Meet the Researchers
The Science behind Baby Signs®
Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn, the authors of the book Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, have conducted over two decades of academic research on the use of signs with hearing babies, including a long-term study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Their ground-breaking research describes the proven benefits of the Baby Signs® Program. Their scientific study of over 140 families took place over a seven-year period and yielded some remarkable results. They conducted standardized assessments of children who participated in Baby Signs® groups and those in non-Baby Signs® groups at several stages in their development.
At 24 months, the Baby Signs® babies were on average talking more like 27 or 28 month olds. This represents more than a three-month advantage over the non-Baby Signs® babies. In addition, the 24 month old Baby Signs® babies were putting together significantly longer sentences.
At 36 months, Baby Signs® babies on average were talking like 47 month olds, putting them almost a full year ahead of their average age-mates. Eight year olds who had been Baby Signs® babies scored an average of 12 points higher in IQ than their non-signing peers.
Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn have conducted over two decades of scientific
research on the use of sign language with hearing babies, including a
longitudinal study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Below are the
highlights from that study.
The children were assessed using standardized language measures at 11, 15,
19, 24, 30, and 36 months old. In addition, as many children as could be
relocated at age 8 were assessed using the WISC-III IQ test, the most commonly
used measure of children’s intelligence.
In addition to helping babies learn to talk and jumpstarting their intellectual development, a number of very important social-emotional benefits were also revealed. Acredolo and Goodwyn found that signing with hearing babies:
2. Center-based Research
The remarkable findings of Acredolo and Goodwyn's original research, coupled with the results of their work at the University of California at Davis Center for Child & Family Studies studies, prompted Harvard researcher, Dr. Clare Vallotton, to conduct an Early Head Start (EHS) Intervention Study.EHS families who were encouraged to use the Baby Signs® Program with their children were compared to EHS families who were not. Results indicated that mothers in the signing families perceived their children as more "reinforcing" and "acceptable," two important components of a Parenting Stress Index. Specifically, using signs:
These results suggest that the addition of the Baby Signs®
Program to EHS curricula for parents is an easy and effective way to improve
family interactions in low income families.
Funded by the Chilean government, Dr. Chamarrita Farkas of the Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile also studied the effects of the Baby Signs® Program with low income families, adding to the growing research that baby sign language is beneficial for all children, their families and their educators. Dr. Farkas' longitudinal study of 20 Chilean child care centers serving poverty-stricken families showed that using signs:
In conclusion, the evidence that the Baby Signs® Program is good for children, parents, child care providers, and child development centers and their teachers is tremendously convincing.
For those interested in reading more about the background research concerning the Baby Signs® Program (known in scholarly journals as "symbolic gesturing"), the following articles are recommended. These articles are readily available in libraries.
Susan Goodwyn, Linda Acredolo, and Catherine Brown (2000). Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24 (2), pp. 81-103.
Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. (July 2000). The long-term impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. Paper presented at the meetings of the International Society for Infant Studies, Brighton, UK.
Brie Moore, Linda Acredolo, & Susan Goodwyn (April 2001). Symbolic gesturing and joint attention: Partners in facilitating verbal development. Paper presented at the Biennial Meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development.
Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (1985). Symbolic gesturing in
language development: A case study. Human Development, 28, 40-49.
Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (1988). Symbolic gesturing in normal
infants. Child Development, 59, 450-466.
Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (1990). The significance of symbolic
gesturing for understanding language development. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of
Child Development (Vol. 7, pp. 1-42). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Susan Goodwyn and Linda Acredolo, (1993). Symbolic gesture versus
word: Is there a modality advantage for onset of symbol use? Child Development,
Linda Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. (1997). Furthering our
understanding of what humans understand, Human Development, 40, 25-31.
Susan Goodwyn and Linda Acredolo (1998). Encouraging symbolic
gestures: Effects on the relationship between gesture and speech. In J. Iverson
& S. Goldin-Meadows (Eds.) The nature and functions of gesture in
children’s communication (pp. 61-73). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Linda Acredolo, Susan Goodwyn, Karen Horobin, and Yvonne Emmons
(1999). The signs and sounds of early language development. In L. Balter &
C. Tamis-LeMonda (Eds.), Child Psychology: A Handbook of Contemporary Issues
(pp. 116 - 139). New York: Psychology Press.
Goodwyn, S.W.,Acredolo, L.P., & Brown, C. (2000). Impact of
symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.
Acredolo, L. P., & Goodwyn, S.W. (July 2000). The long-term
impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. Paper presented at
the meetings of the International Society for Infant Studies, Brighton, UK.
Brie Moore, Linda Acredolo, & Susan Goodwyn (April 2001).
Symbolic gesturing and joint attention: Partners in facilitating verbal
development. Paper presented at the Biennial Meetings of the Society for
Research in Child Development.