" My son Callum and I have been participating in Bizzy Bee Signing classes since he was about six months old. I love to communicate and believe that teaching my son good communication skills is very important. Teaching him to sign means that he..."

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When did interest in baby signing emerge?

Tristan signing 'milk'

Signing with hearing children, and with babies in particular, has become hugely popular in recent years. But is this really a new phenomenon?

You may be surprised to hear that interest in baby signing goes back over thirty years. Dr Joseph Garcia was one of the forerunners in this field. While studying American Sign Language (ASL) at the University of Alaska in the 1970s, he noticed that babies born to deaf parents were able to communicate basic needs and desires by the age of nine months, while babies of the same age born to hearing parents were lagging far behind. His own son’s learning of ASL provided much of the basis for Garcia’s research into using ASL with hearing babies.

Around the time Garcia was carrying out his research, similar research was being carried out by Drs Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn from the University of Davis in California. Here too, observation of their own children’s communication was the inspiration for much of the research. They noticed that babies naturally point, wave and gesture in order to communicate before they can speak. Acredolo and Goodwyn’s research concentrated on the development of babies who were signed to, compared to babies who were not, and looked at a set of children at the ages of 2, 3 and 8 in order to assess the long-term impact of signing.

Over the years, interest in baby signing for hearing children as well as children with developmental issues has grown steadily and considerably, with more and more research backing up those original theories. For example, comprehensive research by Dr Marilyn Daniels, professor of communication arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University, has looked into a variety of issues ranging from increased brain development, increased vocabulary gain and literacy, to improved self esteem and interest in learning.