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HCS, childcare to use sign language with pre-K

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Program can help infants express needs before words come

By Kelly Cantrall

Early childhood educators have signed on for sign language.

Parents and preschool and childcare staff participated in sign-language training as a way to improve communication with young students who still are learning how to verbally express themselves.

Trainers and equipment from the Florida-based program Time to Sign were paid for by a grant from Communicare.

Learning to sign can ease frustrations for small children, as they can more easily share their needs and wants with adults. This can help social and emotional development, preschool consultant Liz Lancaster said.

“We’re trying to give them another way to communicate until they can use their words,” Lancaster said.

When teachers speak to them while also signing, processing the two forms of communication can strengthen brain development, said Michael Hubler, owner and operations manager of Time to Sign.

It allows children to learn concepts before they can read, and it gives them an emotional outlet, Hubler said. They can sign that they’re angry instead of lashing out at a classmate.

Deb Kodama is a Cradle School instructor at several schools, where she works on kindergarten preparation with children and parents. She wasn’t using sign language at all before, but believes it will be beneficial for her students. Because the signs are used along with regular commands, Kodama said she believed it will be easy to incorporate it in her classes.

Kasey Johnson, a preschool teacher at New Highland Elementary School, uses sign language to a degree in her classroom. Johnson has many non-verbal students in her class, and New Highland also is a site for hearing-impaired classes.

“It’s hard for them to express what they need,” she said.

Johnson said she thinks it will help behavior management in her class by being able to set expectations non-verbally as well. She also thinks non-verbal students will be able to work better with their classmates.

“Those children will feel more a part of their classroom because they can talk with their peers,” she said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.