SELECTED ARTICLE
Author
Toan Dinh 
Article Title
Music Mediated Baby Sign Language Instruction Enhances Motivation And Learning Development 
Posted Date
8/19/2009 

Music mediated sign language instruction has several central purposes. The first is to guide each child, deaf or hearing, in developing fluent language skills while promoting effective communication between the children and their family and peers. The second is to support the development of language as a tool for literacy attainment. Third, it will create an effective and rewarding vehicle for self-expression and self-esteem, allowing participants to explore new means of expression while they enhance existing ones. The fourth purpose of the objective is to facilitate social interaction and age appropriate play. Additional benefits include more rhythmic speech; growth in balance, spatial reasoning and motor skills; increased IQ, auditory and perceptual awareness, attention span, memory recall, and vocabulary; reinforcement of cultural identity if Deaf; and improvements in family relationships as communication is clarified.

The first three years are the most critical years for a child’s language development, though sign language may be used to encourage communication among children of varying ages, abilities and interests. Signing not only offers a method of communication to nonverbal children, but it also facilitates the onset and development of spoken language for pre-linguistic children. Studies have proven that once a set of conceptual, cognitive, and linguistic skills are developed in a first language, they can be transferred or are applicable to the subsequent development of a second language.

As children naturally gesture in self-expression, there is a growing consensus that a sign language such as American Sign Language (ASL) should be presented as the first language in infancy and childhood. By exposing babies to sign language classes, parents will facilitate the development of thought patterns and enable full communication of intelligence to their child. With the use of signing, unexpected benefits may occur for children who hear normally. Hearing children learn to think in words; when they are told it is raining and simultaneously shown the signed word for rain, they are provided the opportunity to visualize rain through sign. Otherwise, words are quite abstract. Baby sign language classes (for parents) will provide a means of communication more closely aligned with pre-linguistic thinking.

The development of language should be accomplished by making use of experiences, interests, and needs of children. Music is one medium to achieve this goal. Teaching sign language to children (through baby sign language classes for parents for example) using music, enhances motivation, enjoyment, social skills, self-concept, and development of language. Benefits of music mediated sign language instruction are endless. Families can do endless activities at home to reinforce language development, reading skills, motor skills and other benefits mentioned above. First and foremost, have fun! Talk and sing to your baby as you are out taking a walk or inside making dinner. Carry your baby in the front carrier or sling so you can sing and dance together. Quietly listen to and feel each other’s breathing and heartbeats, two of the most significant aspects of both life and music. Include in his or bedtime routine singing a lullaby or reading a story, get a sign language dictionary, put a photo album together of your baby’s favorite people, places and things. Invest in a baby sign language class or two… For more information, visit MyBabyFingers.

References
Baby Fingers LLC, founded by Lora Heller, Board Certified and Licensed Music Therapist with a M.Sc. in Special Education/Deaf Education, specializing in music mediated sign language instruction. For more information, visit www.MyBabyFingers.com
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