Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sign language for babies - SRR

There is a way to improve the communication with toddlers as of the age of five months. Shrink Rap Radio featured a fascinating interview with Nancy Hanauer. Hanauer was a special education teacher who got word of an idea to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to babies, and started doing so, also to hearing babies. She started out with several workshops, but soon found herself teaching parents and babies full time. In many ways this is a great success.

The vocal chords start to develop around the age of nine months to a sufficient degree that the beginning of speech becomes possible. However, at the age of five months, babies already have enough control over their hands to make the use of sign language possible. Nancy Hanauer and the parents she has educated, have managed to learn some sign language to babies already before the age of nine months, thus opening more effective communication at a very early stage. Long term advantages are better brain development, greater communication and social skills and better abaility to learn other languages and to converse with the deaf.

I backed of a little bit with an idea Hanauer addresses: if a toddler has already learned ASL, why would he start talking at all? It turns out however, spoken language has enough advantages for the child to pick up along the ASL. An additional interesting observation is that even when ASL has already been phased out, the child retains the ability and this is shown repeatedly, most notably when the next sibling arrives and needs to be taught ASL.

Host Dr. Dave has pulled off yet another unique and good quality issue of his podcast.

On March 5th I was contacted by Nancy Hanauer who expressed two concerns with this review. One was that I published her photo, which I removed immediately and the other was that I suggested she invented teaching sign language to hearing babies, which is not the case. I have rephrased the wording of this blog post accordingly.

More Shrink Rap Radio on this blog:
Doll Work and what with the brain,
Confronting Death (and more),
Process Work,
Leadership and AI.

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