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Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system in which opportunities to achieve a good standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.
At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American sign Language has led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it’s likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem protecting profitable employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.
Signing before They Can Speak
A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.
This is not as odd as you may think. As you know, many native peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.
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In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder daily camera in 2003 provided strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:
“…by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves before they know how to talk.” (Glarion, 2003)
The author also cites study funded by the national Institute of child health and Human development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also assisted parents in interacting with autistic children; one parent reports that “using sign language enabled her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration…[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music” (Glarion, 2003).
The best Time To Start
Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal children a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.
Emily and Kathleen are communications organizers for the Zionsville child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® certified family of Primrose schools (located in 16 specifies throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of Indiana child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, balanced Learning® curriculum.
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For over 25 years, Primrose schools has assisted individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early childhood, education. through an accelerated balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Emily Patterson is currently working as a communications coordinator for Primrose schools providing written work to the blogosphere which highlights the importance, and some of the specific aspects, of a quality, early childhood, education.
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