Eric Meyer writes about using sign language with his daughter. We have also signed with Owen from an early age, and I, too, cannot recommend it enough. Controlling speech muscles is hard: it requires a level of coordination that just plain takes a while to develop. Children are able to use sign language long before they are physically able to speak. Why not give them a way to express themselves?

I don’t think it fair to credit Owen’s remarkable language skills to early exposure to ASL because I know plenty of parents who used sign whose kids are barely verbal at the same age, but I have no doubt that being able to communicate at an early age has helped him in many ways. The “terrible twos” are due in no small part to a toddler’s inability to voice her desires and frustrations. Using sign language at an early age can help alleviate some of that. And what a thrill, watching him sign with other kids!

I’m not such a fan of the Baby Signs book, though it is a classic and landmark in the field. I just don’t accept that signs need to be modified or made up, which is something that the authors have done. Still, a fine book.

Once you’re willing to let a child watch TV, the Signing Time videos are fantastic. I’m a big fan. They’re paced well, they address multiple learning styles, they’re engaging for children and adults, and they do a good job of introducing key signs right away. What I like most, I think, is that we see lots of different kids signing, so you can see for yourself that there’s a range and variety in how kids sign. You don’t need to worry if you or your child doesn’t immediately “do it right”: there’s still some dexterity involved and lots of practice. Years of practice. Signing Time makes it fun. Really. It’s one of the few things we let him watch, and he loves it.

We don’t sign with Owen as much anymore, probably because he’s so freakishly verbal, but we all still have fun with sign language and I’d like to keep with it. Maybe I’ll take classes at Saint Paul College, which has a well-respected ASL program.