Childhood development researchers have been studying the results of teaching
hearing babies to sign for more than twenty years. Research in this field is
expanding each year as the benefits of using sign language with preverbal
babies becomes more compelling to researchers as well as parents.
Acredolo & Goodwyn
In 1982, two researchers, Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn noticed that
young babies were spontaneously using simple hand movements to represent words
they weren't yet able to say. This discovery prompted Acredolo and Goodwyn to
conduct research, which spanned two decades, to study the effects of teaching
hearing babies to sign. Much of this research was funded by the National
Institutes of Health.
Acredolo and Goodwyn conducted a longitudinal study that involved 103 eleven
month old babies. What these researchers found was amazing, babies that
communicated with sign language before they could speak actually learned to
talk sooner and scored higher on intelligence tests when compared to their
non-signing peers. These babies developed larger vocabularies, displayed more
self-confidence and engaged in more sophisticated play than their non-signing
peers. Even at age eight, children who had learned to sign as infants scored
significantly higher on IQ tests than those who had not! In addition, the
parents of these babies reported a decrease in frustration and a strengthening
of the bond between themselves and their babies.
You can learn more about the research conducted by Acredolo and Goodwyn in the
following articles that are available on-line:
Goodwyn, S.W., Acredolo, L. P. & Brown, C. (2000). Impact of Symbolic
Gesturing on Early Language Development.
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24,
Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. (July 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.
Brie Moore, Linda Acredolo, & Susan Goodwyn (April 2001).
gesturing and joint attention: Partners in facilitating verbal development. Paper presented at the Biennial Meetings of the Society for Research in Child
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley
A pilot study was conducted by Dr. Kimberlee Whaley in 1999 at the
Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School at Ohio State University. Dr. Whaley
found that babies as young as nine months of age were able to communicate with
their teachers by using sign language.
In 1994 Robin Allott published a paper
for the Language Origins Society at UC
Berkeley. This paper argues that there
are strong neurological connections
between language development and motor
Allott,R. (1994) Gestural Equivalents of
Marilyn Daniels found that preschoolers who were taught sign language scored
significantly higher on the Peabody Vocabulary Test when compared to
preschoolers who did not learn sign language. Daniels
concluded that a preschooler's vocabulary can be improved if words are
presented visually and kinesthetically as well as verbally.
You can learn more about the research conducted by Marilyn Daniels in the
following articles and books:
Daniels, M. (1994). The Effects of Sign Language on Hearing Children's Language
Development. Communication Education, October, v43 n4, p291(8).
Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing Language: The Effect Over Time of Sign Language on
Vocabulary Development in Early Childhood Education. Child Study Journal, 26,
Daniels, Marilyn, Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy.
Bergin & Garvey, October 2000. ISBN: 0897897927.