Q A friend of ours says she’s taught her 7-month-old how to do sign language. Her baby isn’t deaf, but our friend says that she and the baby can actually communicate! Is this possible? If so, how can I find out more about it?



A: By the time they’re 8 or 9 months, babies are eager to communicate. And although we generally think of signing as a resource for the hearing impaired, there’s plenty of research out there that shows that signing can help non-hearing impaired children communicate before they can actually speak.

Chances are you’re already doing some signing with your baby. After all, waving “bye-bye” is a sign, right? If you want to go a little further, start by making up a few gestures of your own.

The experts suggest beginning with a few familiar words like “mommy” and “daddy” and “drink” and building from there.

The secret is repetition-using the signs every chance you get-the same thing you did to teach your baby to wave “bye-bye.” If you’re using a sign for “drink,” say the word and make the sign every time you give your baby a drink.

Some parents worry that signing will slow their children’s verbal skills development. Don’t. The truth is that hearing the words over and over will actually help your baby’s verbal skills. Plus, there’s some evidence that kids who learn signs as babies learn to speak earlier and have larger vocabularies than kids who don’t sign.

If you’re interested in exploring signing with your baby, take a look at “Sign with Your Baby,” by Joseph Garcia, or “Baby Signs” by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. There are also several good Web sites on the topic: www.babysigns.com, www.signingbaby.com and www.sign2me.com.

Whatever you do, try to make signing fun. You could end up having some interesting conversations with your child, or you might not.

But just spending time with each other can give you and your baby a great chance to deepen the bond between you, which is really what good communication is all about.

Armin Brott is a syndicated columnist and author. You can reach him through his Web site at www.mrdad.com.


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