When Should the Child of a Deaf Parent Begin Learning Sign Language?

My friend asked me this question: A child is born to a deaf dad and hearing mom. Which is more important? That they learn sign language before English? Or learn both at their own pace?


This family has 2 little boys. One is almost 3 years old and the other will be 1. Both parents sign.
Thanks ahead of time.

By Keeper from Blue Ridge Mts., NC

September 30, 20100 found this helpful

I taught my daughter some sign language starting at 10 months. Granted, we didn't continue using it once she started talking, but children are quick to pick it up and associate it with the spoken word. Never too early to start.

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September 30, 20100 found this helpful

Babies can learn sign language before they can talk. It is never too early and it will benifit the communication between the child and father.

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Anonymous Flag
September 30, 20100 found this helpful

It's never too early! I think it would be really good to teach both at the same time. I recently read an interesting article about how the brain develops and thinks in terms of communication. If not deaf when we learn to speak our communication is processed in the brain verbally but if deaf it's visually. (I read the article because one of my two best friends from childhood was born deaf and she verified that she processes visually first. She learned visually first). In my humble opinion, a child who learns both at the same time has a huge advantage. :-)

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September 30, 20100 found this helpful

The child should learn both at once. The child will understand speaking and signing at the same time, but will sign on his own before speaking.

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October 1, 20100 found this helpful

Children are hardwired to pick up any language that is used around them, so they will grow up naturally bilingual-- lucky kids!

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October 1, 20100 found this helpful

Thank you for all your great replies.

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October 2, 20100 found this helpful

They have researched signing with "babies", yes that's right, and they learned that babies could communicate basic things like hunger, or toilet training, etc. when they signed. My son learned to read best when he was engaged in signing while reading aloud. They should start signing as soon as the child understands, it will not impede their speaking in anyway, but may allow them to express themselves better and earlier. Good luck.

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October 2, 20100 found this helpful

I work with special needs preschoolers. We teach sign along with spoken language, whether their needs are speech or not.

I think it is very liberating for a child to be bilingual. So from the perspective of communicating with a parent let alone a peer it is huge for this child to have spoken language as well as a second language of sign.

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April 20, 20140 found this helpful

Sign language interpreter here. I think that kids should learn as soon as they're born. Hearing parents speak to their children as soon as they're born, so why not sign to them? I've seen many of my Deaf friends who are parents do this, whether the parents are both Deaf or hearing and Deaf.

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June 15, 20160 found this helpful

Absolutely learn simultaneously. The brain soaks up multiple languages easily when you are young. There is a neurological window from birth to about age 9 during which it is easiest to acquire new languages.

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