Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sign Lanugage for Babies!


Goodwyn, Susan W.; Acredolo, Linda P.; Brown, Catherine A.; "Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development." Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Pgs. 24, 81-103. 2002.

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of gesturing on children's verbal development. Between the age ten months and twenty-four months infants' vocabulary develops with much frustration on the part of both an infant and the caregiver. This longitudinal study observed three groups of infants to compare results of infant verbal development when using signs to communicate. Two of these groups were control groups without any exposure to using signs with their infants. These infants' language development was measured at 11, 15, 19, 24, 20 and 36 months. The focus of this study targeted group differences in verbal development.

Infants from Northern California were chosen for this study. Infants who experienced ear infections of 5 or more were eliminated or who previously had exposure to a second language. The weakness of this study is the lack of cultural diversity, the majority of participants, 90were Caucasian. One hundred and three infants were chosen, fifty-eight were boys and forty-five were girls.

One control group was given no exposure to gesturing to their infants, one control group was asked to focus on vocabulary development with their infant and the experimental group was asked to use signs and verbal vocabulary words with their child. A baseline measure of vocalization frequency during a 15-minute period of play was taken before the study began and no differences between groups were observed. Standardized instructions were used with each family.

Spontaneous use of signs, use beyond the specific context of the sign (generalized outside of the family situation) and use in a stereotyped situation were threaded throughout the criteria used for outcome measures.
The differences between groups indicated success in teaching infants how to communicate their internal world, positively impacting their vocal development. The infants were able to communicate daily activities in surprising detail. At no age of measurement did the control groups perform higher than the experimental group. These results indicated symbolic intervention not only facilitates early language development, it also indicates simply including verbal language intervention does not stimulate early verbal development as was previously indicated.

Some discussions on the differences of the caregiver's responses to gesturing were also included. It is possible a caregiver that emphasized gesturing in communication will reinforce this with their own responsive body language. Scaffolding power is credited with the success of this research. By utilizing gesturing to an infant the caregiver is encouraging and emphasizing the importance of communication. They are supplying a platform in which a toddler can move from their internal world to a verbal world of expression. "Just as learning to crawl increases rather than decreases the child's motivation to walk, use of gestures increases rather than decreases the child's motivation to talk."

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