If your child has a speech delay, experts suggest trying sign language to spur communication and cut down on frustration while you work on speech.
Having a late talker can be very frustrating — for you as well as your little one. If your toddler has been determined to have a speech delay, you might be surprised when your speech therapist recommends using sign language. You may wonder, “Won’t that further delay his speech?” The good news is that it will not delay his speech, and better yet, it can help encourage him to talk more.
Sign language may be looked at as a crutch for speech-delayed kids. Some feel that instead of trying to talk, the child will instead begin to rely on the signs to get his point across. Fortunately, this is not the case. Professionals know that sign language can serve as a bridge to spoken communication — a bridge that children will use while they need it, and will cross when they can.
If your child is learning signs, but you don't know any, don’t fret. It’s amazingly easy to learn the signs right along with him. If you are present at your child’s speech therapy sessions, you’ll likely be able to pick them up then and there. If you do make that effort, it will really help your child learn them because not only will you understand what he’s trying to communicate, but you can help enforce the teaching when therapy sessions are over.
Once your child realizes that signs can help get their needs and wants attended to, they will be more motivated to learn more signs, and by default, be more motivated to talk. When you sign to a child, you speak the words at the same time, and the repetition will ensure that he knows that the word belongs to the sign. That connection is valuable.
Your signing child will know what everything he loves and needs are called, and has established expressive communication for those things in the form of a sign. Once speech begins, you will be delighted to find that he already knows what everything is called, and will only have to try out the word a few times to master it.
Once your child has moved past signs and into speech, his signing months (or years) will remain a sweet memory. Make sure you try to capture the signing on camera, either snapshots of better yet, videos. He will likely hang on to a few signs for emphasis (such as signing “eat” while saying it, which can be totally adorable) and he won’t drop them all at once, but once those words begin, it’s just a matter of time.
Signing can be a fun time in your child’s life, and even in the event of a profound speech delay, it can really help with frustration and communication for your child and the rest of your family.
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