Sign language for autism? Maybe you have heard of baby sign language or sign language for individuals who are deaf, but did you know that sign language can be a powerful, communication building tool for individuals on the autism spectrum? If you are interested in using sign language with your child or students, make sure you download my free signing poster.
Why sign language for autism?
Whereas verbal communication can be extremely difficult for autistic children to understand and use, the visual aspect of sign language makes it much more easily accessible to the autistic brain.
15 reasons to teach sign language to autistic learners
1. Sign language is a visual language.
As we know, children on the autism spectrum tend to understand visual information more easily than verbal information. Temple Grandin, a famous autistic adult, describes this visual tendency as “thinking in pictures”.
2. Sign language builds communication skills by giving the learner a clear, visual way to communicate.
Again, since we know that visual information is easier to understand and use for learners with autism, providing a visual means to communicate is essential.
3. Using sign language can lead to a decrease in difficult behaviors – almost immediately.
Many of the difficult behaviors that children on the autism spectrum have, such as screaming, hitting, biting, etc. can often be linked to a lack of communication skills. Imagine how frustrating it would to want to communicate a want or need and not be able to. As soon as your provide your child with a clear and functional way to communicate, those difficult behaviors will decrease.
4. Use of sign language helps to build imitation skills.
During the process of teaching sign language, your child or students will also learn imitation skills simultaneously.
5. Research shows that using sign language helps to develop verbal language.
We now know that learning sign language actually leads to developing stronger spoken language skills. Whereas some parents and professionals worry that teaching autistic children sign language will hinder their verbal communication progress, we know that the opposite is actually true.
6. Sign language provides a way to communicate to the 25% of autistic individuals who may never be verbal.
It is estimated that about 25% of the autistic population will never develop any form of verbal communication. For those children who will not be able to learn spoken language, sign language will be an invaluable asset that gives them a way to communicate and express themselves, while also connecting them to a greater community of individuals who use sign language to communicate.
7. Sign language creates a closer bond between the child and parent or teacher.
As soon as sign language has been taught and is in place, the lines of communication will be open between the child and parent or child and teacher. This creates a closer bond.
8. Sign language is an actual language with a community around it.
Again, if for whatever reason your child doesn’t go on to develop verbal language, being able to use sign language will give your little one an opportunity to join an existing community.
9. Using sign language increases opportunities for interaction and play.
By having a visual communication system in place, you will open up new opportunities for interaction and play with your little learner.
10. Sign language helps to build social skills.
By having a strong communication system in place, your child will be able to interact with other children making it possible to develop new social skills.
11. Similarly, the use of sign language provides an opportunity to communicate with siblings.
Having a communication system in place, will make it more likely that your child will interact with his or her siblings.
12. Sign language makes mealtimes easier.
Imagine if your child could ask for what he or she wants to eat rather than mealtimes being a time in the day that almost surely cause tantrums to occur. Having a sign for each food and drink will enable your child to clearly ask for whatever he or she wants without having to use other behaviors to request.
13. Using sign language will make daily activities go more smoothly.
Similarly, giving your child a visual way to communicate with you will make daily activities such as grocery shopping, going to the park or going to school a lot easier too.
14. Sign language use will provides more learning opportunities.
Once your child can communicate successfully, you will have many more opportunities to be able to teach him or her new things.
15. Finally, using sign language will increase happiness and harmony at home or in your classroom.
At the end of the day, once a successful sign language program is in place, your home or classroom will be a much happier place which is really the goal of everything you teach, isn’t it? Once you have increased learning, interaction, communication and fun, and decreased difficult behaviors caused by a lack of communication skills, everyone will be more joyful!
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Sign Language for Autism
The 15 reasons you need to include sign language in your home, school or therapy program.
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