In this video I talked about introducing a late talker to sign language as a means of temporary communication. This may sound strange, because our aim is to get them to talk, right? I do this for three extremely important reasons:
- Sign language decreases frustration. It is awful for a toddler that cannot communicate. By teaching them to sign, even just as a temporary tool, they are able to communicate and this brings massive relief to them, and the parent.
- The child will learn the power of communication and may actually be more motivated to talk since they learn how handy it is to be able to say what you need to say.
- We cannot force a child to talk – it happens in the brain and their throat. But we can, through physical prompting, teach a child to sign. It is an amazing teaching tool.
Parents in my speech therapy practice are initially concerned that their child will start relying on sign language so heavily that it will be a barrier to learning to talk. There is a consensus in research at the moment that sign language actually supports a child’s ability to speak, rather than hindering it.
- Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49(2), pp. 248–264.
- Cattani, A., Rossini, P., & Volterra, V. (1998). Teaching Sign Language to Hearing Children as a Possible Factor in Cognitive Enhancement. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 3(2), pp. 135–142.
- Credit for Laura Mize for: “You cannot make a child speak but you can take their little hands and make them sign,” and other elements that are based on her teaching: Teach me to Talk, 2016. 11 Skills Toddlers MUST Use Before Words. Episodes 275-290. [podcast] Teach me to Talk. Available at: https://teachmetotalk.com/tag/laura-mize-podcast/.