Signing To Children May Help Linguistic Skills

WASHINGTON, DC-Daycare centers around the country are beginning to teach children a new skill-sign language.

Although researchers and linguists nationally disagree on the results and importance of such lessons, parents are voicing their utter delight with the new method of communicating with their frustrated children.

Daycare centers and parents are teaching children as young as 8 months old how to sign basic items and desires that their mouths have yet to verbalize. This form of infant communication started on the West Coast, where researchers started examining some 15 years ago the result of signing to hearing infants.

Today, some 200,000 parents nationwide have purchased "Toddler Talk," a book by Joseph Garcia. Garcia, an early childhood education researcher, began examining the area after observing deaf friends communicating with their children.

Children raised by deaf parents often communicate via sign language several weeks earlier than a hearing child speaks to hearing parents. Garcia has written several books on the topic and recommends teaching signs to children 8 months old and older.

Sign language gives parents an idea of what babies want when children's mouths are still not developed enough to speak their concerns.

Linguists and developmental psychologists disagree on the significance of the behavioral experiment. Many question a baby's ability to convey meaning at such a young age. Many researchers note parents are overzealous to communicate and can taint study results by misunderstanding an infant's common gesture as a meaningful sign.

Yet enthusiasts say success with the method shows the infants' brains mature earlier and have a great capacity for memory, logic, and symbolic meaning.

Although doubters agree that the practice is unlikely to cause a child harm, they still question the meaning behind gestures parents are reading as specific signs. Most parents are in tune with their child's nonverbal communication signs already, without labeling specific signs with meanings.

For now, parents across the country continue taking evening sign language classes to expand their vocabulary with the hopes of helping their children communicate faster and have a better grasp on the linguistic world.

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