Monday, 8 October 2012

Signing in Babies Does Not Accelerate Language Development

So many times, you hear proud parents saying of their little bundles of joy, “I’m sure she’s trying to speak… I wonder what she wants to say”.  That’s why many mothers join baby signing courses so that they can start to communicate with their little one before he or she is able to talk.  But more than that, they want to give them a head start in learning to speak.

Can baby signing really accelerate babies learning to talk or even increase their vocabulary, as many baby sign supporters claim?  Or are there other benefits to baby signing?

Lara and Rosie asking for "more"
 - they're still hungry!
Researchers led by Dr Liz Kirk, from the Department of Psychology, found no evidence to support the claims that baby signing helps to accelerate babies’ language development but did find that mothers were more responsive to their babies’ non-verbal clues.

Babies learnt gestures and used them to communicate long before they started talking, However, they did not learn the associated words any quicker than the group of non-gesturing babies, nor did they did they show enhanced language development.

But interestingly, the study’s findings revealed that mothers who gestured with their babies were more responsive to their babies and also thought of them as an individual with a mind.  This has great potential in clinical situations where early gestures from babies or young children may provide timely interventions where there is risk of language delay or impairment.

The full research paper “To Sign or Not to Sign? The Impact of Encouraging Infants to gesture on Infant Language and Maternal Mind-Mindednessis published at Child Development.

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