Top 5 Ways Sign Language Helps Improve Language Skills

December 30, 2015 by Jay Chalnick

Sign Language Allows Children To Access Language Visually

Sign language has become extremely popular as a first form of communication in babies. Before a child is capable of speaking, he or she can learn to communicate using simple signs. Researchers have come to discover that sign language is just as beneficial to older children, which means parents and educators can begin using it at any time. Below you will discover five ways signing helps improve language skills.

1. Sign Language Supports Better Spelling Skills and Larger Vocabulary

When it comes to spelling and vocabulary, signing letters and words helps commit new language to memory. Students are given a word orally and then asked to repeat it. Afterward, the student uses finger spelling to go over the word before learning the sign for the word. A study done in 2000 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development revealed that signing 2-year-olds had 50 more words in their vocabulary than non-signing children of the same age. This method is especially helpful for children diagnosed with dyslexia.

2. Sign Language Improves Verbal Language Skills

Although sign language does not require a child to speak, it has been shown to increase verbal language skills. First, a child hears a word and processes the sound using the left side of the brain. Second, the student learns the sign, which is processed by sight in the right side of the brain. The two are combined making it easier for a child to then speak the word. A great way to work on increasing verbal language skills is to sign songs while singing them. This can be accomplished in a one-on-one setting, or with a group. Children with auditory processing disorder will especially reap the benefits of this.

3. Sign Language Leads to Better Behavior

Kids who have learning disabilities often have trouble expressing their needs and wants. This leads to classroom behavior problems. Implementing sign language gives the children a way to communicate without becoming frustrated and withdrawn. Once a child feels understood, he or she can begin concentrating on class lectures and lessons, which will result in better grades.

4. Sign Language Enhances Interactive Learning

Language is a two-way street. When a teacher asks a student a question, the student is then expected to respond. If language skills are lacking, the task then becomes difficult. Working on interactive learning, such as reading and signing a book and stopping to ask the students to point out something from the story using a sign, is a great way to improve this skill. This is also beneficial for increasing test-taking abilities.

5. Sign Language Strengthens Expressive Speech

Facial expressions are just as important as hand motions when it comes to sign language. Students that are more visual learners will especially benefit from the expressions that come with signing different words. In addition to growing their vocabularies, students will be better able to convey their thoughts and emotions in class. Verbal speech will naturally follow.

Since sign language has proven to be effective in improving language skills, parents and teachers would see a great benefit in incorporating it into their program. Other added advantages to using sign language in learning environments includes improved motor skills, increase in visual attention, and of course, being able to communicate with a hard of hearing classmate.