Sue's Tiny Signers

American Sign Language for Hearing Babies,Toddlers & Adults

             Benefits of Signing with Your Tiny Signer

* Signing uses both sides of the brain. The right side -visual and the left - the process is stored. Can empower your baby to communicate with those around them before they are able to speak.  This means that your baby may be able to communicate what they want when they want it. Even better, it bridges the gap between no language and spoken language.


  • Express needs easily
  • Reduce frustration & crying
  • Bond with parents
  • Improve language development
    • Communicating concepts, such as pain, needing help, hungry
  • Develop creative skills & communication skills
  • Are stimulated intellectually
  •  Enhance self esteem
  • Reinforce memory


 Toddlers and Young Children

  • Less  “terrible twos” & frustration
  • Larger vocabularies
  • Age 2 - 50 more spoken words
    • Age 3 - age 4 level
  • Improve IQ scores & spelling skills, and imagination
  • Greater interest in books
  • Express emotion more productively
  • Learn manners at early age
  • More interactive with peers
  • Communicate outside native language group
  • Facilitated 2nd language learning
  • Learning a second language makes additional language learning easier
  • Raises communication awareness and abilities
  • Sign language is easier to learn than the spoken word
  • It's fun for children, parents and educators!
  • Enhances literacy & language acquisition
  • Enhances confidence and self-esteem
  • Enhances fine motor coordination
  • 2-sided brain activity that increases brain functions ( right-visual/left-cognitive)
  • Creates additional connections or synapses in the brain
  • For older children, Sign is increasingly recognized as a foreign language for high school and college. It is the third-fastest growing language in the United States!
  • Students in pre-kindergarten classes who received sign language instruction scored significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and benefits were maintained in kindergarten


Signing at Home

      By introducing baby sign language into your home, you are enhancing the bond with your baby. The nature of Baby sign communication leads you and your baby towards responding to each other in turn and this is a really valuable skill. Signing involves daily interactions with your baby that will eventually lead to a two-way conversation.

•  Signing allows your infant to clearly communicate specific thoughts, pain, & feelings.

•  Signing reduces frustration for your baby and for you. (Tantrums & crying too!) 

•  Signing won't delay verbal language development; in fact, it may accelerate it!  Research shows that babies who sign usually begin to speak sooner and develop larger vocabularies than non-signing babies.

•  Signing reinforces verbal language by added visual and kinesthetic emphasis to auditory input.

•  Signing children tend to be more interested in books.

•  Signing builds on babies' natural tendency to use gestures.

  Signing can help parents and pediatricians identify injuries, pain, and other ailments.

•  Signing children can direct parents' attention toward potential dangers or concerns.

•  Sign language can serve as a language bridge between English and non-English speakers.

•  Signing may actually improve a child's IQ!





  • Enhance bond with child
  • Decrease frustration & guessing game of what child needs (Wet diaper? Hungry?  Sick? Scared?  Just wants held?)
  • Reduce children’s behavioral problems
  • Put emphasis on positive communication
  • Less dealing with “terrible twos”
  • Window to the child’s mind and thoughts
  • Communicate in loud places
  • Spend meaningful time with the child
  • Opportunity to just have FUN!



Signing in Childcare Settings                                                                                         Signing in a childcare setting allows caregivers to model effective communication, encourage conflict resolution, and help children to communicate with each other. Teachers who sign can spend more time interacting with and nurturing children than managing the myriad challenges associated with Early Childhood Education.

•  Children spend less time crying and teachers spend less time playing the "guessing game", allowing more time for positive interactions and enabling teachers to meet the needs of many children at once.

•  Signing empowers children because they can communicate successfully with those around them. This sense of empowerment significantly contributes to children's happiness.

•  Signing enhances early language skills because children can engage in two-way conversations with their teachers and their peers at an earlier age.

•  Signing serves as a language bridge for children and staff who speak different languages. The sign is the same for "eat" (English) as it is for "comer" (Spanish).

•  Children learn to use signs to solve problems. "Stop" and "share" are commonly-used signs that help children learn to get along with one another.

•  In signing classrooms, teachers report there are fewer instances of biting, hitting, and screaming because children are less frustrated.

•  Children can control the topic of conversation and express their unique interests at an earlier age. This allows teachers to design learning activities that will enhance children's specific interest. Signing is appropriate for all preschool age groups (Infants, Toddlers, Preschool, and Pre-K.)


 Educators and Caregivers

  • Improve class management
  • Reduce separation anxiety
  • Decrease frustration & guessing game of what child needs (Wet diaper? Hungry?  Sick? Scared?  Just wants held?)
  • Reduce behavioral problems
  • Put emphasis on positive communication
  • Develop literacy and social skills
  • Spice up curriculum in fun and creative ways
  • Involve parents in the learning
  • Enhance bond with students
  • Create a stronger connection through signing
  • Less dealing with “terrible twos”
  • Open window to the child’s mind and thoughts
  • Communicate in loud places
  • Spend meaningful time with the child
  • Opportunity to just have FUN!



Signing with Children with Special Needs

       Children with special needs gain a means of expressing themselves and connecting with their caregiving adults, as well as with typically-developing children familiar with ASL signs. Signing can help create an educational environment where all children can successfully learn and socialize, no matter what special needs they may have.

•  Signing is the primary language used by the Deaf community and is an integral part of Deaf culture. ASL will most likely be the primary language for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

•  Signing provides a means of communication for children with various types of language delays or impairments, including:

Down Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Apraxia of Speech
Learning Disabilities
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

•  Signing provides a means of communication for children with various types of medical conditions or situations, including:

Tracheotomized Infants and Children
Delays of Prematurity
Short-term Illnesses
Post-surgical conditions that inhibit normal speech
Side effects of chemotherapy resulting in an inability to speak



Check it out:  

            Many places are catching on & using sign language at a young age!!





































            Supporting Research...

Signing and Language Development  

     Research has shown that signing with your baby provides a wide range of benefits for language development.  Studies have demonstrated that signing babies develop larger vocabularies and have better spelling and reading skills.  Researchers also have found a connection between signing and early literacy skills.


Signs with Hearing Babies of Hearing Parents
As Joseph Garcia began working as an Interpreter in the late 1970's, he noticed that hearing babies of deaf parents could communicate their needs and desires at a much earlier age than children of hearing parents. Joseph began to research the use of American Sign Language with hearing babies of hearing parents at Alaska Pacific University in 1987. His thesis research showed that babies who are exposed to signs regularly and consistently at six to seven months of age can begin expressive communication by their eighth or ninth month.

After graduating, Garcia focused on creating a practical system for hearing parents to use sign language with their preverbal babies. He published his first book on the subject, Toddler Talk, in 1994. As Garcia began his doctoral studies in adult learning and education, he expanded and revised his program, which is now known as SIGN with your BABY®.


Signs with Hearing Babies of Deaf Parents
In the two studies cited below, hearing babies exposed to both ASL and English were able to communicate more complex messages through the use of signs than they could verbally.

Griffith, P.L. (1985). Mode-switching and mode-finding in a hearing child of deaf parents. Sign Language Studies, 48, 195-222.

Wilbur, R. and Jones, M. (1974). Some aspects of the acquisition of American Sign Language and English by three hearing children of deaf parents. In La Galy, Fox, & Bruck (Eds.), Papers from the Tenth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 742-749.


Signing in Preschool and Pre-K Environments
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley started a longitudinal study in November 1999 to research the use of ASL signs with preverbal babies in a preschool environment. After her pilot study conducted at Ohio State's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School, she noted "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month olds who can sign that they want their bottle, rather than just cry and have us try to figure out what they want. This is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize them."

Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a professor of speech communication at Penn State University, has found that hearing students in pre-kindergarten classes who receive instruction in both English and ASL score significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than hearing students in classes with no sign instruction. Her studies demonstrate that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child's vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.

Daniels, M. (October, 1994). The effects of sign language on hearing children's language development. Communication Education, 43, 291-298.

Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208.

Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.

Other researchers have found evidence that sign language supports early literacy skills.

Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.

Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4'th Cardiff Wales).

Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.


 Vocabulary and Speech Benefits

Acredolo, L.P., Goodwyn, S.W., & Brown, C. (2000). Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 81-103.


Allott, R. (1994). Gestural equivalents of language. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from:


Anthony, M., & Lindert, R. (n.d.). National study of signing smart children. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from:


Daniels, M. (1994). The effect of sign language on hearing children's language development. Communication Education, 43(4), 291-298.


Daniels, M. (1994). Nonverbal language and manual speech. The Speech Communication Annual, 8, 51-60.


Daniels, M. (1996). Previously masked concepts: The communicative role of language in deaf and hearing cultures. Ohio Speech Journal, 34, 1-15.


Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26(3), 193-208.


Daniels, M. (2001). Sign education: A communication tool for young learners. Speech Communication Association of Pennsylvania Annual, LVII, 77-95.

Daniels, M. (2001). Sign language advantage. Sign Language Studies, 2(1), 5-19.


Daniels, M. (1994). Words more powerful than sound. Sign Language Studies, 83, 155-166.


Moore, B., Acredolo, L., & Goodwyn, S. (2001). Symbolic gesturing and joint attention: Partners in facilitating verbal development. (Paper presented at the Biennial Meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development.)


Robertson, S. (2007). Using sign to facilitate oral language: Building a case with parents. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from:


Schunk, H. A. (1999). The effect of singing paired with signing on receptive vocabulary skills of elementary ESL students. Journal of Music Therapy, 36(2), 110-124.


Signing and Bilingualism

Daniels, M. (1993). ASL as a possible factor in the acquisition of English for hearing children. Sign Language Studies, 78, 23-29.


Daniels, M. (1996). Bilingual, bimodel education for hearing kindergarten students. Sign Language Studies, 90, 25-37.


Daniels, M. (2003). Using a signed language as a second language for kindergarten students. Child Study Journal, 33(1), 53-70.



Daniels, M. (2001). Dancing with words: Signing for hearing children's literacy. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.


Daniels, M. (2004). Happy hands: The effect of ASL on hearing children's literacy. Reading Research and Instruction, 44(1), 86-100.


Daniels, M. (2002). Reading signs: A way to promote early childhood literacy. Communication Teacher, 16(2), 32-38.


Edmunds, M., & Krupinski, D. (n.d.). Using sign language and fingerspelling to facilitate early literacy. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from:


Felzer, L. (n.d.). MBR reading program: How signing helps hearing children learn to read. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from:


Felzer, L. (1998). A multisensory reading program that really works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.


Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.


Koehler, L., & Loyd, L. (1986). Using fingerspelling/manual signs to facilitate reading and spelling.


Cardiff, Wales: Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED284179)


Wilson, R., Teague, J., & Teague, M. (1985). The use of signing and fingerspelling to improve spelling performance with hearing children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.


Impact of Signing on IQ

This study found that at age 8, children who had learned to sign as infants scored significantly higher on IQ tests than those who had not.


Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. (2000).  The long-term impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. (Paper presented at the meetings of the International Society for Infant Studies, Brighton, UK.)




Signing with Children with Special Needs

       For decades, speech language professionals have used signs simultaneously with speech in treating children who are slow to develop verbal communication. Using Sign Language has also proven to be a successful intervention with children with special-needs including down-syndrome, and autism. Some relevant references and resources follow:


 Apraxia of Speech
Sharon Gretz: Using Sign Language With Children Who Have Apraxia of Speech.

Square PA, (1994) Treatment Approaches For Developmental Apraxia Of Speech. Clinical Communications Disorders, 4(3):151-61.

Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D., from the Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon writes:

"Many aberrant behaviors associated with autism and other developmental disabilities, such as aggression, tantrumming, self-injury, anxiety, and depression, are often attributed to an inability to communicate to others. Signed Speech may, at the very least, allow the person to communicate using signs and may stimulate verbal language skills. When teaching a person to use sign language, another possible benefit may be the facilitation of their attentiveness to social gestures of others as well as of themselves."

    Dr. Edelson's article is available online at

Down Syndrome
Donovan, Claire S-LP, (1998) Teaching Sign Language, Disability Solutions, Volume 2, Issue 5, January/February 1998.

Gibbs, E.D., Springer, A.S., Cooley, S.C. & Aloisio, S. (November, 1991). Early use of total communication: Patterns across eleven children with Down Syndrome. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Early Childhood Conference on Children with Special Needs, St. Louis, MO.

Hopmann, Marita R., (1993) The Use of Signs by Children with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome Today Volume 2, Number 2, 22-3. Available online at

Miller J F, Sedey A, Miolo G, Rosin M, Murray-Branch J (1992) Vocabulary acquisition in young children with Down syndrome: Speech and sign Paper presented at the 9th World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Mental Deficiency. Queensland Australia August 1992.

Watson, Claire S-LP, (1996) Total Communication Options for Children with Down Syndrome in the Context of Hanen Programs for Parents. Wig Wag Winter 1996. Available online at

Reading Disabilities
Blackburn, D., Vonvillian, J., and Ashby, R. (January 1984). Manual Communication as an Alternative Mode of Language Instruction for Children with Severe Reading Disabilities. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 15, 22-31.

Carney, J., Cioffi, G., and Raymond, W. (Spring 1985). Using Sign Language For Teaching Sight Words. Teaching Exceptional Children. 214-217.

Sensenig, L., Topf, B., and Mazeika, E. (June 1989). Sign Language Facilitation of Reading with Students Classified as Trainable Mentally Handicapped. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 121-125.

Vernon, M., Coley, J., Hafer, J., and Dubois, J. (April 1980). Using Sign Language to Remediate Severe Reading Problems. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 13, 215-218.

Children in Hospital Settings
 Hall, SS Weatherly KS, (1989) Using sign language with tracheotomized infants and children, Pediatric Nurse, Jul-Aug: 15(4): 362-7. Available online at: