Behind the Baby Signs® Program
Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn, authors of the book Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, have conducted over two decades of academic research on the use of sign language with hearing babies, including a long-term study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Here are the highlights from that study.
More than 140 families joined the study beginning when their babies were 11 months old. Each family was randomly assigned to a signing or a non-signing group. The groups were equivalent at the beginning of the study in terms of the following characteristics: sex and birth order of the children, their tendency to vocalize or verbalize words, and the parents’ education and income levels.
The children were assessed using standardized language measures at 11, 15, 19, 24, 30, and 36 months old. In addition, as many children as could be relocated at age 8 were assessed using the WISC-III IQ test, the most commonly used measure of children’s intelligence.
Twenty-four-month-old signing babies were on average talking more like 27- or 28-month-olds, representing more than a three-month advantage over the non-signers. In addition, the babies who signed were putting together significantly longer sentences. Thirty-six-month-old signers on average were talking like 47-month-olds, putting them almost a full year ahead of their average age-mates. Eight-year-olds who had signed as babies scored an average of 12 points higher in IQ on the WISC-III (Mean = 114, 75th percentile) than their non-signing peers (Mean = 102, 53rd percentile).