Sign languages refer to the means of communication that utilize manual communication in conveying meaning. The sign languages often include the employment of hand gesture movement, arms or the body, the orientation of the fingers, as well as the expressions of the face to convey the ideas of the speaker (Battison, 1978). The language shares various similarities with the respective spoken language in the given country resulting into languages such as the American Sign Language (ASL) for the United States, Canada and other countries, la Langue des Signes Quebecoise (LSQ) for the Quebecers of Canada, British Sign Language (BSL) of United Kingdom and various other sign languages.
The sentence structure, as well as the grammar for these languages, may often vary to increase their fluidity and efficiency while they are spoken. Nonetheless, it is always important to note that the intelligible transition existing in the spoken language is not reflected in the sign languages. Thus, the countries that share a common language such as the United States and the United Kingdom does not have a common sign language. Instead, the United States has the American Sign Language (ASL), while the United Kingdom have their British Sign Language. These sign languages were formed independently from the national languages thus are independent and unintelligible.
In addition to these systems of signing, there exist another established system of signing known as the Makaton. The Makaton system of signing comprises of the keyword manual gestures as well as signs which are extensively used by the young children as well as other adults who have difficulties in expressing themselves through vocal languages, communication, and learning difficulties. This system of communication is just aid but not a language. The Makaton system of communication lacks its grammar as well as fluency to be used by these individuals as that of the ASL which is used by the deaf people.
Nonetheless, the system implements the use of common signs which are often greatly beneficial no matter the method used in the delivery of the intended message. The ability of the individuals to sign the basic words in the Makaton system of communication has proved to be vital in boosting the communication through the provision of a bridge between the sign languages to the spoken words. The use of Makaton has also been demonstrated to have positive influences in the development of verbal as well as written forms of communication in small children.
Nonetheless, the sign language systems have greatly been implemented in various occasions. The language has been key in aiding individuals experiencing difficulties in communications as well as learning the vocal language. Primarily, the language was developed to aid individuals with disabilities such as the hearing impairments and other developmental disabilities such as mental retardation and autism who cannot effectively communicate using the vocal language (Thompson et al., 2007).
The use of sign language has been considered to be one of the best alternatives for individuals with undeveloped as well as poor motor controls but have adequate manual control such as the infants. Thus, it becomes easier to teach the children as well as these other individuals the oral language by the use of sign language because signing is often physically prompted by the parents as well as other caregivers.
These advantages of signing have prompted various clinicians as well as researchers to recommend the teaching of the sign language to the developing children in their early stages of the life of approximately up to two years (Goodwyn, Acredelo, and Brown, 2000). The recommendation by these researchers and clinicians have been largely supported by various other studies that have been conducted where the hearing infants were exposed to the sign language. The studies exposed these infants at very early ages than their first spoken languages. Researchers such as the Bonvillian Orlansky and Novack (1983) undertook a study on eleven hearing children who were born of deaf parents.
The results demonstrated positive responses from the children with the mean age of the children having their first signs at the age of 8.5 months. A similar study by Goodwyn and Acredolo (1993), demonstrated that encouraging the hearing parents to use the sign languages such as body gestures to communicate with their kids made it easier for them to communicate and it produced a faster response than when the vocals were used.
However, various parents have raised concerns due to the superstition that the use of the sign language at early ages would slow the development of their children in learning the vocal language. This belief by some parents was however disapproved by the research undertaken by Goodwyn, Acredelo, and Brown (2000) where they demonstrated that the use of sign language would facilitate as opposed to hindering the development of the vocal language in the toddlers. The study focused on the infants with parents who introduced them to the use of the signing such as the symbolic gestures. The results of the study clearly demonstrated that those infants who were exposed to the use of gestures at early stages of their lives by far outperformed the other children who had their parents training them only on the use of the vocal languages when they were presented with a follow up test and well as an expressive vocal language.
The result from such studies demonstrated the positive effects that the sign language has on the vocal language development of hearing infants. Nonetheless, these studies have provided little guidance on the effectiveness of the training procedures implemented by these parents as well as their children during the training procedures of the sign language (Thompson et al., 2007). Their training primarily consisted of delayed physical promptings as well as reinforcements of the signs. The main limitation of the study conducted by these individuals was that the sign language used was only done under the experimental conditions thus would be difficult to estimate the results would it have been undertaken under uncontrolled conditions (Bonvillian, Orlansky & Novack, 1983).
Mostly the sign language used in training the kids is often the baby sign language. The baby sign language is a special type of sign language which is used in communicating with the toddlers and infants who have not fully developed the vocal language (Bonvillian, Orlansky & Novack, 1983). Over the past few decades, the language has increasingly become popular as it has widely been implemented to assist the young children in expressing their wishes as well as needs in their early stages of development than they could due to lack of the developed vocal language.
The experts of this domain believe that the use of baby signing by parents would greatly help reduce the frustrations and tantrums during these stages of child development by reducing and closing the existing gap existing between the desire to communicate by the small children and their ability to effectively deliver their intended message.
The parent of the infants of about six years of age can begin teaching their children the basic signs covering their daily objects as well as concepts such as the sleepy, more, play, teddy bear, milk, thirsty, water, cold, hot, bath, and so much more. Various specialists in the sector such as Joseph Garcia, who is an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter undertook a research which demonstrated that toddlers exposed to the use of the sign language at their early stages the of development regularly and consistently were able to effectively communicate by the use of these sign languages in their eighth month of existence.
The infants who are taught to use the baby sign languages at the early stages of their development are also thought to undergo through loads of psychological benefits such as the improved self-esteem as well as confidence. The use of the sign language may also reduce the frequent feeling of anger by the small children due to their inability to communicate. The ability to use the sign language by the small children may become a lifesaver on various occasions when a child gets too distraught to be able to speak clearly. Thus, signing can be viewed an advantageous and aiding practice that ought to be taught to the young infants with the ability to hear as it has enormous benefits. Above all, it aids bonding between the infants and their family members with the ability to communicate.
Battison, R. (1978). Lexical borrowing in American Sign Language.
Bonvillian, J. D., Orlansky, M. D., & Novack, L. L. (1983). Developmental milestones: Sign language acquisition and motor development. Child Development, 1435-1445.
Goodwyn, S. W., & Acredolo, L. P. (1993). Symbolic gesture versus word: Is there a modality advantage for the onset of symbol use?. Child Development, 64(3), 688-701.
Goodwyn, S. W., Acredolo, L. P., & Brown, C. A. (2000). Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24(2), 81-103.
Thompson, R. H., CotnoirBichelman, N. M., McKerchar, P. M., Tate, T. L., & Dancho, K. A. (2007). Enhancing early communication through infant sign training. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 40(1), 15-23.
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