Sign Language Benefits for Hearing Children

Over the past 30 years there has been an amazing amount of research into sign language and its influence on the development on young children. Today it is easy to search “sign language and children” on any search engine and find thousands of research white papers extolling the virtues of teaching children how to talk with their hands.

Here are just a few of the benefits mentioned:

  • Increased vocabularyBS 4
  • Reading ability
  • Spelling proficiency
  • Raising of self-esteem
  • Expression of emotions
  • Communication development
  • Integrated brain activities
  • Coordination
  • Small muscle development
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Bilingual advantages
  • Heightened cerebral activity
  • Lowering of frustration
  • Parent-child bonding

I appreciate this research and the fact that I have seen all of these benefits occur with those that I have taught over the years. For those of you that are interested in just part of the research that has been done on the benefits of sign language and hearing children I have listed several references below.



“Deaf Parents of Hearing Children Resources,” April 2003 (April 27, 2003).

Glairon, Susan. First Words: Sign Language Lets Babies ‘Speak’ Their Minds.  The Boulder Daily Camera.  Boulder, CO: 2003.

“Hearing Children of Deaf Parents,” April 2003 (April 26, 2003).

Sell, Jill.  Deaf Parents, Hearing Children Face Communication Challenges.  Newhouse News Service.  2001.

Yost, Barbara.  Look Who’s Talking Sign.  The Arizona Republic. 2003.

Daniels, M. (1994). The Effects of Sign Language on Hearing Children’s Language Development. Communication Education, October, v43 n4, p291(8).

Daniels, Marilyn, Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy. Bergin & Garvey, October 2000. ISBN: 0897897927.

Hafer, Jan C, and Robert M. Wilson. Signing for Reading Success. Gallaudet University Press, December 1998. ISBN: 0930323181.

Daniels, M. (October, 1994). The effects of sign language on hearing children’s language development. Communication Education, 43, 291-298.

Daniels, M. (1996). Seeing language: The effect over time of sign language on vocabulary development in early childhood education. Child Study Journal, 26, 193-208.

Felzer, L. (1998). A Multisensory Reading Program That Really Works. Teaching and Change, 5, 169-183.

Wilson, R., Teague, J., and Teague, M. (1985). The Use of Signing and Fingerspelling to Improve Spelling Performance with Hearing Children. Reading Psychology, 4, 267-273.

Hafer, J. (1986). Signing For Reading Success. Washington D.C.: Clerc Books, Gallaudet University Press.

Koehler, L., and Loyd, L. (September 1986). Using Fingerspelling/Manual Signs to Facilitate Reading and Spelling. Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (4’th Cardiff Wales).

Blackburn, D., Vonvillian, J., and Ashby, R. (January 1984). Manual Communication as an Alternative Mode of Language Instruction for Children with Severe Reading Disabilities. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 15, 22-31.

Carney, J., Cioffi, G., and Raymond, W. (Spring 1985). Using Sign Language for Teaching Sight Words. Teaching Exceptional Children. 214-217.

King-Spears, Kelley. (2012). Jumpstart the Resource Guide for Parents with Developmentally Delayed Children.

Sensenig, L., Topf, B., and Mazeika, E. (June 1989). Sign Language Facilitation of Reading with Students Classified as Trainable Mentally Handicapped. Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded, 121-125.