A Sign of the Times

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 4:21pm

A form of communication giving parents the upperhand...

EL PASO - More parents teaching their hearing children sign language when baby's first words can't come soon enough.

"Babies are able to sign a few months before they're able to speak and so they're less frustrated.  They can get their point across earlier than they could if they were just relying on their spoken words."

Vannesa Mueller began encouraging her 7-month-old son Miles to mirror her hand gestures at birth.

He has yet to produce a sign... but this mom... and assistant professor of speech-language pathology at UTEP... doesn't believe her lessons have fallen on deaf ears... as infants don't typically respond until 9-months.

"He watches my hands when I sign and he's very interested in them and he's just starting to sort of move his hands as well...kind of watching them and moving them around to see what they do I think."

As how-to books, videos and websites continue to pop-up... this "hands-on" approach to communication has opponents pointing fingers... many of them worried these infants may receive mixed signals

"There are some people that are afraid that if children learn sign that they won't learn how to speak, but that's definitely not the case. research suggests that if you learn earlier, it'll enhance your speech production later on.  Kids learn how to speak sooner."

Mueller says infant signing allows for a bonding experience words can't describe.

"It's so much more comforting to know that i can give him what he wants before he can actually say the words.  So if he's hungry, he can say 'milk', or it he doesn't want anymore, he can say 'all done' and knowing that is very helpful for me."

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