Sign language is a method of communication used primarily by those with hearing impairment and the people with whom they interact. There are several variations of sign language including American Sign Language. All variations of this type of communication rely on manual patterns using the hands and body along with facial expressions to represent words and ideas. Learning to sign is a valuable skill for all children. The acquisition of sign language follows many of the same patterns as learning any other "foreign" language.
Plan a program for learning a particular set of common signs each week. For instance, week one may focus on family signs such as those for "father," "mother," "sister," "brother," "aunt" and "uncle." The next week, the child could learn the signs for common actions such as "eating," "drinking," "brushing teeth," "brushing hair," "bathing" and "sleeping." Remember to review the old sets of words frequently so they will be retained.
Teach the child how to use an American Sign Language dictionary if he is old enough to read and write. Looking up particular signs empowers children to take charge of their learning and reinforces their sign memory.
Purchase sign language colouring books. These colouring pages provide children with a fun and creative way of learning American Sign Language. Choose books with clear pictures and representations of signs.
Practice the American Sign Language alphabet with the child. Each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding sign. These letters may be learnt in groupings in any manner you choose. It is often helpful to learn the vowels first and then the most commonly used consonants -- such as "S" and "T" -- saving the lesser used letters like "X" and "Z" for later lessons.
Immerse the child in signing environments in which no speaking is practised for a set amount of time. According to Deaf Australia, children as young as babies will begin to "babble" on their hands and learn words from parents and others who sign just as hearing children learn to babble and eventually form verbal words from listening to speech. Give positive feedback when a child correctly signs a word or idea.
Take breaks from learning to sign if a child expresses frustration or disinterest. Revisit sign language when the youngster is refreshed.
Be patient as the child learns to sign. This is not a skill that will come overnight but is truly language development and acquisition, which can take many years to master.