Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: When my kids were babies, I started to teach them sign language. Most people stop using sign language when their kids begin to talk. I found that continuing to sign has tremendous benefits for toddlers—and beyond. For example, when my kids were toddlers and we were at a park, if one of them was misbehaving, I could sign to them to stop, rather than calling them out in front of their friends. Also, my kids were sometimes able to sign things before they were quite able to say them. This eliminated frustration and prevented tantrums.
I think that knowing sign language also helped my kids learn to read. Sign language is very logical, and it helped them to learn their letter sounds and how to spell. For example, some words, such as park, are finger-spelled. So to sign park you actually sign the letters P, A, R, K. My son could spell “park” at a very early age.
Sign language is very easy to learn. I love the series Signing Time (www.signingtime.com). The children learn signs, and they also learn how to use them together in a sentence. The series is filled with great lessons from spelling practice to how to set the table properly.
One day when my daughter was five years old, she was signing with a deaf girl at the playground. The little girl’s mom was very touched, and I was so proud!
—Jennifer Hanes, DO, a mom of a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, an emergency physician, a certified forensic physician, and the founder of Empowered Medicine, PLLC,
in Austin, TX