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Surprising Science

Signing Increases Family Intimacy

What would you learn if your baby was too young to speak, but old enough to learn sign language? These parents share their joyful experience.

What’s the Latest Development?

These days, the idea of parents signing with their babies isn’t unusual. Search for ‘baby signing’ on Google to see just how popular the classes have become. However, this U.K. couple already knew how to sign (both are deaf) and although their daughter, Martha, could hear, they were determined to also teach her to sign. At 10 months old, she responded for the first time with a virtuoso hand symbol for quack, during bath-time. Her earliest repertoire included: light, octopus, Mummy, mine and again.

What’s the Big Idea?

Speech is now Martha’s primary form of communication but apart from practical benefits, such as asking for more food, knowing how to communicate visually early on had spin-off benefits such as teaching her how to adapt to her parents’ deafness and encouraging her to maintain eye contact. “The six-month window when Martha was too young to speak, but old enough to learn sign language, is a stage we’re now looking forward to experiencing again,” her father says in relation to second daughter Edie, born in November.


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