|"Some parents insist on teaching their babies authentic ASL signs, shunning . . . nonstandard signs; others don't consider the distinction important. Some are using the signs only as a temporary bridge to speech; others want their children to become bilingual. Personal preference plays a major role. . . . Babies are [just] delighted to be able to share their feelings, desires, questions and curiosity with others, knowing that others understand them."
Editor, Deaf Life Magazine
The Baby Signs® Program uses American Sign Language (ASL)
Since the publication of the our book, many people have asked us how using the Baby Signs® Program relates to American Sign Language, the official language of the Deaf community. The simple answer is that the Baby Signs® Program incorporates the most useful, "baby friendly" signs from
American Sign Language and combines them with signs that babies and
parents have created themselves and found particularly useful.
When we first began our Baby Signs® Research, we feared that parents of hearing babies would find ASL too
overwhelming to learn in the short time their baby would use signs as a
bridge to speech. We also knew that young babies, with their limited
motor coordination, are not be able to master many of the complex "hand
shapes" of ASL. Since for hearing babies using sign language is simply
a temporary bridge to speech, our goal has always been to do what is
easiest for babies and their parents. Our focus has not been to teach
hearing babies a second language but to provide them with the signs
that they can use most easily to express their needs, thoughts, and
feelings until they have words. Research has shown that signs are
easiest for babies-and for parents-when they involve simple gestures
and when they resemble the things they stand for (e.g. fingers to lips
for eat, arms out straight like wings for airplane). The signs featured
in our books and products, whether from American Sign Language or not,
have been selected based on what has worked best for babies and their
In revising the Baby Signs® Dictionary, we asked parents to help us make a list of 100 things that
their babies need and want to "talk" about. Using our knowledge of
babies' motor development and the advice of our colleagues, we
carefully evaluated the motor complexity of the ASL sign for each of
these concepts. As a result, our Baby Signs® Dictionary now
includes many ASL signs that both express important concepts and are
easy enough for babies to do. In many cases the Baby Signs® Dictionary itself includes more than one sign suggestion so you can choose which works best for your baby. The Baby Signs® Dictionary can be found in the revised edition of our book, Baby Signs: How to talk with your baby before your baby can talk.
We strongly support the importance of
American Sign Language for the Deaf community and certainly understand
its value for hearing children who will be communicating with Deaf
relatives or friends. Other parents of hearing babies may choose to opt
for signs primarily from American Sign Language should they wish to
teach their children this vital and rich language. By clearly
indicating in the revised Dictionary which Baby Signs are also ASL
signs, we are providing these families, too, with an easy way to get
started on the road to successful communication.
Most important of all, however, is that you do what works most easily and joyfully for your family. Using the Baby Signs® Program is about communication, understanding, and intimacy between you
and your baby. In the end, whatever signs you use, you are opening the
world to your baby and opening your baby's world to you.