Sunday, 15 May 2011

Baby Sign Language: The Shocking Statistics

I have written much about teaching Sign Language to hearing babies in the past. In an effort to prevent this from turning into the world's longest post, I have (painfully) limited myself to just the statistics.
  • What have the studies shown? And what have parents got to say?
  • The statistics of hearing loss - in children and adults.
  • Why should you care?
What the Official Studies Say About Sign Language...
  • Studies have shown that babies who learned sign as infants had a higher IQ overall than babies who didn't learn sign.
  • Children who have learned sign have been shown to have more advanced language skills than children who have not learned sign.
  • Signing in the classroom has led to improved math scores among students.
  • Learning sign language at an early age helps develop the brain in the critical early years of language development.
What Parents say...

There have been hundreds of studies into Sign Language because let's face it, we only want the best for our children. 
  • That babies who sign seem happier (therefore happier Mums)
  • Signing helps parents to tune into Baby's needs and they form strong bonds.
  • Most children can learn to Sign by the age of 7-8 months (some as early as 3-6 months)
  • Babies who Sign seem happier and are lees prone to tantrums because they can express their needs better.
  • Babies who Sign also come to have a great grasp of language too.
  • Signing is especially beneficial for babies who are prone to glue ear and middle ear infections
  • My number one reason for learning to Sign - you can yell at them in public without saying a word =)
 (This actually comes in really handy when you need to tell them something discreetly)
The Statistics of Hearing Loss
In many countries around the world, we screen our newborns for hearing loss. If your baby passes with flying colours then you may be inclined to think that you're in the all clear. Sadly, this isn't the case. 
Australia:

  • 3.5 million Australians are living with some degree of hearing loss
  • That's 16.69% of the population or nearly 1 in 6 people (many of these are over 65)
  • 93% of Indigenous Australian baby will experience glue ear and middle ear infections during early childhood
  • 500 babies in Australia are born each year with some degree of hearing loss
  • 95% of those babies are born into families with little or no experience with deafness
  • Over 80% of those children will go to public schools and be the only hearing impaired child at the school
  • Hearing loss is projected to increase to 1 in 4 by 2050
  • 1 million Australians are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work - this damage is irreversible...but preventable

Britain:
  • 5 out of 1000 children in Britain will require medical intervention - surgery - to treat glue ear
  • There are 2.3 million people in Britain (aged 16-60) living with mild-moderate hearing loss
  • 2 million own hearing aids
  • 1.4 million use them regularly
  • 840 babies are born each year with significant hearing loss
  • 1 in 1000 will be deaf by the age of three
America: 
  • Approximately 36 millions American adults are living with some degree of hearing loss.
  • 44% of carpenters and 45% of plumbers report some degree  of hearing loss
  • 3 per 1000 children are born with some degree of hearing loss
  • 3 per 4 children will experience ear infections by the age of 3 (this one shocked me)
Across the board:
  • Adults will spend an average of 7yrs living with hearing loss before seeking help.
  • Sufferers are more likely to become depressed (due to the isolation they experience)
    •  

Scary, huh? The sad thing is, a huge percentage of those adults sustained hearing loss at work.
Glue ear and middle ear infections are incredibly common in young children. When a child suffers from glue ear repeatedly, they begin to shut themselves off from the world. They "misbehave" or develop "behavioural problems"....because the can't hear the instruction you give them. 

They also struggle in the classroom because they have missed out on months of "English lessons" at home - you spoke to them, but they couldn't understand you. 

These kids are at a very serious disadvantage. They often require speech therapy. They are more likely to become depressed later in life because they were isolated early in life.

I'm a big believer that our school systems should be teaching some basic Sign Language to our children. Heck, I bet you could even find volunteers to run the programs and teach the kids. Until that day, the onus is on the parents to teach their children.

If you already know me, then you would know that my eldest son suffered from febrile convulsions in his infancy. The first Sign we taught him was "hot."  Within weeks, he would make the Sign whenever he felt to hot - this allowed us to treat him before medical intervention was required. 

Sometimes, it was too late - he would stop breathing while his internal thermostat rebooted.  Other times it was early enough to get him undressed and cooling down before that glazed look in his eyes took hold of him. 

Knowing the numbers - studying the statistics - coupled with my own experience with Sign Language, I am urging every parent to give this some serious consideration.

Click here for ASL (USA)
Click here for BSL (UK)

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