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According to Dr. William Sears, “The key to language development is for children to learn how to speak comfortably before learning how to speak correctly. Children love the signing, they love gestures, so signing is a wonderful way for children to learn to communicate”. During the age of nine months and two years of a child’s life, they develop fine motor skills that allow them to coordinate their tongue, teeth, breathing, and vocal cords in order to talk and converse. Incredibly, fine motor skills are not mandatory in sign language. Learning baby sign language has become increasingly more popular, as it is accessible through many sources such as books and videos. The number of parents and researchers learning how useful it is to parents with infants is increasing tremendously, as the connection between the child and the parents increase tremendously until their fine motor skills develop. Recently, Linda Acredolo and her colleagues at the University of California at Davis have determined that babies have the desire to communicate. Acredolo and her team have found that babies subconsciously produce signs and gesture to communicate with their parents. Unfortunately, some parents often dismiss the use of signs because they have the misconception that if their baby spends time on focusing on mastering signs, that it will take longer for he/she to learn how to talk. According to Acredolo, Catherine A. Brown, and Susan Goodwyn signing speeds up the process of verbal language. Parents can decide if they want to begin to teach their child American Sign Language, use gestures and signs that they choose, or use signs that are derived from ASL.
There is more and more research being released that shows numerous advantages for preschoolers learning sign language in school. Researchers in Maryland discovered that preschoolers who have been introduced to ASL, such as signs for weather, colors, feelings, and numbers, have exhibited better scores on vocabulary tests compared to the students who have not been taught some ASL. In sign language, most every sign tends to look like what they mean. With this, it helps children connect the signs with the words, and grasp the meaning of the vocabulary. Research has also shown learning sign language helps children learn the alphabet and spelling. In ASL many hand symbols look like what the written letter looks like. Young children who use the ASL alphabet to spell simple words such as D-O-G can have that mental image as to how the word is spelled. For many children around this age does not have the vocabulary to express how they feel to adults or other children of a similar age. Having some knowledge of sign language gives the child the ability to communicate how they feel differently. According to Wendy Crawford, principal of Grenloch Terrace Early Childhood Center, in Sewell, New Jersey, “We learn gestures before we learn words. When we are frustrated, we sometimes revert to those instincts.” A parent can teach their child a few signs and once they master those signs; the parent is then able to teach the child signs for mad, sad, or happy. Similarly, teaching a child how to sign “sorry.” Children are more often to use sign language as a way to apologize rather than verbally apologizing.
As sign language is becoming increasingly popular today, it can be useful and enhance their benefits in the workplace for many adults. As it is becoming more accepted, more and more deaf and hard of hearing students are attending school with hearing students as the majority. Many educators are starting to become certified in ASL simply for this reason, while others are required to be certified in ASL to teach in public schools. Educators with ASL certification can teach in deaf and hearing classrooms, which can open many opportunities for educators. For the first responders, it is advantageous for them to have a base of knowledge in ASL. If a deaf or hard of hearing patient is admitted into the hospital, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires hospitals to provide appropriate means to aid in communication between the doctor and the patient, family members of the patient or visitors of the patient. If the patient needs immediate care, just a few signs can help the doctors know what is going on until the interpreter arrives. Having knowledge in sign language for many different service providers such as social workers, psychologists, and counselors are very beneficial. In the workplace, it is becoming more and more competitive and having the certification in ASL will give that particular person ahead of the game compared to those other qualified people.
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