Signing is a way of communicating with the hands, arms, and face. Motions are made with the hands and arms, and facial expressions add to the meaning of words just as voice inflections and tone of voice do to the spoken word. Signing is usually thought of as a language for the hard of hearing or deaf, but it is used for other groups as well, such as infants and young children and special needs children. There is no one universal form of signing, as if varies from country to country. British Sign Language and American Sign Language are popular versions, but they are quite different from each other.

Learning signing is becoming more and more popular. College courses are offered as electives for students who are required to complete a language class. In addition, signing can now be learned online thanks to the Internet. Although it is helpful to learn the facial expressions, such as raising or lowering eyebrows, from another person, it is possible to attain these skills online through demonstrations and written instructions. 

Signing is currently a very popular trend with parents of children from infancy through ages two or three, or until proficient spoken language is developed. Numerous books, DVDs, and other written instructional materials are available explaining how to teach signing to an infant. A normal young child understands language much sooner than he or she is able to speak it. Therefore, signing is the perfect way to help a very young child communicate. Signing can be used for a child to relay needs such as thirst or hunger, or a child can be taught signing to name animals, bedtime elements and routines, such as books, pajamas, pillow, and other items. It can also be used to identify and name animals and other items. Signing can eliminate the frustration of trying to communicate when the young child is not yet ready to use oral communication for this purpose. 

Because autism is on the rise in children, and this disorder often involves the inability to speak, signing is an ideal solution for communication. Most autistic children are of normal or above average intelligence, and they can easily learn signing. Even a few signing gestures each day can provide an important link between an autistic child and his or her parents and his or her world in general. Depending on the severity of the autism, the child may use signing occasionally or as a main form of communication.

In addition, signing can be taught to special needs children, such as those with Down’s Syndrome. The basic hand gestures that are taught to young children can be used with these children as provide a way to let parents and caregivers know their desires and needs. Signing opens up doors of communication to all children who are not able to speak proficiently, or are limited in their speech. 

The hard of hearing and deaf definitely rely on signing for their link to their families and the rest of those they deal with. Most of this population learns signing as very young children when it is discovered that they are not able to hear normally or at all. Signing can be practiced with software on a computer by this group, and is often used at special schools for the deaf. Signing by the older population is often based on alphabetical motions that spell out words. It is done very quickly and can be interpreted by a person fluent in signing. Signing is commonly available on television stations with special adaptations so that those who are hard of hearing or deaf can watch their favorite television shows or the news.

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