Sign language to understand the child

A new book (“Mamma speaks with me”, Cairo Editore) points the way in the so-called baby signs. Here's what two Del Paesene experts think.

Your baby is crying and you cannot understand why. Will he be hungry? Will he be tired? Could he have dirtied the diaper? Deciphering the needs of the little ones, in pre-verbal age, is a need deeply felt by mothers, who in this way are able to break down that sense of infinite frustration from which they are assailed every time they are unable to interpret the reasons for the babies' crying. their needs, or their attempts to communicate.

Read also the special: The baby cries. how come? what to do?

On this issue they also arrive in Del Paese, directly from overseas, the first books on sign language, who theorize and explain how to use it with children without hearing difficulties to improve parent-child interaction. Recently in the bookstores "Mamma speaks with me", by Nancy Cadjan (Cairo Publisher), is a simple manual, divided into a theoretical and a practical part with clear illustrations, which aims to spread the method as follows to the Del Paesene families. used by thousands of American mothers and fathers and day care centers.

It is intuitive and easy to learn signs that mimic activity (eat, sleep, play ...), objects (milk, pacifier, bed), people (mom, dad, grandma ...), sensations (heat, cold, pain ...) divided by age groups, to communicate better in everyday life. Finally, according to this book, children whose mothers adopt this system would demonstrate earlier and richer language development.

Here are the photos of two pages of the book "Mom talk to me":

To understand more on the subject, we spoke to two Del Paesene experts. Here's what they think.



“This theory of sign language I agree in that parents already use gestures a lot, it is part of our culture. Here this tendency is brought to the maximum, it is framed with precise rules because according to this method, instead of using personal gestures chosen by each parent based on the individual attempts of the experience with their child, it is preferable to adopt signs belonging to sign language, standardized and specially designed, therefore in a more systematic way.

What I would like to recommend, however, is to import the signs of your national community to which you belong, rather than borrow the American ones from the ASL (American Sign Language), because the signs have their roots in the specific culture of each country.

I can also confirm that using this method there are cognitive advantages in the evolution of children's language, which develops earlier and better than those who do not use it. A 1998 study of mine, conducted on hearing children of the elementary school of Guidonia (RM), showed that sign language increased their visual memory and visual attention skills. And even on younger children there are abundant works that attest to the validity of this method ".

(Virginia Volterra, Research Director of the CNR - Institute of Cognition Sciences and Technologies -, Del Paeseno reference point on sign language)

Read also: Baby Psyche: Babies like routine


"From an" ideological "point of view, the proposal to push mothers to use an" artificial "system of communication with their children does not agree with me because it relies on their insecurity, particularly accentuated since women often find themselves in alone to face the task of becoming mothers, without the social network of grandmothers, aunts and various relatives that in the past offered more easily help and support in this area.

Will I know what my baby needs? Will I be able to respond to his needs effectively? These are questions that all mothers ask themselves, but the answers must be found in one's own personal journey as a mother. Each mother-child couple develops their own ways of communicating. Every mother must learn to know her child, it is a difficult task and it is understandable that the idea that there is a method that, as the book claims, promises to become capable of "interpreting all his needs, material or emotional, first that he / she is able to verbalize them "is particularly tempting.

Communication between mother and child is active from the first months of life through looks, emotional expressions, gestures, smiles and modulation of sounds. Mothers should be taught that they can trust their natural and spontaneous way of communicating with their children, not push them to think they have something to learn or specific training to follow.

From a more strictly scientific point of view, studies aimed at demonstrating advantages in the use of this system as regards an earlier development of language or even a better intellectual development, suffer from various methodological problems that make its validity questionable. , first of all the fact that by engaging in such an activity, mothers dedicate a lot of time to dialogic interaction with their children, they are therefore mothers more careful to grasp all their communication signals, all activities that in themselves improve the linguistic development.

Ultimately, I analyzed 17 studies on the subject and on these 14 they prove that a positive effect really exists, but in my opinion the results are not directly linked to the method but to the greater commitment made by the parents who adopt it in an attempt to communicate with their children. .

(Laura D'Odorico, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Language Disorders at the Bicocca University of our city)

Read also:

The newborn communicates: listen to who is speaking

Sign language

  • sign language
  • understand the child
  • baby signs
  • interpret the newborn
  • newborn 4-8 months
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