Baby Signs: a turning point in communication with the little ones, at home and at school


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This year our Playschool staff in Viale La Plaia undertook a very special and innovative training path with the trainer Luciana Ledda, in order to certify Chatterbox as a "Baby Signs" Playschool, a gestural (signed) communication program for newborns and very young hearing children (from 0 to 24 months), designed to give them the opportunity to communicate before they have learned to speak.

To avoid any misunderstanding, it is important to clarify that Baby Signs is not the Italian Sign Language (LIS), which is a complete language, precisely codified and recognized by the law, but rather it is a repertoire of approximately 175 gestures borrowed and adapted from sign language, then enriched with around 40 additional, simple "baby friendly" signs. This approach was born in the United States about 30 years ago and is currently used successfully in more than 40 countries around the world.

The essential feature of Baby Signs is its ability to facilitate communication in the first months of children's lives. Gestures always precede words in the child's growth, becoming the first means through which children express their needs and desires. Already from 7-8 months, children begin to use intentional gestures to modify their surroundings and establish communication with their parents; for example, raising their arms to be picked up or holding out their hand towards an object they would like to grasp. Strengthening this aspect not only reduces the child's frustration in not being able to express himself verbally and that of the parent who is unable to interpret the needs of a preverbal child, but it also significantly strengthens their emotional bond.

We know that children need to communicate a wide range of concepts and emotions from a very young age and with Baby Signs they can learn to do so: they learn gestures to express their needs (e.g. hunger, sleep, pain, etc.). Exposure to this type of communication can begin from birth and carry on until, at around 6 months of age, the child gradually begins to recognise it and use it.

Another fundamental aspect of Baby Signs is its flexibility and personalization. After the input received from the trainers and together with the spontaneous gestures that normally arise within families (e.g. "bye bye"), each family uses the signs that best suit their needs and dynamics, making communication more effective and natural, adopting personalized signs even spontaneously coined by the child himself.

A similar case occurred in the Sezione Primavera of our Playschool, in which an 18-month-old child with deaf grandparents had already learned some signs, which he also normally used in class with teachers and classmates, who also began to use them, creating a type of gestural communication that is effective, simple and shared by the whole class.

It is important to underline that Baby Signs is not a rehabilitation program for atypically developing children (although it can help identify any signs of neurodivergence very early), but it rather is a tool to better understand the needs of all types of children at an age in which it is premature to expect them to use language exhaustively.

Over the years, scientific studies have also shown that an extensive use of gestures can even accelerate the transition from gesture to speech, enhancing language and cognitive development in exposed children, who are approximately 4/5 months ahead in the development of these aspects compared to their peers. Even if this is not the main purpose of Baby Signs, it is an appreciable consequence of the strengthening of gestures.

Baby Signs is always accompanied by words and is integrated into the daily routine in a playful way, even in bilingual contexts, such as Chatterbox, by associating the same gesture with words in different languages.

In conclusion, Baby Signs offers a unique opportunity to promote effective and empathetic communication between parents and children from an early age, improving the well-being and the emotional relationship within the family and making the first years of new parents more comforting and interactive.

The Baby Signs courses are held by Baby Signs Italia at a national level and can be attended both online and in person. In Cagliari the contact person is the trainer Luciana Ledda.

Participation in the courses is open not only to future parents (and grandparents), but also to educators, speech therapists, psychologists and child neurologists.

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