COLUMBUS, Ohio — The isolation caused by the pandemic contributed to some post-pandemic babies and toddlers to struggle communicating and interacting with their parents, teachers and other kids.

What You Need To Know

  • More pandemic-born babies had developmental concerns in the communication domain

  • Experts recommend children start learning ASL gestures as early as six months

  • The Learning Experience is one of many schools to teach their students ASL 
  • ASL skills can help with behavior and frustration 

At the Learning Experience in New Albany, children aren’t just learning their ABCs and 123s. They’re also being taught American Sign Language (ASL). 

A research study based in Ireland showed that more babies born during the pandemic had developmental concerns in the communication domain compared to their predecessors.

Rachel Phillips, who serves as the curriculum coordinator at The Learning Experience, said ASL is a great compliment to toddlers and babies learning to communicate.

“They use it when communicating at lunch, asking for more, saying that they're all done, you know, saying that they want a drink or that they're ready to eat lunch,” said Phillips. 

Children start learning ASL gestures as early as six months at The Learning Experience. Although the school year just started, Kiara Griggs has worked with her group of kids since they were babies. She said that having a continued ASL curriculum through every grade helps with retention.

“I've had them for quite some time, even before September,” said Griggs. “They have progressed a lot. Even before they enter this class, they practice sign language in their previous class, so we just continue to build upon what they learned in their previous classes and just use it throughout the day.”

Griggs' class is made of toddlers between 2 and 3 years old. They know how to sign words like water, drink, milk and baby. Phillips said learning ASL has helped with other parts of the day like lunch and playtime.

“It alleviates frustration,” said Phillips. “It definitely alleviates behavior linked to those frustrations. A lot of times you see, because they have those other words and it's easier to get like actual words, you see less biting, less fighting over toys. They say 'stop' or 'help' or ask the teacher for help and saying 'please' when they want help.”

While research shows that communication skills are the area where post and pre-pandemic kids had the biggest difference, Phillips said ASL as an extra skill helps their brain develop in a new way.

“So it is just the curriculum and that ASL still kind of helps them be able to access more knowledge, like being able to communicate and the teachers having signs to give them helps them be able to learn more because they have a basis for that knowledge,” said Phillips. 

Research shows it’s best to start teaching babies American Sign Language starting at six months. It will also make it easier for them to continue learning the language through pre-K and grade school.