Hot Trend Lets Babies' Fingers Do The Talking

Sign Language Opens Up Communication For Parents, Babies

Most infants will utter their first words by the time they turn 1, but babbling babies can let their fingers do the talking through sign language.

It's a hot trend that's opening up communication for parents of young children.

Monta Briant is hands-on when talking with her son, Aiden.

Since birth, she's been teaching him American sign language, or ASL, even though he can hear just fine.

"Even at only 3 weeks old, if he saw me sign the sign for milk, he would actually start crying. He knew exactly what it meant very, very early on," said Briant.

Now at 18 months, Briant said Aiden knows how to sign more than 150 words, allowing him to manually communicate what he can't say.

"Really, a baby's brain is capable. They're capable of communicating by signing long before they can talk," said Briant.

The concept is based on years of research by Dr. Joseph Garcia, who founded the "Sign With Your Baby" system. It's a program used by hundreds of certified instructors teaching parents and babies ASL across the country.

"Signing is different than verbal language in that there's an eye connection. You must look at someone when you're signing to them," said Garcia.

Garcia said most babies can begin learning ASL at about 6 to 8 months. Along with signs, they learn the importance of eye contact, as well as how to stop, look and listen.

The more signs they learn, the more it could reduce those tantrums that come with the "terrible twos" because they're not as frustrated with communicating what's on their minds.

The three easiest signs with which to start are eat, more and milk. Simply add those gestures when speaking to your baby, and with enough repetition, your baby will eventually associate the sign with its meaning, 10News reported.

But be patient, it could take weeks or even months for younger babies to sign back.

And when they do, will gesturing delay their speech development? It's a common concern brought up to speech pathologists at Children's Hospital.

"(You should say) the word as you're signing the word. What we've found is that children will actually start speaking sooner when you pair both the gesture and the word. And typically once they have the verbal words, they'll drop the sign out," said Dr. Sharri Garrett.

Briant loved baby signing so much, she's now made a business out of it, offering special playgroups.

And she published a book for parents called "Baby Sign Language Basics" with easy instructions on how to gesture 60 popular words.

Parents say the process is not only fun, but it allows them to connect with their baby in ways they never thought possible.

"Communication with your child is so much easier and better, and just being able to interact with them (is) absolutely wonderful," said signing parent Suzanne Morrow.

For more information on baby sign language, click here.

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