FAQ's - Answered by Joesph Garcia
Question 1: How will sign language affect our baby's language development?
Through signs, babies learn that their thoughts can be conveyed symbolically. For example, a baby may think "All I have to do is touch my fingers to my lips and my parents will understand that I'm hungry!" Babies also learn that language can be used to influence others. "I can get Dad to put more crackers on my plate if I sign MORE." Signing lets babies begin to explore and understand the basic functions of language at a very early age.

Babies can use signs to choose the topic of conversation. This allows them to direct an adult's attention to the things they want to investigate. "All I have to do to get my parents to tell me more about airplanes is make the sign for AIRPLANE."

In addition to giving babies an early understanding of the functions of language, signs help reinforce the meaning of spoken words, especially when both words and signs are used simultaneously.

Children in multi-lingual environments also benefit from signing. Many families use signs as a common link between two (or more) different languages spoken in the home.

Question 2: Why is the SIGN with your BABY® program based on American Sign Language?
Since its introduction in the United States in 1817, ASL has evolved into the accepted gestural language of North America. It is standardized throughout the United States and Canada, and is currently the third most commonly-used language in North America.

Using a standardized language not only provides family members with a unified system of communication, but also offers childcare providers a consistent means to better serve the needs of all children. When a family uses a collection of fabricated "home signs" and gestures with their baby, it greatly decreases the likelihood that the child will be able to communicate with other families, caregivers, and children. SIGN with your BABY®® also provides a foundation for the continued learning of ASL throughout a child's life.

Question 3: Will it be difficult for our baby to learn and understand the signs used in the SIGN with your BABY® Program?
No. Most babies learn to identify and then form signs quickly. The structure of ASL is compatible with the nature of language development in infants. One sign can relate an entire concept. Young children begin communicating using one-word sentences (in this case, one-gesture sentences) to express complete thoughts or needs. For example, by making a single meaningful gesture by raising their arms, they are able to communicate "Pick me up!"

ASL signs are also very iconic; in many cases, the signs resemble the objects or concepts they represent. This will help both you and your child remember signs.

Question 4: Will it be difficult for me to learn to sign with our baby?
No. Successfully communicating with your baby does not require fluency in ASL. Rather, we recommend introducing signs that are relevant to your child's interaction with the world. We provide a collection of 145 illustrated signs in the SIGN with your BABY® Book, all of which are demonstrated by author Joseph Garcia on the Instructional Video, and 54 of the most commonly-used signs on the Quick Reference Guide, from which you may select signs that are meaningful to your baby. It is most important to be consistent while signing: identify which signs you wish to use, and use them frequently during interactions with your baby.

Question 5: What should I do to learn more about ASL, Deaf culture, and my local Deaf community?
ASL is a beautiful language and a gift from the Deaf community, and we applaud your desire to become more involved in its usage! Check with your local community college or Continuing Education Program for a beginning ASL course, visit a nearby Center on Deafness, and seek out the many excellent online resources for information on Deaf culture and your local Deaf community.

Question 6: Does signing with babies delay their speech development?
Research conclusively indicates that babies who sign tend to have a stronger command of verbal language and often begin speaking at an earlier age than babies who do not sign. Countless parents and caregivers have confirmed these findings with their personal experiences and observations. In addition, many Speech-Language professionals, pediatricians, and educators are supporting the use of signs to encourage early language development.

Question 7: Are the SIGN with your BABY® materials necessary?
Many years were spent developing the SIGN with your BABY® materials so that parents and babies would be successful in their signing endeavors. The process of correctly using signs with your baby is as important, if not more important, than understanding the concept of why signing is helpful. Joseph Garcia understood the stress that signing with babies presents to parents, and developed a program to offer them a straightforward step-by-step method to incorporating signs into their daily routines. By simplifying the process, parents are enabled to enhance the communication they share with their children and reduce the stress resulting from "guessing" what their baby needs, wants, and observes.

Question 8: Can we make up our own signs if a sign is not available?
Even though the SIGN with your BABY® program is based on American Sign Language, there will always be a need for a few special signs for people, pets, or unique toys. Joseph Garcia suggests that you and your baby create these signs together using simple gestures and movements. However, be sure that you document these "home signs" so that others who interact with your baby can learn and use them.

Question 9: Was this program developed for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing?
No. The SIGN with your BABY® program was developed for hearing babies and hearing parents. However, because the program is based on American Sign Language, it is also useful for children who have special needs, including deaf children. It is important to remember that children who will use ASL as their primary form of communication will need the support of other professionals who will teach them all elements of ASL.

Many professionals are recommending signing for children who have special needs, including children who are Autistic, learning-disabled, or developmentally-delayed. Additionally, medically-challenged children who are intubated or who have tracheotomies and are unable to speak can also benefit from signing.

Question 10: What is the optimal age to introduce signs to our baby?
No age is too early to begin learning and modeling signs with your baby, though most babies will be physically unable to reproduce signs until the sixth to eighth month. A baby needs to develop memory, dexterity, and cognition adequate for recognizing, retaining, and producing signs. At the same time, it's never too late to start; even toddlers who have a few spoken words can significantly benefit from signing. Learning specific signs for "ball", "bath", and "bottle" can help distinguish the specific word when "ba-ba" is used for all three items. Using the sign paired with the baby's spoken sound can help reduce frustration for both you and your baby. The SIGN with your BABY® program will help guide you through this process.

Question 11: How long will it take for our baby to produce signs?
You should take into account the age of your child, how frequently you and other caregivers use the signs, and how interested the child is in communicating. Some parents see results within a few days, others wait several weeks, and others, months. Consistently using a few signs on a daily basis is the key to success in this program. The further along children are in their development, the sooner they may begin to produce signs.

Allow a few moments for your child to respond after you have followed the correct process of signing while speaking a word. Over-anticipating your child's needs may prevent them from taking the time to draw on their memory and cognition in order to communicate.

Remember, all babies are different and they will develop along their own unique timelines. Be patient and consistent. Before long, you will experience the joy of witnessing your child's first attempts at two-way communication.

Question 12: Are there some babies who will never be able to reproduce signs?
All typically-developing babies possess the capacity to understand and reproduce signs. Gesturing is part of a baby's natural communication process. Using standardized signs allows the baby a more specific and meaningful means of communicating. However, some babies may be unable to reproduce signs due to motor or cognitive delays. Should you have any concerns about your child's development, contact your pediatrician or Speech-Language Professional.

Question 13: What scientific research supports the idea of signing with babies?
Joseph Garcia first researched the concept of learning and teaching signs to babies in 1987 as part of his Master's Program at Alaska Pacific University. A longitudinal study was conducted at the University of California at Davis by Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. This study, which followed babies through their eighth year, indicated that signing with babies offers many benefits, including a strengthened parent-child bond, increased interest in books, enhanced verbal language development, and higher IQs.

Question 14: What if my childcare provider doesn't use signs?
Many childcare providers embrace the idea of communicating with babies through signs when they discover signing greatly reduces frustration levels for both babies and childcare providers. We receive positive feedback on a daily basis from childcare providers who are signing in early childhood education settings. They indicate that the decreased frustration has greatly reduced incidents of hitting, biting, screaming, and the overall noise level associated with an early childhood education environment. Encourage your childcare provider to consider adding signs to their daily routine in order to support your child's language development. If your childcare provider is unaware of the many benefits of signing with babies, you can direct them to the variety of information found on our Web site at www.sign2me.com. Demonstrating the signs your child already knows is a powerful way to reinforce the effect signing has on communication.

Question 15: Can we introduce signing in a bilingual environment?
Yes. Many families use sign as the common denominator for teaching several spoken language. Signs serve as a visual representation, creating a bridge between two spoken words that sound different. Initially, as speech begins, your baby may mix various words from different languages together in one sentence. Research indicates that young children in bilingual environments eventually develop fluency in both languages. It is very unlikely that you will overwhelm your child if you incorporate multiple languages into your daily routine. Make the languages part of everything you do, and use signing to assist comprehension. Parents of foreign-born adopted children have found signing to be extremely helpful in bridging the immediate communication barrier, providing both parent and child a common, shared language.

Question 16: Are SIGN with your BABY® materials being developed in languages other than English and ASL?
The only non-ASL version currently available is the UK Edition of SIGN with your BABY®, which is based on British Sign Language (BSL). We are currently in the process of developing other international versions.

Question 17: Can signing be a benefit to older children who are already speaking?
Most preschool and elementary-age children love signing, as it engages their minds and their bodies. They love the movement, rhythm, and flow of sign language. Pairing the fun of signing with music is an excellent activity for children ages 3-8. The rhythm of the music, coordinated with the movements of the signs, is an excellent motor coordination activity that also builds language skills. This is also an appropriate time to teach children about the diverse populations who use ASL as a primary means of communication. There is research indicating that the use of signs can assist with the development of early literacy skills.

Question 18: If I want to sign music, do I have to sign each word in a song?
No. In fact, word-for-word signing would present an enormous challenge, even to the most fluent of ASL users. When signing to music, it is best to select the key words in a song. For example, if you were signing and signing "If You're Happy", you would point to the person (which is the sign for "you") and then sign "happy" with a questioning look on your face.

Courtesy of "Sign2Me & Northlight Communications"


  Give the gift they will never outgrow -- teach them to communicate.