Supporting Self-Regulation with ASL

brain_developmentWe live in an amazing time of information, research, and knowledge.  Through early brain development research we are learning more about the brain at work.  We know that the brain is the least developed organ at birth and that 90% of the brain is wired up in the first 3-years of life.  That is 90% of our brains… Wired by 3-years old!!!

We also know that early experiences are critical to a child’s development and that structure and routine are essential to a healthy developing brain.  This research supports all the reasons why we encourage professionals and families to use American Sign Language (ASL).  The benefits are limitless!

BUT, did you know that ASL also supports self-regulation?  Through the continued research on the brain the early childhood field is learning even more about the brain at work.  We now are learning how the brain maps and creates meaning, stores information, learns, and the importance of executive functioning.  Executive functioning is the area of the brain where self-regulation occurs, our working memory is, and our ability to focus and attend.  Self-regulation is the ability to control your impulses, act in your best interest, and make choices that are mindful, intentional, and thoughtful.  


SO, how does ASL support self-regulation you might ask?   Through providing a tool for children to get their basic physical and emotional needs met.  When children as young as 6-months of age learn ASL they also learn to notice their needs whether those needs are physical, like being hungry, thirsty, or sleepy.  Or, whether those needs are emotional like feeling secure and loved.  Then through signing they ask for what they need.  Children’s brains are actively wired for communication at 6-months of age so their ability to communicate depends on the environment they are in.  If it is an environment that uses ASL they learn quickly to communicate their physical needs and as they grow and develop they learn to express their emotional needs with ease.

Funny story… One time I was in the laundry room and my 2-year old son who had been singing since he was 9-months old stomped in and said and signed, “Mommy, I am MAD at you!”  Then stomped away.  Instead of yelling, screaming, throwing a temper tantrum, or worse hitting me he was able to communicate with his words how he felt.  I was able to support him and help him through this feeling to find a resolution without the drama.  This by far is a healthier and more positive way to teach child how to handle their emotions.  

Children at the age of 2 start feeling emotions, however unless we label them and build their vocabulary they do not understand their feelings.  It is essential to label and notice when a child is having a strong feeling.  You can do this while they are expressing that feeling, or by more pro-active ways like reading stories about emotions, creating emotion books, playing games with emotions, or singing songs.

We love singing the song, “If You Happy and You Know It” while integrating ASL and other emotions.  We provided you this fun ASL resource to use at home or in the classroom, so feel free to download and keep!  It has the words to the song plus some recommended signs to use too!

Do you want to learn more?  Contact us and set up an in-person training or webinar for your group.  OR pick up a copy of our Sign, Read and Play: The School Readiness Collection book for 10 wonderful lessons designed around popular children’s stories to support children’s school readiness skills.  Our Sign, Read, & Play ~ The School Readiness Collection can be found on Amazon, Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s, Syllabuy, and Teacher’s Notebook.

Happy Signing II