Infant and Child Development

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Volume 21 Issue 5 (September/October 2012), Pages i-ii, 443-554

Evidence for Website Claims about the Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Infants and Toddlers with Normal Hearing (pages 474-502)

The development of proficient communication skills in infants and toddlers is an important component to child development. A popular trend gaining national media attention is teaching sign language to babies with normal hearing whose parents also have normal hearing. Thirty‐three websites were identified that advocate sign language for hearing children as a way of promoting better developmental outcomes. These sites make several claims about the positive benefits of teaching hearing infants and toddlers to sign, such as earlier communication, improved language development, increased IQ, reduced tantrums, higher self‐esteem, and improved parent–child bonding. Without endorsing or disparaging these claims, the purpose of this article was to evaluate the strength of evidence cited on websites that promote products to teach young children to use sign language. Cumulatively, 82 pieces of evidence were cited by the websites as supporting research. However, over 90% of these citations were opinion articles without any supporting data or descriptions of products and only eight were empirical research studies relevant to the benefits of teaching sign language to young children with normal hearing. Unfortunately, there is not enough high‐quality evidence cited on these websites to draw research‐based conclusions about whether teaching sign language to young children with normal hearing results in better developmental outcomes. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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