Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn
In 1982, two researchers, Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, noticed that young babies were spontaneously using simple hand movements to represent words they weren't yet able to say. This discovery prompted Acredolo and Goodwyn to conduct research, which spanned two decades, to study the effects of teaching hearing babies to sign. Much of this research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Acredolo and Goodwyn conducted a longitudinal study that involved 103 11-month-old babies. What these researchers found was amazing: babies who communicated with sign language before they could speak actually learned to talk sooner and scored higher on intelligence tests when compared to their non-signing peers. These babies developed larger vocabularies, displayed more self-confidence and engaged in more sophisticated play than their non-signing peers. Even at age 8, children who had learned to sign as infants scored significantly higher on IQ tests than those who had not. In addition, the parents of these babies reported a decrease in frustration and a strengthening of the bond between themselves and their babies.
Dr. Elizabeth Bates
"We love to look at each other, share information with each other, imitate each other. That's what's innate," said Dr. Elizabeth Bates, the director of the Center for Research in Language at the University of California at San Diego. "The human brain has been tuned for social learning. We have a general purpose device for acquiring culture, technology and language. Yes, we're the only species on the planet with full-blown language, but we're also the only species with ice hockey and international finance and funeral parlors."
Dr. Marilyn Daniels
Dr. Marilyn Daniels, a professor of speech communication at Penn State University, has found that hearing students in pre-kindergarten classes who receive instruction in both English and ASL score significantly higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than hearing students in classes with no sign instruction. Her studies demonstrate that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance a preschool child's vocabulary, spelling and reading skills.
Dr. Joseph Garcia
As Dr. Joseph Garcia began working as an interpreter in the late 1970s, he noticed that hearing babies of deaf parents could communicate their needs and desires at a much earlier age than children of hearing parents. Garcia began to research the use of American Sign Language with hearing babies of hearing parents at Alaska Pacific University in 1987. His thesis research showed that babies who are exposed to signs regularly and consistently at six to seven months of age can begin expressive communication by their eighth or ninth month.
After graduating, Garcia focused on creating a practical system for hearing parents to use sign language with their preverbal babies. He published his first book on the subject, Toddler Talk, in 1994. As Garcia began his doctoral studies in adult learning and education, he expanded and revised his program, which is now known as SIGN with your BABY$reg;.
Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl
Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, has researched the role of vision play in speech perception for infants. Dr. Kuhl's research has shown that infants have a surprisingly sophisticated knowledge not only of audible speech, but also of the visual components of speech. Dr. Kuhlís research proves that infants demonstrate knowledge of the link between the sight and sound of speech at a very early age.
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley
Dr. Kimberlee Whaley started a longitudinal study in November 1999 to research the use of ASL signs with preverbal babies in a preschool environment. After her pilot study was conducted at Ohio State's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School, Dr. Whaley noted, "It is so much easier for our teachers to work with 12-month olds who can sign that they want their bottle, rather than just cry and have us try to figure out what they want. This is a great way for infants to express their needs before they can verbalize them."