Sign language — The Bump
Toddlers: 12 - 24 Months

Sign language

Hi all!

I've looked for a recent discussion about this particular subject, but nothing really popped up. I hope it's not too repetitive...

My son is 16mo. At his 15mo check up, our ped seemed slightly concerned with his lack of vocabulary (no words, lots of babble, can imitate animal sounds, and follows direction). He is good about communicating his needs, just does not use words to do so. I am now worried about it (even though I know kids do things on their own timeline).

My question is, would sign language help or hinder his speech development? We have taught him "more" and he is now using for EVERYTHING! I feel like he would be less frustrated if he would use it to communicate, but am worried he won't speak because he can communicate with the signs! I'm torn and am looking for some advise.

Re: Sign language

  • honeydew01honeydew01 member
    edited September 2014

    First of all don't be concerned, 15 months is still young. Also, imitating animal sounds are "words" for them right now. So if he knows how to imitate a few animal sounds, he already has a few words. Also, sometimes they make up words for things or say the same sound for various things (like my daughter says "da" for shoes, sucks and hat, don't ask me why... haha) or she says "up above" to "stars". These are all words.

    We've done some sign language with my daughter. Just the basics and she did use "more" for a lot of things she wanted more of or liked us to repeat. Every time we signed "more" we'd say the word "more" as well. It took her a few months but now she started saying "more" which sounds more like "mo"!  Another example is doing the sign for "help", she did it for a while and now goes "mama hep" the words came way later the signing. I work with a pediatric speech pathologist and she encourages signing.

    Kids have a language explosion sometimes between 18-24? months. I didn't believe it either, but it's real. Mine started saying a new word everyday after she turned 18 months.


    [Deleted User]
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  • Sign language is very helpful for LO's learning to use speech effectively.  My DD was referred to EI at her 15 mo well check because she had no words, limited babbling, and was not imitated.  She started speech therapy at 17 mos and we immediately started working on sign language.  The signs I found most helpful were more, eat, drink, and all done.  But we worked on tons.  

    If you let your DS watch TV there are a great set of videos called Baby Signing Time.  They teach sign language while singing songs and there are little kids doing the signs.  They repeat the words a lot and move slowly for little kids to watch.  

    Once my DD started using sign language consistently she started to make progress with her actual speech.  It was like it clicked that she could get her needs met that way.  Please don't hesitate to teach him because he may need more time to develop speech skills and signing is a great tool.  
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  • Thanks so much for your responses! I'll will obviously keep encouraging his speech but add some more signs to the mix. The logical side of me knows he will talk in his own time.. But the worry wort side is freaking out a little! Thanks again
  • We started sign language with DS early on (we started around 7 months and he started repeating signs at 10 months) and it hasn't held him back in the slightest. In fact I think it has encouraged speaking bc he likes being able to communicate so that we understand and there are fewer tantrums as a result. There are a few signs that he doesn't know the words for but for the most part now he says the word at the same time as the sign. (He's 18 months).

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    ashiscute[Deleted User]
  • From what I've read sign language does not hinder language development at all, but rather encourages it.  It gives them means to communicate, and that is SO beneficial at this age.  My DD has been using signs since probably 9 months?  I can't remember exactly when we started, but now she often uses the word and the sign (which actually is helpful for when the words first come and aren't easily understandable :)) I also agree with PP that it helps limit tantrums because they often stem from the child's inability to communicate something, and with signs they are able to communicate a lot of things sooner than with words.
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  • What PPs said. Sign language does not hinder spoken language development.

    At 15m DS had zero words and a few animal sounds.  I have been signing a few words to him since he was around 6 or 7 m but it wasn't until around 14-15m when he could sign back.  

    I ended up teaching up lots of signs - and he was able to learn 40+ signs between 15-18m.  Apart from lesseing the frustration, it was also a relief to me knowing that he understood me AND was able to communicate.  

    DS's language explosion didn't really happen until closer to 20/21m.  Once he mastered the spoken words, he stopped signing, unless he is double-emphasing what he wants (eg, 'MORE!!!").  

    He is now 22.5m and within the past month, he went from only saying single words to now speaking 3-word phrases.  I still think signing was super helpful during those months when everyone else's child was talking.  My son wasn't talking but he was able to "talk" to me using signs.
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    ashiscute
  • Thanks again everyone! It's encouraging to hear your experiences ;)
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