…NO! Simply put, it will NOT delay your child’s speech.
It is a misconceived notion that using sign language with your young child will delay their ability to speak. The research shows quite the opposite and is in support of using sign language to help your child become verbal. In other words, sign language can be the bridge between no communication and getting your kiddo to speak! So rather than getting into all the nitty gritty of the research, let’s chat about several signs you can get started with TODAY!
If I were to hold a speech-language session with you and your child and your child was not yet speaking, here are some of the signs we would get started with right away, in session #1:
More, Open & Bubbles
I recommend starting with “MORE” because it is a great word to help your child request more food, more play, and continuation of any activity. It is a POWERFUL word for them to learn!
Next, I recommend teaching “OPEN” while making sure they need help opening different items (here’s a tip: put things in clear plastic bags so they have to ask for help getting them out). This could be a toy, a snack, a straw they need to drink their juice. Whatever it is, be creative and show them how to ask for you to open it so they will in turn repeat the sign (or even the verbal label).
Lastly, “BUBBLES” is a fun word and a very successful way to get a child to communicate. I would vouch to say that 95% of children I work with will communicate in some way, shape or form when bubbles are involved! You can close the bubbles, have them ask you to open them (then open them up if they sign or say open) and ask “what do you want?” modeling the sign for bubbles while you say bubbles. Don’t give them the bubbles until they have requested them or you have helped them to request them (e.g., by helping them make the sign with their hands).
2 Tips To Make This Successful:
1. ALWAYS pair the sign with it’s verbal label. So when you sign “more”, say “more”! When you sign “open”, say “open”. When you sign “bubbles”, say “bubbles”…you get the idea 😉
2. Follow the rule of 3. If you have asked your child to do the sign 3 times and they do not. Take their hands while you say the word and make the sign with their hands (this is called “hand over hand”), then say YAY you said “more” (or whatever the sign was you are working on) and immediately give them what they were requesting more of!
For those of you who are waiting to get in to see a speech language pathologist, this is a great place to start! Go get started right now! What are you waiting for? 😉