How will American Sign Language (ASL) affect our child’s language development?

  • ASL supports oral language development by conveying symbolically the individual needs of the child. Signing lets young children begin to explore and understand the basic functions of language at a very early age.
    • For example, a baby may touch their fingers to their mouth to indicate that “I’m hungry!”  Or sign MORE to get more crackers on their plate.
  • Children can use signs to choose the topic of conversation. This allows them to direct an adult’s attention to the things they want to investigate.
  • Signing with young children reduces frustration for child and caregiver.  When a child’s basic needs are met in a positive way bonding and exploration can happen naturally and with ease.
  • Promotes early literacy skills which enhance school readiness.  It opens the window to the child’s mind.
    • An early understanding of the functions of language, signs help reinforce the meaning of spoken words, especially when both words and signs are used simultaneously.  This intentional way of teaching language is a strong foundation for communication and literacy development.


Does signing with infants delay their speech development?

Research conclusively indicates that infants who sign tend to have a stronger command of verbal language and often begin speaking at an earlier age than infants who do not sign.  Countless parents and caregivers have confirmed these findings with their personal experiences and observations.  In addition, many Speech-Language professionals, pediatricians, and educators are supporting the use of signs to encourage early language development.

We have found in our action research that it promotes language, cognitive, motor, adaptive, and social-emotional development and is a strong strategy for school readiness.


Should we introduce signing in a bilingual environment?

Yes. Many families use sign as the common denominator for teaching several spoken language.  Signs serve as a visual representation, creating a bridge between two spoken words that sound different.  Initially, as speech begins, your infant may mix various words from different languages together in one sentence. Research indicates that young children in bilingual environments eventually develop fluency in both languages.  It is very unlikely that you will overwhelm your child if you incorporate multiple languages into your daily routine. Make the languages part of everything you do, and use signing to assist comprehension.  Parents of foreign-born adopted children have found signing to be extremely helpful in bridging the immediate communication barrier, providing both parent and child a common, shared language. 


How do I begin signing with my child?

  • Incorporate 3 – 5 words in ASL into your daily interactions and routines with your child.  We suggest, MILK, EAT, MORE, FINISHED, UP (see our video on the Top Five ASL Signs, click here)
  • Make sure you speak as you sign the words.  This tandem approach to signing and speaking enhances your child’s language development by increasing meaning and word association.  
  • ASL is a visual language, make sure you are making eye contact with your child and speaking and signing to them intentionally.  Watch for accommodations to the signs you are teaching and encourage and praise your child for their attempts.  
  • Consistency and repetition are the keys to success.  Getting everyone involved and using the signs throughout your day several times during an interaction increases your child’s ability to learn this communication strategy and develop language.
  • Have fun!  Enjoy these moments with your child.  ASL opens the window to your child’s interests and you will find that your bond with your child deepens as you learn who they are.

Is there hand dominance in American Sign Language (ASL)?

No, there is not hand dominance in ASL.  You can use whatever hand is more comfortable for you.


Where can I learn more about the research behind the use of ASL and hearing children?

We have done an analysis of the literature and composed a literature review for your reading enjoyment.  Please visit our Fun Information page to download a copy.