Baby sign language more food

25 Baby Signs to Know

We all hate seeing our kids unhappy—but when baby is too young to speak, it can be hard to know exactly what your little one wants. Are they hungry? Tired? Do they need a diaper change? Plus, it’s also probably just as frustrating for baby when their message just isn’t getting across. In recent years, more and more parents have been turning to baby sign language to help boost communication with their preverbal kids. Here, learn from experts what sign language for babies is, its benefits, how to start teaching it and 25 common baby signs to know.

In this article:
What is baby sign language?
Benefits of baby sign language Potential disadvantages of baby sign language How and when to start baby sign language
Common baby signs
Baby sign language chart

What Is Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language is a set of simple hand gestures and movements, otherwise known as signs, that correspond to common words you use with baby every day. It’s a helpful tool to enhance communication between hearing parents and babies who can hear but can’t yet talk. Sometimes the baby signs are the same as those used in American Sign Language (ASL), but not always. “Baby sign is not a technical sign language, such as ASL or BSL (British sign language), which are primarily used by the deaf community and are more complex, with grammar and sentence structure,” says Jann Fujimoto, CCC-SLP, a certified speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. “It’s a looser version that uses just signs for individual words.”

Academics began making powerful observations about how hearing families could benefit from using baby sign language around 200 years ago, thanks to the work of linguist William Dwight Whitney in the 1800s. But it wasn’t until the 2000s that baby sign language became readily available to parents through workshops, classes and baby sign language books.

Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language is thought to offer a bunch of potential short-term and lasting benefits. Being able to understand what your preverbal baby wants or needs—and allowing baby to express themselves without the use of words—can go a long way in building your relationship. Some of the possible benefits of baby sign language are:

  • Increases baby’s ability to communicate before they can speak
  • Leads to fewer tantrums, since baby can get their message across
  • Lowers frustration for parents, since you can understand what baby wants or needs
  • Gives baby a head start in language acquisition
  • Strengthens baby’s cognitive skills
  • Enhances parent-baby bonding

In the late 1980s, Linda Acredolo, a University of California, Davis professor, and Susan Goodwyn, a professor at University of Southern California, Stanislaus, found that babies who used baby sign language actually learned verbal skills faster than those who didn’t sign. In a second study, they later checked in on those same children at age 8 and found that the babies who used signs scored higher on IQ tests than the non-signers.

Shira Fogel, a speech pathologist who founded Tiny Talkers, a baby sign language workshop program in Portland, Oregon, became a believer in the benefits of sign language for babies after witnessing her first child’s remarkable progress. Her daughter made her first sign (milk) at 5.5 months, knew more than 100 signs at 12 months and could speak in full sentences by the time she was 18 months old. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics believes baby sign language can help bridge the communication gap and has given it its stamp of approval.

It’s worth noting, though, that not all academics agree that baby sign language offers proven benefits. While some studies (like the ones conducted by Acredolo and Goodwyn) have found significant upsides to using sign language for babies, other studies haven’t unearthed any significant or long-term differences between children who learn baby sign language and those who don’t. So in general, the benefits of baby sign are considered theoretical.

And, as Jack Maypole, MD, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, points out, some benefits of baby sign language may be overstated and overpromised by the vast offerings of baby sign products on the market. “While learning baby sign language may help hearing parents and children communicate better, the results won’t necessarily be transformative, so be wary of programs that promise to get your child into Harvard or have their first novel published by nursery school,” Maypole says.

Potential Disadvantages of Baby Sign Language

So you’ve brushed up on the possible benefits of sign language for babies—but what about potential downsides? Since baby can begin to communicate using signs instead of spoken words, many parents wonder—does baby sign language delay speech? Fujimoto says no. If baby is developing at a healthy pace, baby sign just supplements their learning and gives them another way to express themselves. If you think baby might actually have a hearing impairment, don’t just rely on baby sign language as a solution, she adds. Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and ask about referrals to an audiologist, who can perform the proper hearing tests and assessments.

How and When to Start Baby Sign Language

If you’ve decided to give baby sign language a go, you may be wondering when to teach baby some signs. A good time to start is when baby is 4 to 6 months old, according to Fujimoto. As for how, there are many different approaches to teaching baby sign language, but generally, you can teach baby by saying a word like “milk,” while making the sign at the same time, and then giving baby the milk. “Don’t hold out the item as a prize and refuse to hand it over until your child makes the sign himself,” Fujimoto says. “Verbal reinforcement—by saying the word while also showing the sign—as well as consistency are key.”

As part of the consistency, you’ll want to use the signs every day for baby to truly understand them. While your little one likely won’t start making signs on their own until they’re about 6 to 9 months, eventually baby will start to make connections between the word, sign and item. Just like learning a foreign language, a preverbal baby is going to understand more than they can speak—or in this case, sign—at first.

For more resources, parents can turn to the many workshops, videos, books and apps available these days, all designed to help you teach sign language for babies. A typical class or workshop may teach parents 30 to 50 different signs you can then use with baby at your own pace. “Some families with older babies may learn best by singing along with a video, or attending a class together,” Fujimoto says. “Families should find the method that makes sense for them.”

Common Baby Signs

When you’re ready to begin teaching baby sign language, you’ll need to decide which baby signs to start with. Fujimoto says to choose the words you and your family use the most on a day-to-day basis, like “more,” “please” and “milk.” Ready to learn how to teach baby sign language? Brush up on the below illustrations of 25 common baby signs.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Hungry” in sign language

It’s important for baby to be able to communicate when they’re tummy feels empty—you know, before they get hangry. Teach them how to show you they’re “hungry” in sign language. You can make the sign for “hungry” by cupping your hand around your neck to make a C shape, then move your hand down from your neck to your stomach.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Drink” in sign language

Want to learn how to sign “drink” in sign language? This one involves mimicking the action! Make a C shape with your hand, as if you were holding a cup, then move it to your mouth as if you were drinking from it.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Milk” in sign language

Wondering how to teach baby sign language? It’s best to start with something baby knows, likes and wants—for example, milk. You can communicate the word “milk” in sign language, by making two fists, then extend your fingers and bring them back into fists.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Water” in sign language

Teach baby how to request “water” in sign language, and you’ll always know when your little one wants their sippy cup. The sign for “water” is made by extending your three middle fingers so they’re pointing up, with your thumb and pinkie tucked down, and then tapping your index finger to your chin.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“More” in sign language

Do you have trouble knowing if and when baby wants extra spoonfuls of their favorite puree? “More” is another important word for you and baby to learn. To express “more” in sign language, pinch your thumbs and fingers together on both hands, creating two O shapes, then tapping your fingertips together a few times.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Done” in sign language

When baby is full, they want you to stop shoving that spoon toward their mouth. Teach them to let you know they’re “all done” without fussing by using the ASL sign for “finished.” Start with your hands up, palms facing toward you, and turn them until your palms face out.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Play” in sign language

When it comes to baby sign language, the sign “play” certainly belongs in your arsenal. To communicate “play” in sign language, clench your fingers to your palms, leaving your thumbs and pinkies extended; then with palms facing you, twist your wrists back and forth.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Sleep” in sign language

Nobody likes having a fussy, sleep-deprived baby on their hands, so it’s a good idea to practice “sleep” in sign language. Hold your hand over your forehead with your fingers spread apart, then draw your hand down over your face until your fingers and thumb come together to touch your chin. Even babies who resist nap time may whip this one out when they’re especially exhausted.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Mom” in sign language

Your little one will want to know how to address their favorite people in baby sign language. To sign “mom,” simply spread your fingers apart, then with your pinkie facing forward, tap your thumb to your chin.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Dad” in sign language

As another one of baby’s favorite people, Dad will want in on the fun too! You can make the sign for “dad” by spreading your fingers apart, then with your pinkie facing forward, tap your thumb to your forehead.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Poop” in sign language

Everybody does it, so you might as well learn to sign it! If you want to indicate “poop” in sign language, clench both hands into fists and stack them on top of each other, with the thumb of the bottom hand tucked inside the upper fist. Then, pull your bottom hand down from the upper hand, leaving your thumb extended. Next time baby soils their diaper, they’ll let you know—before you even smell it.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Yes” in sign language

Another easy and important sign to learn is “yes.” Enthusiastically nodding your head is great, but this sign gives baby yet another communication tool. Intuitively, “yes” in sign language looks just like a nodding hand. Make a fist and then, folding at your wrist, bob your fist up and down.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“No” in sign language

Again, shaking your head works, but this sign helps reiterate the point. To express “no” in sign language, extend your thumb, index and middle fingers, then quickly snap them together.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Food” in sign language

Instead of signing “hungry,” baby may want to ask for “food.” This sign can also mean “eat.” Communicate “food” in sign language by flattening your fingers on top of your thumb and then bringing your fingertips to your mouth.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Help” in sign language

When learning and teaching baby sign language, be sure to review the sign for “help.” This can be useful to baby in so many different situations; plus, being able to ask for support from a parent or caregiver can help reduce any frustration a baby may feel. If you want to communicate “help” in sign language, simply make a fist with one hand, with the thumb extended, and place it over your other hand, which is extended flat. Then move both hands up together.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Bath” in sign language

Want to tell baby it’s bath time? Express ‘“bath” in sign language by making two fists, then moving them up and down in front of your chest (as if you were scrubbing yourself clean).

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Book” in sign language

Storytime is the best time! Use your hands to say “book” in sign language; clasp your palms together with your thumbs facing up, then hinge open your hands, keeping your pinkies together (as if you were cracking open a book).

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Medicine” in sign language

The sign for “medicine” is made by placing your middle finger into the palm of your opposite hand and twisting.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Share” in sign language

To sign “share,” extend one hand flat, with your thumb pointing up. Then, run your other hand back and forth along the top of your extended fingers.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Sorry” in sign language

Teach baby to show empathy and express feelings before they know how to do it verbally. The sign for “sorry” is made by rubbing a fisted hand in a circle over your chest.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Please” in sign language

Manners matter. Teach baby to ask for things politely from the get-go. To sign “please,” extend your fingers and thumb out, then rub your flattened palm against your chest in circles.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Thank you” in sign language

Nothing is sweeter than watching your little one express gratitude. And they’ll appreciate it when you show them the same respect and courtesy right back. To sign “thank you,” straighten your thumb and fingers, then bring your fingers to your chin and pull them away.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“You’re welcome” in sign language

The sign for “you’re welcome” is the same as the sign for “thank you”—flatten your hand, bring your fingers to your chin and pull them back.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“I love you” in sign language

This is one sign you’re going to both want to use all the time. To sign “I love you,” extend your thumb, index and pinkie fingers (but keep your ring and middle fingers down). Hold your hand out with the palm facing away and rotate your hand side to side.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

“Hurt” in sign language

The baby sign for “hurt” is done by clenching both hands into fists, then extending your index fingers and touching them together.

Baby Sign Language Chart

Here, you can see 25 of the most common signs, all in one comprehensive baby sign language chart.

Image: Kitkat Pecson

Now that you know the basics of how to teach baby sign language, begin practicing a few words you think you’ll use most frequently at home. Your little one will love having a special way to communicate their wants and needs with you. What’s more, having the ability to express your feelings to each other will help strengthen your bond. It’s a win-win!

About the experts:

Jann Fujimoto, CCC-SLP, is a certified speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. With 17 years of experience, she has worked in birth-to-three programs, pre-schools and schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and outpatient clinics. She received her MS in communication disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Jack Maypole, MD, is an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and a pediatrician with over two decades of experience. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Plus, more from The Bump:

When Do Babies Start Talking

How Should I Be Talking to Baby

11 Best Baby Book Subscriptions for Expanding Little Minds

Baby Sign Language for Mealtimes

Babies are completely dependent on you for their daily sustenance and survival, but their ability to learn and connect what goes on around them is miraculous!

Even when babies do not have their vocal skills mastered, they are masters at the art of communication. Through crying, smiling, and cooing, babies let us know how they feel and what they need. But sometimes it can be hard for parents to decipher their baby’s unique language.

That’s where baby sign language comes in.

Why should you use sign language with your baby?

Six months to a year before your child begins speaking verbally, you and your baby can communicate through simple signs. As your child’s motor skills develop sooner than their speaking abilities. From around the age of six months, infants can easily recognize signs for easy concepts such as “milk,” “more,” “teddy bear,” “hungry,” “sleepy,” and more.

The ability to sign basic concepts can be helpful in communication development, providing a bridge to spoken words.

Have you ever experienced an argument that was based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication? If so, you have a glimpse into what it feels like for your child isn’t able to communicate what he wants. Naturally, toddlers resort to angry demonstrations like screaming and crying.

The inability to communicate can be relieved by giving your pre-verbal baby the ability to communicate with you through signs. Sign language also increases the bond between parent and child because it promotes face to face and tactile contact. This can improve their confidence and self-esteem and lessen feelings of helplessness and anger.

Later, as your child develops verbal communication skills, sign language can still come in handy if your child is ever too distraught to speak clearly, or if you want to communicate a private message to your child in a public place (such as giving a reprimand or warning without publicly humiliating your child).

Mealtime Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language is particularly helpful around mealtimes. Basic signs like “hungry,” “thirsty,” “more,” and “all done” can help eliminate frustration and encourage positive interactions around the dinner table!

Babies are extremely bright and yearn to communicate with their caregivers in any way that works. They tend to use movements and actions that are easiest for them. For example, babies who feel full or do not want a certain food may spit, throw food, or knock bowls off the table. If they are hungry, they may cry or reach for another child’s food.

Sign language removes this barrier of communication. If a baby can tell you that he or she is hungry or full, that he or she does not want something or wants more of some food item, they will hopefully not resort to crying or food throwing.

Mealtimes are an integral part of every parent’s and baby’s life. In fact, children spend at least 9 hours of their week eating. Learning and teaching your baby sign language—specifically, meal-related sign language—can help promote an unhurried, stress-free mealtime experience for both parent and baby, and reduce friction based on miscommunication.

Tips on teaching your baby sign language

Sign language instruction can begin when your baby is around 6 months and has mastered the skill of holding your gaze for a few seconds.

Begin with three to five basic signs

Make eye contact with your baby and say the word out loud as you make the sign and gesture to the objects those signs represent.

Repeat the signs regularly

Encourage other caregivers to do the same. Your baby should start to mimic the signs in approximately two months, and then you can add words as you make progress.

Keep sign language consistent and clear

Also, use the sign every time you say the word. Teach your baby during special times during the day when your baby is most awake and attentive. Meal times are highly interactive and are great for teaching sign language. Other helpful times might include bath time, reading time, and play time.

Sometimes, babies don’t always sign the word “properly,” but the important thing is to make sure both parent and baby agree on the meaning of the sign. Your baby does not have to master American Sign Language, she just needs to know enough signs to communicate with you.

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Of course, all children are different, and some babies may not immediately show an interest in signing. Be patient with your baby and if you are persistent, you will start to see results. No matter what, remember to be mindful, and observant and adapt your communication to what your baby needs.

3 Simple Signs to Start

“All done!” This is one of the most popular ASL baby signs. To do it, hold both hands up, palms facing toward your chest, fingers spread out. Then, in one quick motion, turn your hands so that the palms are facing out away from you.

“More.” touch the tips of your four fingers and thumb together on both your right and left hand (with all your knuckles flattened). Then touch the fingertips of your right hand to your left, as if you are making a “pecking/kissing” motion with your hands.

“Hungry.” Make a “C” shape with one hand, with your palm facing your chest. Then start with your hand at your neck and move it down to your belly button in one motion. (This sign is similar to the motion of food going down into your stomach)

Sign language allows babies to communicate with caregivers and parents long before they can speak verbally. Also, sign language accelerates babies’ verbal skills and strengthens emotional bonds. If you are able to consistently use the signs at home, it will make mealtimes harmonious and fun.

With patience and persistence sign language can become a highly beneficial part of your relationship with your child—during mealtimes and at all other times!

Baby Sign Language | Chalk

One typical evening, a mother makes herself comfortable to start dropping spoon planes directly onto her child's wide-open rotary airfield. The received, of course, is carefully “chewed” by the gums with small dental inclusions. And then the kid points to something in the direction of the refrigerator.

— What do you want?

He persistently points in the same direction.

Mom gets him some cheese.

Is this?

Then watermelon.

— Or is it? Or cucumber?

Everything is not right, and the child shakes his head negatively, mercilessly throwing them over the side of the table.

Mom starts to wind up.

— To drink? a toy? Yes, what do you want?!

The child cries because he is not understood. Mom is ready to cry because she doesn't understand. The result of the evening: everyone is crying, and dad is in shock.

Now imagine the same situation, only the child points to the side of the refrigerator, rubs his chest with a pen, and makes a growling sound.

“Aaah…” Mom says. Did you see a bear on the fridge?

Mom goes to the refrigerator, takes a magnet with a picture of a bear and hands it to the baby. The kid rejoices, growls again and continues to eat his food. Everyone understood each other, and everyone is happy. class, right?

In America, for several years now, there has been a trend of teaching sign language to toddlers. And in this article I'll tell you why it's great.

Why teach a child sign language?

  1. The first word can come to a baby at about a year old, but the real verbal explosion occurs by 1.5 years. There was an explosion, the child says something, but this “something” usually does not correlate well with reality. At this age, children understand more words than they can say. And I guess it's infuriating. More precisely, I see how it pisses my child off, so gestures come in handy. It is important that babies begin to “build” a constructor from words by 20 months, and it is easier for them to do this if they know several ways for self-expression. The kid feels calmer from the thought: there is no word, then there is an option to explain himself in the dance. No, with a gesture, of course.
  2. I am a mother of a bilingual child and I have dozens of questions about my child's speech development. I know that only the practice of the Russian language will help him save it and translate it into an active language. And I also know that by those 18 months when a child is gaining vocabulary, bilinguals are doing double the thinking work. It turns out that bilinguals can hold their parents in anticipation of "when, when will he speak?" A little bit longer. But the beginning of speaking does not make life easier, because the child speaks as he hears, but he hears differently than we said it. In this case, sign language becomes the very bilingual bridge where all family members can exhale and “talk” Illustration by Alex Solis
  3. Sign language is an opportunity to start getting to know your child before he starts talking. You can find out in less than 18 months that he really likes bears, cheese and this particular book, and that he wants more berries. Because he will show you this "more".
  4. If there is a lot of understanding and little frustration in your communication with your child, this is the basis for a tender and trusting relationship. If communication does not cause a lot of tension, then instead of filling your child with a stress hormone, you fill him with joy and love. And on this it grows and develops like parsley in the sun.
  5. The book "Signs of a happy baby" was my first in this topic. Its author, William Paul White, also closes the question that inevitably arises: if I start using sign language, will the child only want to gesticulate? Will he never speak then? The author refers to research and argues that the development of children who communicate with sign language can outpace the development of children who do not. When we name a word, it is transferred to the auditory center of the brain. When you show a word and name it, then it also passes into the visual and motor center. It turns out that both hemispheres work on language acquisition.
  6. By mastering sign language, a child learns to interact with an adult and through him masters conversational patterns: to stop for the interlocutor to speak, to listen and maintain eye contact.
  7. Even if the child is 2-3 years old, sometimes it is difficult to understand him. And he will repeat his thought over and over and over until you understand his message. I love kids for their perseverance. Sign language helps to understand faster and already run to give "hell-hell". What is the translation of avocado, of course.

    How to teach sign language to a child?

When I learned about sign language, I pictured this scene for myself. We are walking with my son, we hear an airplane, then I show him the gesture of an airplane, he gestures in response, we laugh, hold hands and go into the light. And then the credits, the credits rolled...

But as you understand, everything went wrong.

  • No, the child will not gesticulate back to you right away. You may even come to the conclusion that he will never gesture back to you, and you are already tired of the incomprehensible looks of others. Just keep going. Just communicate with your child, and at some point he will definitely answer you. And then things will go even faster, because you will see the backlash for the first time, and this is seriously inspiring. And secondly, the child will learn the signs faster.
  • You can start by simply pointing at objects. If the child points to some object, show him that you understand what he is talking about, and at that moment name the word and show it.
  • Sign language is good because the parent learns to go to the level of the child, and here I'm talking about the level of the eyes. After all, it is necessary for the child to see that you are showing yourself this. And this is an opportunity to start a conversation with a child, even if it is an untranslatable combination of sounds. But the gestures are translatable.
  • And this recommendation is for parents of bilingual children. If you use the system one parent - one language, then sign language becomes a link between languages. Dad says: "This is a ball" and shows the ball, and mom says: "This is a ball" and shows the same sign.
  • Another hint: you can take the child's hands (only if he agrees to this) and perform the desired gesture with them. So the “more” gesture was difficult for my son, because you need to make fingers on one hand and on the other, and then knock them against each other. And it's not easy. But a couple of joint trainings resolved the difficulties, and now this is a favorite gesture.
  • The JSP rule will help you in family mastering sign language. JPP: clarity, consistency, repetition - these three words help the child build meanings around the events. The same applies to sign language.

While learning a new gesture with my son, I see his smile, attention to my hands and smile again. Sign language turned out to be an adventure for me, which is unforgettable to plunge into with a child. It brings us joy and ease of understanding. Suddenly, you will like it too?

Illustrated by Alex Solis

How to choose a communication method for a non-verbal child with autism?


Word, subject, picture or gesture - behavioral analyst on how to choose the first words and their form for teaching communication of a non -verbal child with autism

Source: Let's Talk

Choosing the first words to teach the child to communicate

1. The first words are chosen according to the child's interests and motivation.

2. Choose only words that your child will have many occasions to use during the day.

3. If the child is just starting to speak, choose words that are easy to articulate and that the child can pronounce clearly, or think in advance which part of the word can be spoken instead of the whole word.

4. If the child will be learning gestures, then choose the words that are indicated by iconic gestures (the gesture itself is similar to what it means).

5. Avoid abstract concepts or words that have little communicative value (eg, “yes, no, please”).

6. If the child uses gestures, avoid words that look too similar to each other (eg "eat and drink").

Choosing the form of communication

You must determine what the child will use as communication, based on the individual characteristics of the child:

1. Oral speech. If a child has echolalia, that is, he repeats words and phrases after other people, then oral speech training is suitable for him, even if he does not currently have functional speech. The reason is that the child is already showing the desired behavior (saying words) and we can use this behavior to teach functional communication.

2. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Suitable for children who are good at distinguishing between photographs and drawings. PECS has also been successfully used to teach requests (“mandams”) to children who speak single words but who are unable to imitate someone else's speech. Such children can quickly learn functional communication using PECS, but then need to reduce the use of images as the child progresses to oral speech. PECS is also a good choice for those children who have problems with motor imitation or the series of movements that would be required for gestures, or those children who respond negatively to hand-on-hand prompts (although in this case a separate program may be given). on desensitization to such a hint). Within this system, photographs, drawings or small objects can be used.

3. Communication boards with images. Suitable for children who respond well to images/pictures. Typically, each board is designed for a specific activity or situation, allowing for more variety in communication than can be achieved with gesture training.

4. Gestures. Gesture communication can be taught alone or at the same time as PECS to ensure that the child has access to communication in any setting. Gestures are a good option for those children who do not respond well to visual stimuli. Gestures are also suitable for children who have very well developed motor imitation skills. Gestures can also be the best choice for families who have difficulty creating, organizing, and moving PECS symbols in a variety of situations.

5. Devices or applications that combine images and voice. Suitable for children who respond well to both visual and auditory stimuli. Care must be taken to ensure that the child does not use a device for self-stimulating behavior instead of communication.

6. Item exchange communication. Suitable for children who are unable to discriminate between images (image discrimination problems).

Item Exchange Benefits

1. It may be easier for a child to learn to associate a particular item with a desired item or activity because they are similar.

2. The "Listener" does not need to undergo any training, it is enough to know what to do if the child gives you an object.

Disadvantages of the object exchange system

1. It is difficult to provide a child with constant access to objects for communication.

2. It is difficult to find reference items for many things or activities.

3. Difficulty transitioning to another functional communication may occur.

4. Can only be used to teach the child to ask for nouns.

Advantages of the Image Exchange System

1. Listeners do not need any special training.

2. Full correspondence between the image and the desired object facilitates the first stages of learning.

3. No special reaction training needed. The only motor skill that is needed is the ability to take an object and give it to another person.

4. Images are static - they remain visible for a long time.

5. Many children who are just beginning to learn speaking can use PECS as a visual cue to help them respond verbally.

6. After learning primary reactions, no physical cues are needed.

7. The child will be able to use images to interact with peers, siblings, if they are attentive to his communication efforts.

Disadvantages of the image exchange system

1. Environmental support required - image cards must always be available for communication.

2. It can be difficult to "react quickly" to a child's new desire or interest and teach the child a new request, because first you will need to make a card with the appropriate picture.

3. Systems in which the child points to images require the "listener" to stand nearby. As a result, many communication attempts (pointing to an image) may go unnoticed and unreinforced, making it difficult to control the stimulus response (pointing) to get what you want. This problem does not exist in the PECS system, where the child has to give an image to another person, while he is taught to be assertive in communication and to attract someone else's attention.

4. Can be difficult to find images/symbols/drawings and teach more abstract concepts.

5. Some children have difficulty combining symbols to create combinations of words and sentences.

6. It is difficult to move from requests ("mands") to other language functions.

7. Pictures should be made, organized and kept close at hand, but away from other children who might take or ruin them.

Benefits of sign language

1. Easy to prompt, especially if motor imitation is already a strong point of the child.

2. Stimulus and response often resemble each other, although they do not match in appearance, which means that there is a clue in the response itself.

3. Gestures do not depend on support in the environment - the child always has access to communication (you can't forget his hands!)

4. There is a relationship between an individual reaction and an individual stimulus, as in oral speech. In other words, the movements for each gesture will be different, in contrast to PECS, where each request requires the same movement.

5. Some research indicates that when children begin to use gestures, it is easier for them to move from them to spoken language than children who use PECS. However, it is difficult to create experimental conditions to test this assumption, since each child is unique. The author of this article met children who were beginning to use oral speech, who helped themselves to speak by “prompting” to themselves the desired syllable in a word with the help of certain hand movements.

6. Sunberg and Sunberg (The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 1990) found that gestures are easier to learn, reproduce, and lead to more spontaneous communication, and are more likely to be retained and generalized after training than use of image selection systems (pointing to images).

Disadvantages of sign language

1. Parents and educators need special training in sign language.

2. Parents and educators should use gestures when they speak to a child.

3. Parents and educators should form each individual gesture.

4. Gestures are fleeting—unlike static images, they “play” and disappear.

5. Children who have difficulty with fine motor sequences may find it difficult to learn sign language.

6. Sometimes you have to "invent" gestures for the child's favorite objects and activities.

7. It may be difficult for a child to interact with other children and adults who do not know sign language.

8. It may be difficult to give gestures to children who are uncomfortable with other people's touch.

9. It can be difficult to reduce prompts for some children who may begin to "give" their hands to adults if they want something.

10. If others do not know or do not recognize the child's gestures, then many requests may be left without a reward (not reinforced). As a result, it may not be possible to set the gesture control for the child's request.

Questions to be answered

1. How does the child respond to touch? While some children can be gradually taught to the hand-on-hand prompts that are required for learning both gestures and PECS, this learning will require additional time. However, it is very important that the instructor continues to be associated with the reward, and touch training should be done very slowly and carefully.

2. Can the child imitate other people's movements with relative ease?

3. Is it possible to provide environmental support for this form of communication?

4. How quickly does a child learn new requests (“mandams”)? Will the environment be able to “keep up” with it, will new necessary images be created in time?

5. Are the child's requests (“mandas”) currently food and drink, tangible objects, or are they mostly activities that are difficult to convey through images?

6. How many different places does the child visit during the day, and how many different people are there to whom he can ask (mand)?

7. Can the chosen form of communication be made available to the child in all the places he visits during the day?

8. Learning to interact with typically developing children is one of the goals of the child's current program, and if so, can other children be taught to respond to the chosen communication system?

9. Are all possible “communication partners” of the child willing to learn and use this form of communication?

10. How does the child react to sounds? Is it likely that he will "steam" with an image-to-speech device if that becomes the communication system of choice?

11. How many activities and toys are there in which the child is interested?

12. Will it be easy for the child to transfer the communication system from one place to another?

Which system?

When there are no clear indications of which communication system is best for a particular child and family, the author recommends that parents choose four items that the child wants and teach the child to request two items using gestures and the other two items using PECS. Make sure that all items, without exception, are what the child asks for equally often (items have the same reinforcing value). In this way, you will introduce two systems of communication at the same time and then see which system the child learns faster. After that, you can choose the main communication system for the child.

Regardless of which communication system is chosen as the main one at the moment, it is desirable that the people around also use the additional communication system when talking to the child - this can increase the child's understanding and interest in what other people say and do. For example, some children may respond well to sound boards with pictures or boards with pictures related to eating. Parents, talking with the child, “point” to the corresponding images. In this case, the image is a “hint” for understanding what the parents are saying, but no response is required from the child himself. Some children begin to imitate this behavior of their parents and begin to use images themselves in a functional way for requests ("mands") or comments ("tact").

If a child uses PECS as their primary communication system, it may be helpful to teach them signs for words that are difficult to match with images, such as prepositions and verbs. These gestures often "look" more like an actual action or location than a picture, and the child can learn them more quickly.

No matter which communication system you choose, always pair spoken language, single words, and even baby sounds with strong reinforcers! Teach your child skills that will increase his ability to articulate sounds and words and ensure he wants to communicate with those around him.

See also:

What is a "Picture Exchange Communication System" or PECS?

How to help a non-verbal child to speak?

How to teach a child with autism to make a request with a gesture?

Three Key Speech Development Strategies

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