Given that toddlers can learn two or three spoken languages simultaneously without slowing language development, I don’t see that learning a few words of a sign language would have any significant impact.
It’s my understanding that children learn to sign faster than they learn to speak (and learn to understand spoken language sooner than either), probably because it takes less motor control. I’ve seen it recommended that you teach your children a few basic “house signs” (like rubbing belly = hungry) so they can communicate their needs as early as possible.
We did the baby signs thing with our daughter. About half the signs were “from the book” (or slightly modified) and the other half just whatever she made up that we understood and repeated. It was about communication and I think it was very helpful. Signs for “more” and “done/enough” were fantastic. It’s got to frustrating for the poor kid if they can’t communicate!
At 6 years old now she’s quite articulate. I don’t think it slowed her down at all.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between “speech development” and “language development”. Sign is language.
Worse case scenario I can imagine would be something similar to what happens with kids who have a close elder sibling to play “interpreter”: since the sibling is there to interpret the toddler’s babble, the toddler doesn’t bother learn to speak correctly - until he or she stops having that crutch available, for example when they join kindergarten. The speed at which those kids go from something only their eldest sibling (and parents, although never as well as the sibling) actually understand to complete sentences is amazing - they did have the mental structures in place, they simply didn’t have any motivation to use a widely-understandable code rather than the home code.
My oldest daughter did this, at least for a few signs. She was able to talk around 10 months and now at almost 6 can hold very good conversations. About the only thing that it did do was she would not say the words she could sign for quite some time. So she say things like “I want” and then sign ‘more’.
Other then that she’s had no problems with language skills. I can’t see how teaching a child to sign can hurt anything and it might help as they can now tell you what they want instead of getting frustrated.
Um that’s news to me. Most studies about bilingual children say that they learn to speak later than monolinguals.
Of course, we also need to define terms: children start speaking a language at about age 2, but linguists consider them to have mastered the language around age 10. So all that time in between is spent learning the complex rules of grammar and stocking up vocabulary.
Using any language, whether spoken or signed, will develop the language center of the brain. This is good and very important for developing the other parts of the brain.
At what time a child starts to speak after listening and rehearsing (by babbling) depends a lot on the individual child, on how much and good language the child is surrounded with, etc.
Some kids are very shy and wait a long time, but then talk very well; some kids want to interact and start babbling, even if the make a lot of mistakes. Neither one is better or a problem to worry about, because in the many years to come (till age 10!) they will have ample enough time to learn the language, provided they don’t live in a language-poor enviroment (hardly any spoken language).
It sounds as if your parents believe in the Oralist school of teaching, which has been disproven as one of the worst ideas to do to deaf people.
Instead of you giving cites to disprove them, ask them to prove their view, because it’s contrary to most modern experts. After all, the people who run the childcare and came up with this idea are qualified and in touch with current child development research - what are the qualifications of your parents? How current is their child-rearing knowledge?
The reason baby signs has caught on because kids can learn making 10 or 20 simple signs much earlier than controlling the tongue, lips, and vocal chords to produce exact words. By making their problems (hungry, tired, tummy hurts) known to adults earlier, easier and with less misunderstanding, kids will learn the idea and concept of words and language much earlier. They will also be much happier because there’s less frustration to get an adult to understand that the diaper needs to be changed, but you’re not hungry right now. And happy children will learn better in general than unhappy, frustrated children.
The kid hasn’t spoken for a long time. The parents are worried and don’t know why. Finally, one Sunday at lunch, the kid (think 5 years old or even older) says “The salt is missing”. The parents shout for joy, and then ask him “But if you can speak, why didn’t you ever say anything before today?” “Well, until today nothing was missing.”