Sign Language for Babies and Beyond

Sign Language Promotes Self Esteem

Sign Language gives children a vehicle in which to express themselves before they can speak vocally.  What better way to promote their self-esteem than by showing them we are truly interested in what they have to tell us! 

Sign Language is a unique skill and one that also lends itself to
positive comments by curious on-lookers.  Marilyn Daniels, author of  "Dancing With Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy"  (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 2001),  writes about the experiences that several teachers have had when dealing with students who have learned sign language:  

"This of course is a difficult aspect to measure, but teachers who use sign in their classes report that their students display more pride, heightened stature, and greater competence in interpersonal
communication and reading evaluations, it tends to provide a larger boost to the more needy student.  Students are actually doing better academically, and this improvement may very well account for their increased self-esteem." (p. 134)

I have six children and two of them were late talkers.  It actually wasn't until after my husband and I noticed that these two children seemed to have a speech delay, that we started signing with them.   They were soon able to communicate with us through sign language, even though their speech skills were not quite there yet.  The fact that they could still communicate early helped to reduce their frustration and also boosted their self-esteem.

Another benefit accrued as well -- instead of getting negative vibes from people questioning why they weren't talking, they received positive feedback from others when they noticed them signing.  People would say things like, "Wow, he can sign all that?  That is incredible!" or "What a smart boy - he knows a whole other language!"  I'm sure that these types of comments helped my children feel good about themselves - even at an early age.

Watching our children sign also helps us as parents to see how intelligent our children really are.  Sometimes we worry when our children aren't talking as quickly as we think they should.   However,  I worried much less about this when my child was able to sign because we could still communicate well, and I knew that his language was still developing. 

Instead of focusing on what they couldn't do yet - which is frustrating to both parents and children - we focused on what they could do successfully.

When older children learn sign - they know something that most of their peers - or even adults for that matter - do not know.  They have their own special talent and can gain self-esteem by teaching
what they know to their parents or others. 
                                                                                               ---Wendy Jensen---

Wendy Jensen is the author of  "Sign Language for Babies and Beyond:  How to promote early communication and language development in your child."  For more information, or to sign up for our "Signing for Babies" newsletter, go to:

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(Reference for Marilyn Daniel's Quote:)
Daniels, M., Dancing With Words: Signing for Hearing Children's
Literacy (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 2001) 134.