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Speech Development Blog by Tiffany Bartlett

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Using sign language to encourage speech

One way to encourage your toddler to talk is to introduce basic sign language. In my speech experience, I’ve learned that you can’t force a child to talk. You can, however, make a child sign by simply taking their hands in yours and signing a word.

So, if your child is gesturing or grunting or a ball, teach them the sign for ball. Then ask them, “want ball?” as you sign and say the word “ball.” Then take their hands and help them sign “ball” before giving them the ball. This will teach your child that (s)he needs to use words in order to get what (s)he wants or needs.

Signing is not a substitution for speech. It is a tool to help eliminate some of the frustrations your child may experience when (s)he is having a difficult time communicating needs or wants. As your child’s speech develops, (s)he will naturally replace the signs with words.

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