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Baby Sign Language for Premature Babies

Baby Sign Language could prove to be very beneficial for premature babies as they are in a higher risk category for developing a speech delay. Baby signing involves using keyword signs to engage in two way communication with pre-verbal babies. The experts believe that it enhances speech development if used in conjunction with the spoken word. Although many parents are using it for the enjoyment it provides, there could well be added benefit for those who are already at a developmental disadvantage.
Baby Sign Language is being used worldwide to communicate with hearing babies before they can speak. Researchers have shown that using gestures with the spoken word enhances the speech development of the child. This doesn’t mean that it is a program to create super babies; it simply provides them with a good foundation for early learning.
Language development is essential for developing appropriate social skills. If a child is particularly at risk of suffering from a speech delay they may benefit from having a supplementary communication tool such as baby sign language.
What are they interested in?
Knowing what interests them is important, because babies are likely to pay more attention and pick up baby signing signs faster if they are able to influence the topic of conversation. (Clearly, they will be more motivated to pay attention if you are making a sign about their favourite toy or activity. On the other hand, they will be less receptive if you attempt to introduce the sign for EAT after they’ve just eaten and are no longer hungry).
Use enough baby signs
It’s important to use enough baby signing signs that your baby becomes accustomed to signing as part of the daily routine, but if you introduce too many signs at the one time, you may become confused and find it difficult to sign frequently and consistently.
Slightly delayed developmental milestones
Using baby signs to bridge the communication gap could be particularly useful in premature babies as they follow slightly delayed developmental milestones due to their early entry into the world.
Premature babies are generally assessed developmentally against an adjusted age. But when premature babies are compared to other babies by their chronological age, they may be slightly disadvantaged with their speech development.
When this is the case, baby signs could be used to accelerate the learning process and enhance their communication abilities, allowing them to interact socially and appropriately with children in the same chronological age group.
Always use baby signs with spoken word
Baby signs should always be used with the spoken word and should never replace the need to speak the associated word. When teaching baby sign language it is important to emphasize the word that is being signed. It is this close interaction with the parent that is thought to enhance the speech development more so than the use of the sign language itself.
Children who are at higher risk of developing a speech delay will gain the most benefit from this positive interaction involving extensive use of the spoken language. As the child is able to sign back to the adult and establish two way communications for the first time, they are likely to understand the value and reward of being understood. This is a time to encourage and praise your child so that you perpetuate the benefits and enhance their progress.