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Why Should We Teach Children Sign Language?

  • More rapid development of language skills compared to children who do not learn to sign
  • Helps to establish critical social skills
  • It acts as a second language which provides bilingual advantages in future
  • Facilitates communication between parent and child and improves cooperation
  • Provides infants with a means of communicating their needs and thus reducing frustration and tantrums
  • Enhances bonding between parent and child
  • Fun physical activity that helps to develop self-esteem in children
  • Provides additional benefits when taught to special needs children
  • Increases IQ points between 8 to 13 points which has long-lasting effects

Research on the Benefits of Sign Language

A comprehensive summary of the academic research on the impact of signing on cognitive, linguistic and social-emotional development

The benefits of using signs with students are seen in individuals as young as preverbal infants, to those in early elementary, all the way to adult students who struggle with reading or those who are learning a new language. Research has also shown benefits for children with special needs including dyslexia, language impairments, Down syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as for both hearing and deaf children in an inclusive education environment. Signs can be used to enhance education for learners of a wide range of ages and abilities.

See the full details here

Signing with Infants and Toddlers

1. Language Development

  • children who learned to sign as infants have larger vocabularies and were using longer sentences at 2 years old.
  • signs may help children understand and remember concepts represented by words
  • the same areas of the brain (areas for understanding meaning in symbols) are activated by symbolic gestures and signs as well as by words
  • meaningful hand movements make learning a new word easier

2. Cognitive Development

  • children who had learned to sign as infants had better language skills
  • the verbal IQs of signing children were, on average, 12 points higher than non-signing peers

3. Social-Emotional Development

  • signs promote positive social interactions and relationships with parents
  • signs can be used by young children to help them regular their behaviour and to communicate their needs
  • signs with preverbal children may promote social skills

Signing with Preschool Children

1. Language and Literacy

  • use of signs with preschoolers and kindergartners aids language and literacy development
  • signs help children enlarge their vocabularies and improve their spelling and reading skills

2. Learning Across Subject Areas

Signing with Children with Specific Language Impairments

  • In a small study, children learned twice as many of the words that were presented in speech and sign as the words presented through speech only, and incorporated those new words into their everyday vocabularies

Signing with Children with Down Syndrome

  • children with moderate disabilities may benefit from the use of signs in the same way that typically developing children do, but those with severe disabilities may not share the same benefits.
  • those with more severe disabilities, including a lack of oral motor skills necessary to speak, the use of signs may provide a functional means to communicate.

Signing with Children on the Autism Spectrum

  • using signs and speech together helped children with ASD learn both receptive and expressive vocabulary

Signing with Children with Dyslexia

  • using signs, particularly fingerspelling, is an effective way to help students gain skills involved in reading, such as isolating speech sounds, sounding out words, and spelling.
  • the hypothesis is that signs and fingerspelling can help to trigger memories, serving as a bridge between the visual word and the oral word.


Image Credit: xedos4 /

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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