One of the foundation skills for learning to talk is Imitation. Copying skills are often practiced in these contexts;
- action nursery rhymes / finger plays
- Simon Says games
- funny faces
- signing / gestures
Learning how to sign or gesture has many benefits for language &/or developmentally delayed children. It develops imitation skills and can be a bridge to further communication development. Always sign and talk at the same time! Using signs / gestures with hearing children should never be done silently.
Most countries have their own sign language which is usually based on the sign language used in the deaf community. (Australia -Auslan, the US – ASL and in the UK – BSL.) Key Word Sign (KWS)is the combination of manual signs and natural gesture, used to support communication. It is designed for use with children and adults who have communication difficulties. Key Word Sign is used internationally and uses the signs of the host country.
We have chosen some resources which are useful for young toddlers or developmentally delayed children who are starting out with sign. They are a combination of Auslan, ASL and BSL, so you might need to choose your signs carefully with the aid of a speech pathologist.
These are our picks for recommended resources for early signing;
These small, sturdy board books have a picture of an object (eg cat) and then a photo of a baby doing the sign. Clear photo images and a simple design make this a great starter for learning some first signs.
These books are in the design of a child’s picture book with coloured line drawings. The pages are quite busy with lots of information – better for an older child. There are also nursery rhyme books with actions for the rhymes like Incy Wincy Spider& Wheels on the Bus.
Another series with topics like Mealtime, Getting Ready, Playtime, Going out. These books are very similar to the Annie Kubler series with line drawings best suited to an older toddler / child. The signs are based on BSL – British Sign Language.
I Can Do That! A beautifully illustrated book with line drawings of actions that young children like to do. Kiss, drink, eat etc. A great way for children to copy a natural daily action.
This book is difficult to find unfortunately! You will need to track it down on Amazon or Ebay. However, it is a beautiful way to introduce some very easy gestures. The book has about 5 different animal actions. Each page has one child dressed up an an animal doing an animal gesture. These are not based on Auslan – they are more natural actions.
Baby Faces– this is a short, simple board book with different facial expressions. These are not signs, just copycat faces to try if you are developing some imitation skills. Use a mirror to show your child what he is doing or a photo from your phone. Make silly faces and combine noises too!
Signing Smart – My first Signs. This book has both an adult and child doing the same sign. See if you can copy the parent one and the child one.
Baby Sign & Learn Cards. This is a new series using Keyword signs from Auslan. There are double-sided flashcards, a book and even an App. The double sided cards have a photo of an object on one side and then flip over to a cartoon baby doing the sign.
Teach your Baby to Sign. Very clear set of photo cards of a young child doing early signs.
Signing Stars. There are a few sets to purchase all in Auslan. The line drawings on one side show a baby sign and the other side have a photo of the animal/object.
Auslan Flashcards– a set of cards with line drawings of a person signing and clipart. For the more advanced user.
Useful websites in Australia
Please note the following statement.
It is the position of Speech Pathology Australia that the best way to successfully stimulate children’s speech and language development is by talking to them and sharing joint experiences. If parents wish to use baby sign with their children, Speech Pathology Australia would recommend that sign is always accompanied by talking. However, using baby sign is not necessary for successful language acquisition in normally developing children. Research does suggest that the use of augmentative communication, such as sign, is beneficial for children with developmental delays and/or those who are at risk of speech and language difficulties.