150309_life_signlanguage

Monica Beyer taught sign language to her baby, Willow Beyer. Beyer is making the dog symbol in this photo.

Neither Monica Beyer nor her children are hearing impaired. But that didn’t stop the St. Joseph mother from learning sign language and teaching it to her little ones.

In 2000, when Ms. Beyer’s second child was about 1 year old, she ordered a sign language book. At the time, she says there wasn’t much on the Internet about baby sign language. That didn’t slow the family down.

“He took off like crazy,” Ms. Beyer says of her son. “Everybody was amazed. It was the coolest thing ever.”

It took her young son only three to four weeks to grasp sign language. She learned alongside her child, as most parents will.

“You’re teaching them language earlier than they would have access to,” she says.

Ms. Beyer says parents can start teaching their babies at 5 and 6 months. They may not be able to sign as much, but the learning is there.

“You will see that they understand it before they replicate it,” she says.

Ms. Beyer says that while sign language is the obvious tool used for the hearing impaired, it also is a great tool for the hearing.

“There’s a huge gap of (children) understanding language and being able to express that,” she says.

Research has shown that babies and toddlers who learn sign language have an advanced vocabulary compared to other children the same age who do not know sign language.

At 24 months, babies who signed were talking, on average, more like 27- or 28-month-old children, according to authors and researchers Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn. The two women co-authored “Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk.”

At 36 months, babies who signed were, on average, talking more like 47-month-old children.

Ms. Beyer was witnessing the benefits firsthand and decided to help others learn. She created a website about baby sign language, and in 2006 she wrote her first book, “Baby Talk.” A year later, she wrote a second book, “Teach Your Baby to Sign.” This fall, a revised edition of her second book will hit the shelves.

“It was just serendipity,” Ms. Beyer says. “Something I was lucky enough to stumble into.”

Jennifer Hall can be reached

at jenn.hall@newspressnow.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHall.

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