Sign With Your Baby
Review by Shirley Sagawa
Sign With Your Baby
by Joseph Garcia
VHS, 62 minutes
Closed captions, ASL, voice-over
Accompanying book and quick reference guide available.
As a parent of a deaf child (age 5), a hearing child (age 7), and an infant, I was extremely interested in viewing "Sign With Your Baby." I hoped it might be useful for introducing communication skills to my new baby.
This program met my expectations! "Sign With Your Baby" is very helpful and user friendly. I commend the authors for using American Sign Language (ASL) as the basis of the program, rather than invented signs. This approach gives hearing babies an early introduction to a useful second language. Given the likely communication needs of babies, the selected signs were well-chosen. "MORE" "EAT" and "MILK" are among the first signs, right on target for the audience. The video instruction and demonstrations clearly show how to form the signs, and the written materials provide useful guidelines, such as how to approach your baby to best promote learning.
This program is recommended for all parents and babies, deaf or hearing. However, as the video and book teach just 144 signs, "Sign With Your Baby" seems most appropriate for those who have little or no knowledge of ASL, providing an excellent introduction to the language, or a handy review for beginning signers with rusty skills. All viewers will likely enjoy watching these bright and lively babies communicating clearly in sign language.
I have two minor criticisms of the program. "Sign With Your Baby" materials recommend that teaching begin in the sixth or seventh month of life, and that only a few signs be introduced during these early months. Yet a hearing baby will have been exposed to many more spoken words at that age, and babies with signing parents will have seen much more sign vocabulary in daily life. Research has shown that all babies benefit from language right from birth, even if the brain is not sufficiently developed to process every word. Why wait so long to introduce sign? And why limit vocabulary to only a few words? After all, it is common knowledge that babies understand spoken language long before they can speak. They will benefit from a language-rich signing environment, as well.
I appreciate that the main purpose of the "Sign with Your Baby" program is to help infants communicate before they are able to speak, eliminating much frustration for families. I do think, however, that if one is to make the investment of time and money to use this program, one ought also to think of it as a way of teaching an infant an important second language that they can continue to develop throughout their lives.