Communication Therapy: The Benefits of Using Sign Language With the Developmentally Disabled

In ancient history, sign language was used for the purpose of commercial transactions. It was form of communication used in the barter system where people traded goods with speaking a word to one another. Nowadays, sign language has developed into unique form of communication primarily used by the hearing impaired. However, individuals with disabilities who are either non-verbal or minimally verbal can benefit significantly with communication therapy.Sign language instruction greatly improves communication and literacy skills for the developmentally disabled that tend to have special language needs associated with Autism, Down syndrome and other developmental delays. Many challenging or maladaptive behaviors related to Developmental Disabilities, such as physical aggression, temper tantrums, property destruction, self-injury, anxiety, and depression, are often identified and attributed to an inability to communicate with other people. Even though teaching sign language to people with Developmental Disabilities does not interfere with learning to talk, teaching sign language along with speech therapy has proven to speed up spoken communication. Sign Language is very interesting and very rewarding to individuals who are highly motivated to receive instruction. The concept of communication therapy allows the instructor to present information visually through body and hand movements. Furthermore, sign language accelerates speech development and reduces emotional frustration in individuals by teaching them the importance of self-expression. By learning how to express themselves, individuals are able to advocate for themselves, bond with family and communicate vital information to staff. In addition, sign language improves vocabulary, word recognition and attention span.Building expressive and receptive language skills are the steeping stones for socialization and inclusion, equally individuals who learn more ways to express themselves are more likely to seek out interactions as opposed to individuals who lack communication skills. Communication therapy supports the development of cognitive structures that are important for vocalization and comprehension. Those structures are able to program codes in the brain which is established by connections. Establishing connections is the key to successful learning. An individual’s enthusiasm for learning in turn assists with comprehension and exploration.The focus of communication therapy is to facilitate the verbal language process. In order to encourage positive performance, proactive strategies such as using people, pictures, books as visual items is very important. Creating sounds for the non-hearing impaired to improve auditory learning through sign is also significant. Playing games using toys and other objects can also be very useful tactile learning style. In addition, using dramatizations by “acting out” stories are apart of learning styles that can be essential in starting conversations. Starting conversations or any type of vital communication is the first step in problem solving when an issue arises. There are certain limitations that individuals with disabilities have to manage but increased communication can be beneficial and therapeutic.