From just 4 months old, Perth babies are learning sign language


Lucy Buchanan and her baby Esme with Signing Hands instructor Debbie Bundock. Picture: Bruce Hunt
Lucy Buchanan and her baby Esme with Signing Hands instructor Debbie Bundock. Picture: Bruce Hunt

BABIES across Perth are being taught sign language from as young as four months old to boost their early-age communication skills.

Mundaring mother Debbie Bundock teaches Australian Sign Language classes at centres in Whitfords, Forrestfield, Bayswater, Willetton and Leederville.

She said teaching sign language to babies, even those with full hearing, had merit.

“All the studies have shown that all babies who sign talk sooner, have a larger vocabulary and put words together more clearly than non-signing babies,” she said.

“I regularly get children referred to me who have language delays for lots of reasons, it’s not necessarily just deafness.”

For Ms Bundock, the turning point in her understanding occurred when her son signed having a sore throat at 13 months old – and the doctor confirmed his situation would have developed into tonsillitis.

“He signed ‘sore’ and I signed ‘where?’ and he pointed at his throat,” she said.

“If he hadn’t been able to tell me, it might’ve been a couple more days of him just having this sore throat before he would have had the temperature and been really ill.”

Just two months earlier, she and her son had started taking signing classes.

Ms Bundock, who started Signing Hands when she moved to Australia about 12 years ago, said most babies wouldn’t reproduce signs until they were seven to 10 months old, although the youngest she’d identified clearly signing was just four and a half months.

She said teaching sign language to hearing babies was a study made widespread by American doctor Joseph Garcia, who has written about the subject since 1994.