Thanks for tuning into this episode of MomTalks with Christa. Today, we have Rebecca Zolo who is a speech pathologist and she teaches baby sign language. This has been a highly requested subject to have on and I’m so excited to ask her all the questions. So obviously if you're listening to this as a podcast, I am going to recommend that when you have the time to watch the video as well because she's going to be showing us some very important signs that you can start teaching your baby today. Also, check out her Instagram, @babysignnj. Today, we're going to be talking about all of the key benefits that come along with teaching your child sign language. So without further ado, here's my interview with Rebecca Zolo.
Christa: First, just to get started, just tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
Rebecca: I’m a speech language pathologist. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years. I started off my career working with babies age 0-3 so 0 like babies and then up to age 3 which is the crucial point for language development. What I was noticing during my time working with these kids was that sign was helping them communicate so much and when I first started, I really didn't know much about it because we didn't have a course in grad school about baby sign language. They may be touched upon it maybe one day for one lesson not even a full lesson, but then when I started working with these kids, I realized that not only was sign helping decrease the frustration but the kids that I was teaching it to were speaking faster than the kids that weren't learning signs. Some parents were against it for whatever reason so you do what the parent wants and you don't teach it but for the kids that I was able to teach some signs to, they were speaking faster actually. That was the amazing part and then when I started diving into the research, there's a lot of research out there that says that baby sign language does increase speed up language acquisition, so that's really cool.
Christa: I know when I was reading about what you did and how it really helps people or helps babies kind of get out what they want to say before they can actually say it, I think that's so powerful. What age do you normally recommend parents start kind of teaching basic signs to their babies?
Rebecca: Babies can start actually understanding sign at about 4 months. So as early as 4 months, they can start understanding it and then they usually can start signing back at around 6 to 7 months. I always say if you want to start, start as early as possible. Don't worry about that 4-month window or anything like that. Start as early as possible because I always relate it to the fact that if a child is born hearing impaired, would their parent hesitate to sign to them earlier on than the four months? No! They would start right away just like we start talking to our babies right away. I just say start as soon as you can and by about 4 months is when you'll see that they can kind of start understanding it and you can expect it to take about 6 to 12 weeks for them to start signing back. Don't give up! Some babies take longer, some babies do it quicker, everyone's different but don't give up!
Christa: What do you think are the most important signs to get started with? Let's say someone listening let's start with their 4-month old, what are the basic signs to start with?
Rebecca: The signs that I recommend starting with are the ones that really help you get out your wants and needs. I always start with the sign more because you always want more babies always want more of something and they want to be able to tell you that they want more of something. So this is the sign more and that's a good sign that's always my number one that I go with. You want them to be able to request more food, you want them to be able to request if they want more stuffed animals, or more toys, or if they don't have enough clothing on, you want them to be able to request more, more water in the bath, if they want it things like that. That's a basic need that they can get met.
The other sign that I recommend is all done which is like this, all done. That helps with babies having some sort of say in when they're done with an activity. When they're full and they don't want any more food, they can tell you that they're all done. When they're done with toys and they're ready to clean up and move on to something else they can tell you that they're all done. That actually also helps with transitions because babies and toddlers have a hard time with transitioning especially if they really like an activity, so if you teach them the sign all done and if you teach them the concept of all done early on and you prepare them for that, then they'll have an easier time understanding. Okay! We're done now! We're moving on to a different activity, so it also helps with that.
Then eat of course! Eat is one that I recommend because then they can ask you for food when they're hungry.
Drink! They're thirsty.
Milk goes for nursing moms, it goes for formula, any type of milk related is just this sign, milk. When they're even 5, 6 months and they want to request their milk or they want a nurse they can do this, so those are the 5 signs that I recommend starting with.
Christa: That's so interesting and it's really cool to be able to communicate with babies so young too. I’m sure in those first months, being able to sign, it's almost a relief from the parent a little bit, to be able to understand a little bit more. You talk about one of the main benefits of teaching sign language being that they can show that they're able to speak a little bit quicker, understand language quicker, so what are some other benefits of learning sign language at a young age?
Rebecca: That's a benefit is that it facilitates speech and language development. Another benefit is that there has been some research that has actually shown that babies who were taught sign did better academically in elementary school than babies who are not taught signs. So there is an impact on future academics which is pretty cool I think because when you teach them signs early on your teaching them the concept of learning vocabulary and all this stuff so they get a sense of okay this is how I learn, this is how I understand the world, I’m learning new words, and so they have that early on and so they take it with them later, so that's a pretty cool benefit. The other benefit is that it actually helps with parent-child bonding because when you're teaching them sign language, you're really in tune with their gestures. Anything that baby does, you look right at them to see if they're signing, if they're doing what you've been teaching them. Not only are you more attentive to them when you're doing it but they're more attentive to you and your response because when they sign something and they see your response, they want to do it more because they aim to please just like anyone else. They want to please you, they want you to laugh, they want you to smile, so they'll do it more. They're looking at you; you're looking at them so really increases the bond.
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