Nora Dexter isn’t even 2 years old, yet she already knows two languages: English and American Sign Language. Nora’s mom, Katie, has taught sign language to both of her daughters. Emma, now 5 years old, started when she was just 7 months old. Katie explained, “With Emma, when I taught her colors she learned them in one sitting. She learned the colors of the rainbow just like that!”
Emma is now old enough to use words to communicate. Nora is just starting to talk, but she still uses signs to tell people what she wants.
Nora and Emma are part of a growing trend of teaching sign language to hearing children. Barbara Flewelling, a speech pathologist, said it’s a wonderful tool to help babies communicate.
She told News 8, “I think babies are hotwired — and we are hotwired — to tune into gestures, so sign language is a natural extension of that.”
Teaching sign language to babies has become so popular that there is now a nationwide program called Baby Signs.
Karen Curtis is a Baby Signs instructor in Maine. She said that signing is a great way for parents to bond with their babies and that it actually promotes early talking.
Curtis said, “Several studies show verbal skills and literacy develop at a younger age and last longer — usually ahead of average until 8 years old.”
For the Dexter family, sign language has meant that the “Terrible Two’s” aren’t so terrible.
By Marnie MacLean