing loss in one ear, it makes it hard for her to hear me when there is lots of back ground noise. But all her speech therapies have said that sign language isn't a bad thing, it gives her a way to communicate until she feels ready to try and talk. Forcing kids to talk before they are ready is not very productive, it feels like work and it isn't fun anymore. We practice using words and sign during play at home with puzzles and toys. Emma is almost 3 and is finally starting to try and say words, and is slowly replacing her sign with words, I find she is still using the sign, but says the word too. So I would suggest sign, it has saved us many tantrums and break downs, because she was able to communicate. There are many web sites and articles on it all over the internet and I'm sure there are books too. All kids have there own schedule, and everything works out. Hope this helps.

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