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Using signs and gestures

What are signs and gestures?

hands moving around to indicate sign language

Signs and gestures are when you give extra information to the words you say by using actions with your hands or body- like when you wave bye.

Why use signs and gestures?

Using signs and gestures helps children to understand words. Children can use signs and gestures before they can use words so promoting the use of signs and gestures give children a way to communicate. Lots of children make up their own gestures to indicate things they want, introducing signs supports their communication strengths.

How to use signs and gestures

  • Start by introducing 1 or 2 signs at a time.
  • Pick out key words that are interesting and useful to your child, you don’t need to sign every word you say. For example, words like “drink”, “food”, “more”, “finished” or favourite toys and activities are often good ones to start with. You can find signs on the internet, tv programmes, or use natural gestures. Imagine how you would ask someone across a noisy room if they wanted a drink.
  • Use the word and sign together, and use lots of repetition.
  • Find lots of opportunities to practise the sign everyday and be consistent in using the sign every
    time you use the word.
  • Don’t expect your child to use the sign as understanding comes before use.

Additional resources and information

The Makaton Charity

Mr Tumble and Friends

An online hub of free advice and resources for parents and carers with children facing difficulties in speaking and understanding language: Speech and Language UK

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL208

Resource Type: Article

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