Gestural Communication

Development of Gestural Communication

All babies, both hearing and deaf use gestures to communicate.  While a hearing child will decrease his use of gestures, the child who is deaf continues to use gestures, making them more and more communicative and language-like.  For deaf children who have good models of sign, their gestures become more and more like the signs used by those around them.  So, sign and sign with your children. 

There are certain hand-shapes that seem to appear most frequently in early manual babbling.  Some basic hand motions that are used in early manual babbling include:

  • Closing the hand
  • Moving the hand toward the body
  • Moving the hand up and down

Just as parents of hearing children get excited with the early stages of vocal babbling, parents of children who sign get excited when a hand-shape or hand-motion looks like a true sign.

Since infant who are deaf can’t hear their own vocal babbling or their parents responding to their babbling very well, their babbling will likely decrease after a few months.  Deaf children exposed to early signing and finger spelling do through essentially the same stages of babbling(s) as hearing children do, but they babble with their hands…it is call manual babbling.