In the past, sign language has been considered a way to communicate with deaf people. This skill has broadened in scope to include anyone with a communication disorder. Today, sign language has an entirely new meaning. It has become a wonderful way to communicate with infants and non-talking toddlers. Sign language has been thoroughly proven to enhance an infant’s language and communication development. One of the most trusted measures of language development in infants and toddlers is the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test ( PPVT ). It has measured hundreds of young children and the results clearly support the use of sign language in greatly increasing the rate and efficiency of language development in infants and toddlers.
Researchers at the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience in La Jolla, California have compartmentalized three distinct types of processing when it comes to the neurobiology of sign language.
The first is motion processing. Everyone groups patterns of motion, but people who sign show dominance for grouping in the left hemisphere of the brain. Those who do not sign show a dominance for grouping in the right side of the brain. By learning to sign, both sides of the brain can be utilized to develop this skill. Thus a signing infant will have an advantage over a non-signing infant simply because both sides of the signing infant’s brain has been trained and utilized and this will eventually provide distinct advantages in future learning.
The second is face processing. This skill allows the signing babu to learn, process and recognize subtle face changes to incorporate in their future interactions and learning.
The third type of processing is using mental imagery. To sign correctly, a signer must translate spoken words into signs. This process must be done very quickly and requires a fast reaction time. Again, these are skills than a young infant can add to their repertoire
of talents to aid in future development.
Signing is a wonderful way for parents to interact with their infants and the joy and closeness it facilitates has emotional and societal benefits as well. So you new parents out there, learn the basics of signing and open up a whole new world to your infants and toddlers.