Down Syndrome And Baby Sign Language
All babies can learn to communicate through sign language before they can talk, which is good in itself, but this is especially helpful for babies or children with Down syndrome who may have trouble talking. It provides another way to communicate. Sign language is often a tool they use to build their confidence communicating.
What Is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome (also called Trisomy 21) is a genetic disorder that occurs in approximately 1 of 700 live births and it is the leading cause of cognitive impairment.
This condition is associated with developmental delays, characteristic facial feature and low muscle tone in early pregnancy. Down syndrome and baby sign language is a great combination for making life a lot easier for everyone concerned. As we all know, children with Down syndrome have some degree of speech delay. This makes it difficult for the child, as well as the parents, to communicate.
Since Down syndrome babies often have delayed speech and may not talk until two or three years of age, sign language can make a world of difference while you are waiting. Sign language also naturally increases self-esteem in a child, since they feel good about being able to communicate.
Baby sign language uses hand gestures to help parents communicate with their babies that cannot speak or use only a few words. The baby learns hand gestures and uses these to communicate simple needs such as being sick, hungry, tired or happy. You may worry that teaching sign language will delay your baby’s verbal language development, but research has shown that it is beneficial to babies especially to children with Down syndrome.
As well as building conversations through sign, baby sign language also builds communication connections creating a bond with your child when verbal language cannot.
One of the most common questions from parents is “will baby sign language delay my child speech?”
The answer is NO.
Baby sign language stimulates certain areas of the brain that are used for verbal language development and in Down syndrome children, it can assist with verbal communication and also reduce frustration.
Baby sign language can be introduced at any age and we have had lots of parents over the years who have used it with their Down Syndrome children and experienced lots of benefits.
Children with Down syndrome are often easily distracted. When introducing baby sign language to your child, you’ll need to employ strategies that work to minimize distractions such as using a slightly more structured environment and keeping the noise level down.
Be sure to incorporate motivational signs into your routine. Motivational signs are words that your child loves. Examples could include teddy bear, music, books, dog, cat etc.
In most cases, speech experts encourage parents of children with Down syndrome to introduce sign language early. These children will often use signs for emphasis or clarification. Baby sign language greatly reduces frustration for babies and children as well as adults. According to research, most words that are signed are eventually spoken and evolve into spontaneous speech.
Combining sign language with the spoken word supports the formation of spoken language.
If you have a baby with Down syndrome using baby sign can be a great way to start their communication development path.
Try downloading our free baby sign chart with some beginner signs to get started today.