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How old is old enough to start teaching sign language?

My son is 18 months old and has yet to actually form a word (other than 'Mama' and 'Dada'). We started teaching him sign language at three months and now we're worried that we may have started too early thus impeding his vocal communication skills. I know babies develop at their own rates but shouldn't his vocabulary be larger than two words and some odd sounds?

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Asked by Kylanna at 12:45 PM on Jan. 17, 2010 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (5)
  • I don't think you need to worry. Kids are different and even if a child speaks late it doesn't mean anything. Do you know when you walked or talked? I bet you do both just fine.

    I have a 16 mo grandson and I started teaching him signs around 8 months. He started having random words after 12 months. He talks more at my house than at home. His words are up, hi, and hot. Go figure. He learned to clap before signs and only signs more, drink, and thank-you. Sometimes he says other words. Some days lately he makes sounds non-stop.

    Answer by Gailll at 1:07 PM on Jan. 17, 2010

  • I made them stop teaching my grandson sign language for the same concerns you have. Once they stopped he began speaking.

    Answer by admckenzie at 1:37 PM on Jan. 17, 2010

  • I started signing when my dd was about 9 mos and she didn't say more than "mama" "dada" and "ball" until the day she turned 19 mos. She signed back to me and told me what her needs were until she turned 19 mos. As soon as she started talking we'd learn new signs and she'd say those words as well as sign. She's now 2 and stopped signing... unless I sign and talk to her at the same time. Another thing she did a lot was grunt and moan. I always told her "I can't understand you, you need to TALK to me" and I'd walk away until she communicated what she wanted through signs or talking. I think it is important to sign... I wouldn't stop but try to encourage more talking while signing. My dd never wanted to talk until she turned 19 mos even though she understood EVERYTHING I said to her.

    Answer by 07lilmama1108 at 3:51 PM on Jan. 17, 2010

  • Typically teaching sign language has the opposite effect on language... and children have larger vocabulary and start talking at a younger age.
    I think at 18 months he should have a minimum of 6 words other than "mama" and "dadda" are you sure you aren't missing any? They don't have to be clear but they do have to have meaning.... for example, my son for the longest time would say "MA" for up... it counted as a word because it was always the same and had meaning. Listen very closesly to the things he says... he might be saying more than you think.
    My son just turned 18 months and has around 50 words and is starting short sentences and uses a few sign language words, although he's stopped using most of them now that he can talk.

    Answer by AmiJanell at 5:54 PM on Jan. 17, 2010

  • I started signing with my children at birth and by about 6-7 months they both did about 2-3 signs back and my 18 months were doing about 10 back. Both my children are wonderful talkers and could communicate very well by the time they were 24 months old (they are 2.5 and 4.5 years now). I personally think signing helped them, but it may hinder others.

    Answer by aeneva at 5:55 PM on Jan. 17, 2010

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