Does learning sign language cause speech delays?

Baby signing is a wonderful way to communicate with pre-verbal babies and reduce toddler frustration (aka, tantrums). Experts also tout the intellectual, cultural and social benefits of introducing a second language early on. Still, some parents and well-meaning relatives worry that children will have speech delays or become confused if they can use signs or hear more than one language at a time. Long-term studies have shown quite the opposite. Although some children may speak later or appear to have a reduced vocabulary early on, they quickly catch up to and surpass their monolingual (one-language) peers. Most language experts now count a word in any language when considering a child's development. So, if your child can say and sign cat and also uses the Spanish, "gato," that's actually three words in her vocabulary. Although young multilingual children may mix languages, they will soon become skilled at switching between languages. This switching back and forth may actually activate certain brain centers and give them an intellectual boost. So, if you want to introduce signing or another language, the research backs you up!

Candace Lindemann

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