Signs and Children with Special Needs
One in ten Canadians has a speech, language or hearing problem. A child should use 200 or more words by the time they are 2-3 years old and by the age of 4 ½ their vocabulary should consist of approximately 2000 words.
These numbers appear to be large but we must consider the average person acquires 10 000 words in their lifetime. Most speech and language disorders are not diagnosed until the child is school aged. Common disorders in children are:
•Articulation Disorders (omitting, substituting, or distorting language sounds) examples include a child saying “Wabbit” instead of “Rabbit”
•Voice Problems (Clarity, Volume, Pitch)
•Stuttering (Hesitations, Syllable or word reputations and restarts)
Other disorders such as Downs Syndrome, Autism and Apraxia of speech can cause speech and language difficulties in children.
Autism is a brain disorder which adversely affects behaviour, social skills and the ability to communicate. Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D., from the Center for the Study of Autism, writes: “Many aberrant behaviors associated with autism and other developmental disabilities, such as aggression, tantrumming, self-injury, anxiety, and depression, are often attributed to an inability to communicate to others. Signed Speech may, at the very least, allow the person to communicate using signs and may stimulate verbal language skills. When teaching a person to use sign language, another possible benefit may be the facilitation of their attentiveness to social gestures of others as well as of themselves.” Teaching Autistic children sign language can provide communication in cases where the child has not been to develop oral communication.
Children affected with Downs Syndrome are slower to develop speech and language skills. Teaching Sign Language, along with verbal reinforcement, is shown to improve the communication skills of children with this disorder. Researchers are emphasizing to use to total communication (Simultaneous use of sign language and speech) to assist in the development language skills.
The benefits of using sign language in babies in not limited to those with communication and developmental disorders. Sign language in pre-verbal babies boasts great advantages including reduced frustration, increase in self-esteem, increase in IQ by 10-12 points, increase speed of spatial reasoning, introduction of language, and promotion life-long literacy. Sign Language classes can help parents and caregivers establish routines and strategies that are proven to assist in language development in all children. For more information on the benefits of Baby Sign Language and Classes please visit www.learn2sign.ca
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