Bridging the Gap Using Sign Language

Whether your baby or toddler's too young to talk or there is a medical reason your child's not speaking, that doesn't mean you can't communicate with them.

You can bridge the gap using sign language to communicate with them.

At one-years-old Micah Jochum is still learning to talk, which is why his mom Julie is learning sign language to communicate with him.

Julie Jochum said, "I think that even though were still working on him doing it himself, it is helping."

Julie learned about sign language through her friend Ruth Dodson who took a class at Milkworks in Lincoln. Ruth taught her son Aiden how to sign at 6-months old and is teaching her daughter Charity right now.

Dodson said, "It's really really helpful because it eliminates so much of the time trying to figure it out, because you can meet the need right away and then move on there's not the drama that can be with toddlers."

Staci Stoehr is a speech and language pathologist at Handprints and Footsteps in Lincoln. She told 10/11, "The motor aspect develops much quicker, that's why it's very good to teach sign language and there again, it decrease the frustration and gives them a way to communicate."

Staci works with kids who are delayed in talking. She uses a total communication approach of signing, talking and showing pictures.

Stoehr said, "Sign language is providing a visual for the child, and it's putting meaning to communication right away."

For Ben Willey, who has down syndrome, his parents knew sign language would be important in order to communicate with him. At 18-months-old they started showing Ben Signing Time Videos and signing with him. Eventually it helped Ben not only learn to talk, but also learn to read.

Ben's mom Angie Willey said, "We had flash cards and we dropped them on the floor and he saw cat and signed cat, we were like did he just sign cat? Oh my gosh, he did and then we went through the deck of flash cards and he knew like 80 percent of them."

As for the myth that using sign language will keep your child from talking, these parents say it's just not true.

Dodson said, "He's almost two and he has countless words, probably more than 200, and that's certainly on par if not above average and some of the first words he learned, were the ones he signed."

Stoehr added, "There is lots of research out there that shows kids who've been taught sign language and develop verbal skills, many times their verbal and language skills far exceed kids who are only taught verbally."

Willey said, "It will help them get ready for school, because some of the concepts, the colors, numbers all the counting."