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Babies learn a new way to communicate

Hank Forney, 10 months, gets a lesson on American Sign Language from Nancy Hanauer, founder of Hop to Signaroo, which provides classes and materials to teach American Sign Language to hearing babies. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Hank Forney, 10 months, gets a lesson on American Sign Language from Nancy Hanauer, founder of Hop to Signaroo, which provides classes and materials to teach American Sign Language to hearing babies.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Nearly 20 babies and their parents worked on a new way to communicate at an American Sign Language for hearing babies class taught by Nancy Hanauer at the Oak Harbor Library.

Babies who are too young to speak can let their parents know their needs via signing words like “more,” “eat,” “pain,” “diaper change” and “milk” to reduce the frustration of early communication.

While vocal chords aren’t fully formed until 16 months of age, babies as young as 5 months old can learn sign language.

Hanauer, founder of Hop to Signaroo in Seattle, said that it’s just an old wive’s tale that teaching babies to communicate through sign language will delay learning to speak.

On the contrary, the early exposure to language causes babies to have more interest in books later on.

“Studies have shown that babies that sign often speak earlier and have larger vocabularies, and by the time they’re in second grade often have more interest in books, a more advanced understanding of language and higher IQs,” Hanauer said.

“We’re addressing language before speech is possible,” Hanauer told the group, many of whom have already begun teaching their babies a few signs.

Sara Hogarth has already taught her 10-month-old son, Hank Forney, approximately five signs. Now she just has to learn a few more herself to teach him.

As to whether sign language will be helpful for Hogarth to communicate with her son, “Oh, yeah!” she said.

Hanauer said she is willing to do classes on Whidbey Island if a group of families is interested.

For information about Hop to Signaroo, classes and materials, visit www.hoptosignaroo.com or call 206-789-7446.

For information about other Sno-Isle Library programs for all ages, visit www.sno-isle.org.

 

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