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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 06:53 GMT
Babies 'learn' sign language
A child who learned signing
Therapists believe signing is "natural" for babies
Parents are being offered the chance to learn how to "talk" to their baby using sign language.

A workshop was taking place in Manchester on Thursday to show how signing with babies is possible long before they can speak.

It is hoped parents will be able learn how to understand more clearly when their baby needs among other things, their nappy changed or more food.

Speech therapists claim that while babies learn to speak when they are aged about one, at six-months-old they understand words and can make basic signs in the way deaf people do.

It is thought there are about 50 signs babies can learn but the six basic ones speech therapist Diane Ryan is teaching are: more, eat, milk, pain, nappy and help.

Research has shown babies who sign are less frustrated
Diane Ryan, Speech therapist
Ms Ryan, an American speech and language therapist, was running the workshop in Didsbury.

She said: "Research has shown babies who sign are less frustrated since they have a way of expressing their wants.

"But studies have [also] proved babies who are taught a few simple signs not only speak earlier than non-signers but have larger vocabularies and become better readers.

She said teaching a hearing baby to sign is "simple and natural" and is an extension of "baby gestures".

Elizabeth Morris, principal at the School of Emotional Literacy in Gloucester, who lectures in signing, agrees it can be of benefit to both parent and baby.

She told BBC News Online last year: "Children are wired to communicate and they will do this by whatever means they have available to them."

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