2006-04-20 / Letters to the Editor

Class teaches babies to communicate earlier through sign language

By Donna K. Drago

The first-of-its-kind class on teaching sign language to babies to encourage them to communicate before they are able to speak will begin Tuesday, May 2, in Jamestown.

Lori Casey Halloran is a certified instructor in Signing Smart, a program that uses American Sign Language to teach parents and babies how to talk to each other. Halloran studied the program and was certified in Denver, Colo.

"I teach parents how to teach the babies," Halloran said about how the sessions work. Each class is fun, interactive, and uses her collection of "wonderful props," she added.

Babies are more adept at using their hands much before they are able to verbalize their needs, Halloran said, citing research on infant learning. The Signing Smart method gives parents and babies from 6 months to 2 years a jump on talking to each other, she noted.

Many islanders know Halloran from her 15 years experience operating a day-care business out of her home on Center Street, Halloran said, adding that the Signing Smart classes will also be given in her home.

She has tried out the program on her 14-month-old grandson, Jake Bruce, Halloran said. He made his first "sign," at 10 months and now, just four months later, he is up to 28 signs.

Halloran said that Jake also speaks 32 words, and research is showing that sign language stimulates verbal skills through the interaction of babies and their parents.

Halloran noted that current research shows that babies that learn sign language have IQs of 10 to 12 points higher by age 8 than children who learn to communicate in conventional ways.

The method is very popular on the West Coast, Halloran said. She expects it to become more popular on the East Coast, especially now that Sesame Street is teaching kids how to sign.

Elmo, the popular Sesame Street character, gives "the sign of the day," Halloran said.

Her classes run 10 weeks and tuition is $150, which includes all teaching materials.

Call Halloran at 423-3327 or 935-7672 for more information.

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