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Using Sign Language for Young Children

There used to be a time when learning the art of sign language was considered a stigma that no deaf-mute child should have to bear. Parents were ashamed to have to learn to sign and their children were not considered normal because of this handicap. This is a major reason why, for decades, parents were against their children, of any ability, learning to use sign language as a method of communicating with others. But with the advent of modern technology and studies in support of teaching both hearing and hearing / speech impaired children sign language, learning to sign has become a fashionable norm for the families of both types of children.

Signing is a mental and physical activity that helps a child develop his mental healthy and finger dexterity at a young age. It helps a child learn to communicate effectively with their parents at certain ages when their grasp of the spoken speech is shaky and not always understood. In fact, Melanie Gersten taught her son Zachary the sign language for milk. The boy has normal hearing but Melanie believes that signing helped improve her mother-child bonding with the 9-month-old, who has normal hearing. She relates in the interview Signs of Intelligence that ” Signing with Zachary wasn’t only helpful, it was also just so much fun.

” Research has shown that most parents are now taking advantage of a period in time within a child’s development stage where the child is learning to use basic baby body movements to put across his message by teaching them to sign what it is they want to say. Although there is a conflict as to whether the children should learn American Sign Language or develop a their own method, what is sure is that the child has an improved intellect and sense of happiness and self esteem. It also helps a child develop a better attitude because he can put across his wants and needs sans the temper tantrums associated with childhood development.

Using Sign language with young children also has major benefits for the parents who need to learn to deal with their children before they learn to speak. Children are like sponges that learn everything by sight and observation as well as understand what we tell them even if they cannot express their own thoughts and feelings verbally yet. When both parents and the child know how to sign, a parent can expect lesser temper tantrums, helps a parent teach a child a useful and enjoyable new skill. It also helps a parent better understand a child because he no longer has to guess what the child is trying to say.

Learning to sign is an activity that helps strengthen the closeness of the parent and child because they can enroll in the sign language class together and learn at the same pace. Another name for sign language among the deaf children is Manual Method. Christina M. Poe, in her published thesis “How Can I Learn to Communicate? ” explains that the Manual Method ” is based totally on Sign language and using the hands or physical ways to communicate. The goal of this method is to provide a way for Deaf people to interact with one another without the aid of hearing people.

Children taught using this method don’t need to worry about learning to speak or develop lip reading skills. This method is considered the natural way that deaf children learn to communicate. Furthermore, it encourages a sense of pride in being Deaf. If a child is moderately – severely deaf the Manual method will probably be the easiest way for the child to learn and communicate. Children who are deaf use their vision to compensate for their lack of hearing, thus making Sign language an easy, visual way to understand and communicate with others.

Manualism puts no pressure on a child to struggle to understand sounds and how to forms words. The Deaf community uses the Manual method a lot and as a result, provides a sense of belonging, inclusion, plus a feeling of being normal and not weird just because a child can’t hear. ” You are probably thinking, nothing can be that perfect. There has got to be a drawback to teaching young children sign language right? In all the research I have done, the only time a negative piece of information shows up about a child using sign language pertains to how a deaf-mute child is educated with regards to his mode of communication.

Some proponents against the method believe that sign language puts a non hearing and speaking child in a universe of his own and limits his interaction with others who do not know how to sign. It also makes him too lazy to learn to learn the oral method of reading lips as well as limiting his efforts to learn to use his speech training to produce a voice in order to communicate with those who can hear and speak normally. The only people who seem to have something against a child learning sign language are those who still believe in the stigma of having a handicapped child.

Otherwise, nobody really has a problem with learning to use this highly useful skill anymore. Regardless of a parent’s belief, teaching a deaf or normal hearing child to use sign language is not a disadvantage. Rather, it is an additional skill that can help a child become more sociable later in life. Teaching a hearing or deaf child to use sign language is a personal choice. Whether a parent does it or not, it will not be a life altering decision that will affect the parent-child bond. For a deaf child, there are other alternative methods of communication that will help him deal with both the deaf and hearing capable world.

While for a normal hearing child, learning to sign language communication is simply an additional skill that his parents hope will help him develop better self-confidence and self esteem. It is their belief that sign language will help educate him regarding how one must deal with the different kinds of people existing in the world he is growing up and living in.

Work Cited

Education Update Online. September 2005. Teaching American Sign Language to Hearing Children. Retrieved March 31, 2007 from http://www. educationupdate. com/archives/2005/september/html/Feat-SignLang.html Poe, Christina M. July 10, 2006. How Can I Communicate and Learn?. Retrieved March 30, 2007 from http://www. lifeprint. com/asl101/topics/communicatingwithdeaf. htm Ulene, Valerie. August 7, 2006. Signs of Intelligence?. latimes. com. Retrieved March 30, 2007 from http://www. latimes. com/features/health/la-he-themd7aug07,1,310586. column? coll=la-headlines-health&ctrack=1&cset=true Sign Language for Kids. 2005. The Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to a Hearing Baby or Child. Retrieved March 31, 2007 from http://www. kindersigns. com/www/benefits-of-signing. html

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