Did you know sign language is one of the most common languages spoken in the United States?
There are between 250,000 and 500,000 American Sign Language (ASL) users in the U.S. and Canada alone.
And while sign language is frequently spoken by deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals and their families, a growing number of educators have discovered that sign language instruction is good for learners of all ages, including hearing students.
In a 2014 survey, 97% of early childhood teachers and speech pathologists agreed sign language could benefit early development, with almost two-thirds believing that sign language is “very beneficial” for young children to learn.
Other studies find that babies can learn simple sign language before speech, which may facilitate smoother communication with parents and caregivers, and promote vocal language learning.
What Are the Benefits of Sign Language for Children?
A summary of research spanning three decades shows that hearing children benefit from learning sign language.
For preschoolers in particular, studies have focused on introducing sign language to young children who have already begun speaking. Results point to a number of positive outcomes for preschoolers who learn sign language:
- Overall language learning
- Literacy development
- Building vocabulary
- Spelling skills
- Reading proficiency
In addition, when teachers use two modes of instruction — both speaking and signing — it may help young children retain more information.
Sign Language Benefits for Learners of All Ages
A study published in the journal Neuropsychology noted that people who knew sign language — both deaf and hearing — demonstrated more accurate recall of abstract shapes.
Benefits of learning sign language have been found for all ages, from preverbal infants, to early elementary, to adult learners.
- Sign language may also be useful for students with special needs such as dyslexia, language impairments, Down syndrome or autism.
- It promotes an inclusive educational environment in which deaf and hearing children can participate in activities together.
- It may facilitate more effective teacher-student communication.
- Sign language fluency may open the door to career opportunities as an interpreter in a number of industries.
Integrating sign language instruction into the Creatively Shine™ curriculum is just one of many valuable methods for promoting active, hands-on learning and development at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse®, along with other vital subjects like math, science and reading.
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Check out our previous articles on other important subjects at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse®!