Aside from being “cool” or “interesting” to the hearing world (because it is definitely those things) believe it or not, Sign Language can be vastly beneficial in your own life and communication with young children, individuals with disabilities, or those who have different needs.
Communication is, first and foremost, one of the most crucial aspects of any relationship. There must be a foundation of language to build upon a relationship and meet the needs of that individual. However, finding what form of communication works for each individual can be tough too! There can be frustrations and struggles, especially when the child is very young and has trouble telling you what they need. That’s why it is so important to introduce language at an early age. A child’s brain is like a sponge still forming and can absorb so much when they're so little. The earlier any child is exposed to and begins to acquire language, the better that child’s communication skills will become. Research suggests that the first few years of life are the most crucial to a child’s development of language skills, and even the early months of life can be important for establishing successful communication (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language#5).
We know children babble and scream to get what they want or show you what they need, thus we come full circle to communication and how Sign Language can be beneficial. Baby Sign has become more and more popular throughout the years due to the help of it closing the communication gap between parents and child. Babies and young children are able to move their hands better and far earlier than their vocal cords develop. Research on baby sign language has found that teaching baby signs improved cognitive and emotional development (http://www.babysignlanguage.com/basics/research/), and baby sign can also help improve relationships by lessening the frustrations of guessing what they need/want. But Sign Language is not just used for the Deaf world or baby sign either; it can be tremendously helpful in children and young adults with disabilities.
Sign Language can be useful for those with cognitive, developmental, or verbal delays, as well as individuals with a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Furthermore, persons with a variety of functioning levels can be taught to use Sign Language. Many aberrant behaviors associated with autism and other developmental disabilities, such as aggression, tantrums, self-injury, anxiety, and depression, are often attributed to an inability to communicate to others (https://www.autism.com/advocacy_signing). Sign Language or even basic gestural signs can help facilitate in place of verbal or written/typed communication.
It is a process and takes time to learn, as well as practice. However, the benefits far outweigh the work to communicate with your child, even if you are working on just the basics of sign (bathroom, hungry, thirsty, more, yes, no, etc.) it is proven to increase relationships, skills, and communication. If you are interested in learning basic sign, please take this survey below! I am willing to start a Sign Language course to help improve your life and relationship with your child, as well as help our staff learn better how to have dialogue with our participants who may struggle with communication!