Sign language seems to be the current cure-all for those dealing with speech issues with their children. You are bombarded with it either for your toddler who is just learning to talk or for your child whose speech is delayed.
In the beginning I had a positive attitude about sign language. I introduced it to Peanut at a young age and even purchased 3 of the Signing Times DVD’s which she enjoyed watching. However, by the time Peanut was nearing her third birthday, it became clear to her dad and I that sign language may actually be hampering her speech development instead of assisting it. Peanut’s personality is such that she will pursue the road of least resistance and if she could “speak” without using her words, then, she would. All attempts at verbalization began to dwindle.
When we discussed this with her preschool teacher, she agreed with us and we explored other options of communication, specifically, PECS and AAC devices.
Another problem I have with sign language is it really does not solve the problem of social communication. If being able to talk to my daughter was my only goal then sign language would be a solution. If she was frustrated and had behavior issues because she was not understood, then sign language might be the answer. But these are not our problems. Our family and those who deal with her on a daily basis can communicate with Peanut just fine.
I am trying to help my daughter communicate with society, and society, as a whole, does not know sign language. When my best friend’s husband turned to me and had to ask what the sign she was making meant, he failed to communicate with her. It was “more”, one of the first signs we teach our kids. When the kid at McDonalds’ playland or the doctor’s office tries to talk to her and Peanut can’t respond to “What’s your name?”, they have failed to communicate. In addition, I percieve, right or wrong, that young child gets this air of superiority over Peanut because she thinks she’s older and smarter simply because she can talk. That child quickly moves on to others she can speak with and my daughter is left alone. Sign lanuage will not help her in these situations.
I am not saying we are completely closed to the possibility of sign language. In fact, we have it in our long term IEP goals to revisit if we as a team determine it is indeed needed. For now, however, we have tried sign language and we are not impressed.
*I have covered this issue on my blog in the past, you can read more on this subject at: When Sign Language Isn’t the Answer*