When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I was fascinated with sign language. Teaching myself words in sign was captivating and truly fun. Today, I still feel inspired when learning a new language. I’ve learned simple expressions in French, Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, and Arabic.

When it comes to your baby or toddler, you may ask yourself whether teaching your child sign language will prevent them from using spoken words or help them to communicate.

The first question you should be asking yourself is → is my child speaking enough?

Here are some general guidelines (data from the Child Development Institute):

12 month olds: 2-6 words (other than mama and dada)
15 month olds: 10 words
18 month olds: 50 words
24 month olds: 200-300 words
30 month olds: 450 words
36 month olds: 1,000 words
4 year olds: 1,600 words
5 year olds: 2,200-2,500 words

Some parents begin teaching their toddler sign language because the child is 24 months old and has less than 15 spoken words. Others begin teaching their baby sign because they have read about the positive outcomes.

Generally speaking, here are the PROS to teaching sign language:

  • Decreases overall frustration for the child 
  • Promotes the child’s language skills
  • Increases the child’s feelings of empowerment (for communicating effectively)

CONS to teaching sign language:

  • You have to use the sign regularly
  • It can be time consuming to learn and teach your child sign
  • Not everyone will understand the child’s way of communicating in sign

When working with hearing children who have begun using sign language at home, I tend to add to their skills using both sign and spoken language therapy. It’s not an either-or scenario.

Whether you choose to teach your child sign, or combine spoken language therapy with sign language learning, remember to take your time and have fun. As always, Rachel S-LP at Clearway Speech is here to help you along the way.

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