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Sign Language causing a speech delay?
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hmrm1020 posted:
Ok so I have 4 children and I am pregnant with #5. One of my children has down syndrome and at 4 is still non verbal. We use sign language with her as well as our other children. Well in talking with my mom today she brought up the fact that she saw my husband using sign language with our 1 year old and she said that it is ridiculous that he will NEVER talk. She claims a friend of hers only had 12 more credits to go to become a speech pathologist and she says that you should never use sign language with children. Everyone who I have spoken with in reference to my child with down syndrome has said that is a great way to communicate with her so she doesn't get frustrated as well as my 1 year old. My question is now my mother has me second guessing how I am raising my children and that I may be doing something to hurt them. She has made me feel like I am a horrible mother. When I try to defend myself we end up getting into an arguement about it. My 1 year old needs tubes and even the ENT said that it was great that we are using sign language with our children that sign language is a precursor for speech. So what is your take on the whole situation? I feel like a failure as a mother thanks to mine.
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Roy Benaroch, MD responded:
Many parents teach signs with their children starting as babies and toddlers. It seems like a fun way to communicate when they're too little to talk. I have dozens, maybe hundreds of families who are doing this, and I've never seen any issues with speech delay.

There are many books and websites dedicated to "baby signs." Take a look at Amazon or google that phrase, you'll see that it's become very popular.

You didn't ask, but a similar question sometimes arises when babies are raised in bilingual households. Those kids do NOT have speech problems-- they just learn two languages at the same time. Babies are amazing. Teaching to sign, or teaching a second (or third!) language, will not slow them down!
 
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Indiaguerita responded:
No offense, but your mother is completely incorrect.

First of all, her approach to your parenting style is horrible. Suggesting something is different than attacking your parenting capabilities.

From now on, I would simply tell her: Thanks for the advice mom. And drop it. If she continues to berate you or question you, remove yourself from the situation.

As far as whether or not the children's speech is delayed...I would say that depends if you and your husband are verbal at all to the children. Are you speaking while you do the sign language? If you are not speaking and you are relying solely on the sign language, then yes...their speech will probably be delayed a little.

Sign language is a form of communication, and unless your children are deaf - eventually they will learn to speak. Furthermore, all children learn at different speeds. None of my children were speaking at age one. (Maybe simple words but definitely not phrases or sentences.)

I think what you are teaching your children is perfectly fine. It's like teaching them to be bilingual. If your mom has a problem with it then tell her you have consulted with a doctor (who has a medical degree) and they told you it was fine.

-Laura
 
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seeit2 responded:
My DS is 15 months and has an expressive speech delay. We can talk until we are blue in the face (and we do!) and he will not make any speech sounds yet. So we are teaching him sign -he has about 5 right now that he uses regularly - and it has done us all a world of good. My speech therapist comes to my house and teaches me signs at this point, and I teach him. So yes, your mom is wrong. A child can speak 5 words or have 5 signs, at this age they all qualify as "speech" and show progress and possibility.
 
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fiannakyn replied to seeit2's response:
my mom IS a speech pathologest that worked with children age birth to 6 years for over 30 years. She said that signing with babies is a great way for the baby to learn communication and start the pathways so speach is easier to learn. She went on to tell me if you continue to encurage speaking children to learn American Sign Language, they can grow up biligual in ASL as well as English. Especialy for the OP with the DS child, this way the rest of the family can comunicate with her even if she never has a large verbal vocabulary. So not only is your mom wrong, but she's being hurtful torwards your older daughter. Not teaching the other children sign language would hamper their communication with her.

I agree with PP who said to tell your mother that you apreciate her advice and leave it at that, or if she continues, you can say that you have had professional advice you were following. 12 credit hours short of a SP degree is a low Junor grade. they havent even had the really hard classes yet.
 
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hmrm1020 responded:
Thanks to everyone for their input. I am SO HAPPY to hear that I am not crazy in thinking that my husband's and my way of teaching our children signs is wrong or hurtful. My husband and I use both the signs as well as the verbal words so the children see the sign and hear the word. I have actually gotten words of praise from strangers in the stores when they see me signing to my children, they have said that they think it is great that a parent is willing to basically, like you have said here, teach their children a second language. Thanks again I feel so much better about my decision in teaching my children sign language. I have told my mom that the doctors think it is great, but you are talking about a person who thinks that if a doctor says something she doesn't like that you should get a second opinion. When I was pregnant with my daughter with DS she kept telling me that tests are wrong and that I should get a second and third opinion. I had the amnio done and I think back to her saying this and just think that she couldn't accept the fact that I wasn't having a "perfect" child.

Thanks again!


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