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The Difference in Language Acquisition for Signing and Non-Signing Children

I recently read an article which highlighted in a table the differences between a signing baby and their non-signing counterpart in language acquisition.  This table appeared on an American blog called Baby Sign Shine and I thought it would be great to share it with all you Aussie parents and create an Australian version of the table below.  If you could spare 30 seconds, I would really appreciate your input to understand the key milestones Australian parents are experiencing in relation to language acquisition with their signing baby.   ASL below refers to American Sign Language, the signing system used in the U.S.
Here are the key milestones some American parents have been experiencing.

Language Acquisition of Hearing Children

 Age  Non-ASL Child  ASL Child
6-8 months - Signs first word
9 months Understands simple words (mom & dad) Signs up to 75 signs
10 months Says first word Understands signed phrases
12 months One or more real words spoken Real words spoken
Signs 2-3 word phrases
Can sit & watch a picture book signed
18 months Understands simple phrases
Says 20-50 words
Uses 2 word phrases
Says 30-70 words
Uses 2-5 word phrases
Looks at picture book with Mom
24 months Says at least 150 words
Can sit & listen to a picture book
Says at least 150 words
Can understand everything that is said
3-5 years Can understand everything that is said
Says 1000-2000 words
Knows 10 Letters
Says 1000-2000 Words
Reads a picture book with a little help
Knows all the Letters

As highlighted in the international research on baby sign language, it has been found it be very beneficial for language development and vocabulary building.  This is clearly demonstrated in the table above.  Not alone were children speaking at an earlier age, they were using a more extensive vocabulary and had the language skills of children more senior than them.

I believe that parents involved in the production of the above chart would be parents who began introducing baby sign language from day one.  “When should I start signing to my baby?” is one of the most common questions I get.  What I have found since starting Baby Hands is that parents who begin signing with their baby from day one generally get a sign back from their baby before parents who start at the 4-6 month mark.

By starting at day one, you are getting yourself into a routine in relation to everything concerning your baby and baby sign is just one of those things you include in that routine.  I have had many emails over the years from parents who started on day one and experienced their first sign back before the six month mark.  The youngest signing baby I was emailed about signed back at 4 months of age – that means the Aussie version of this table would look a little different.

But not all parents are able to start signing on day one, so do what is right for you.  You can still experience the benefits of baby sign but it would not be at the levels highlighted in the chart above.

Between 6 and 12 months of age, a lot of parents can experience the first sign back or the 10th sign back.  The chart above highlights 75 signs at 9 months of age. Different parents have different reasons and expectations for baby sign language.  I have had parents whose children have a signing vocabulary of 10 words at 12 months and others who have over 100 signs.

My advice is to keep baby sign as a fun activity you do with your baby, don’t let it stress you and you will reap the rewards.  As long as you are reducing the frustration experienced as a result of pre-verbal communication and you can understand your baby’s needs and wants, that’s the most important thing.

I generally find that the signing explosion happens in kids after the 12 month mark.  Baby signing and the signing explosion will depend on a number of factors including:

Once your baby has acquired 6-10 signs, you can begin to introduce small sign sentences to them.  Examples of this include “more milk”, “milk please” or “book finished”.  This is a great way to help your baby with language acquisition so when they do go to speak they understand they can group words together and make small sentences.

The chart above highlights the first real words from signing babies at 12 months of age.  What parents have fed back to me is that once their baby begins to speak, their speech is generally quite clear and they generally speak at an earlier age to those who are not using baby sign.  Many Baby Hands parents have been given compliments about their baby’s vocabulary, the large words they are able to pronounce and their understanding of words in general.  The big key to the table above is baby sign introduces a child’s understanding of language from a young age and this enables their communication, language development and vocabulary to grow from that point also.

Help Us To Create Our Aussie Signers Survey

I would love to get your feedback and experiences so we can create the Aussie version of the above chart.  Let me know what your experiences have been as you went through the various age brackets, how their sign developed and the impact of language and vocabulary.  I have created a quick multiple choice questionnaire to help to collate your responses. 

Please fill in the form below or you can go to the direct online version here:

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