ISELIN, NJ - Early childhood education franchise Lightbridge Academy has been incorporating sign language into its curriculum for children as young as six weeks old for nearly 20 years. Now, Lightbridge Academy is expanding its industry-leading sign language learning program with a library of new video modules for parents to extend the learning and use of sign language beyond its centers and into the home.
“The Signing Sprouts program has existed almost as long as Lightbridge Academy,” said VP of Education and Training Jennifer Romanoff. “Infants are looking to communicate, though they can't yet articulate. This manifests in crying, or some other form of frustration. In an effort to mitigate that, we began analyzing infant sign language studies and eventually started implementing it into what we do.”
In addition, sign language also helps to ensure that children on a proven pathway to early literacy and cognitive learning. As such early adopters of the science, it’s no wonder Lightbridge Academy leads the industry in teaching sign language to children and their families. The practice of including parents in their efforts helps to extend learning and create a home and school connection as well.
“We really see it as an enhancement,” Romanoff said. “It lowers infant frustration and helps them communicate before palate development occurs. We start introducing sign language to children as young as six weeks old with ‘more,’ ‘eat,’ and ‘please’ signs. If exposed on a regular basis, we start seeing a response in the children somewhere around nine months old.”
Lightbridge Academy’s sign language program expands when children reach the mobile infant stage of development and again at the preschool and pre-K age group, when the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet, colors, animals and more are incorporated into their daily curriculum.
While the brand has always had supplemental resources for parents, the Lightbridge Academy team sees the rollout of its new video resource library as an opportunity to take its sign language program to the next level.
The interactive modules feature ASL-certified Lightbridge Academy instructor Sydnie Burnett and are available to all parents via the Lightbridge Academy e-communication tool or YouTube channel. The video resource library was launched with a threefold series: the Top 10 Signs to Use with Infants, the Top 10 Signs to Use with Toddlers and the Top 10 Signs to Use with Pre-K Students. The library’s curriculum will match the thematic units that children are learning at any given time.
Burnett, who has been a Lightbridge Academy instructor for four and a half years, was introduced to ASL while in high school, but didn’t fall in love with the language until college. As a visual learner, she found it to be a more interactive way to communicate and ended up minoring in ASL.
“Children learn a lot more through sign because they can see something, replicate it and understand the meaning,” Burnett said. “It’s their way of communicating without verbal cues. The fact that ASL is already implemented in the Lightbridge curriculum is so beneficial to students, their families and our staff because it equips kids with a language they don't have yet, not verbal, but visual. These modules will help change the perspective of how kids learn.”
“As a culture, we speak with our hands already,” Romanoff said. “Now, we're doing that with intention. ASL gives parents and educators a universal language to communicate with young children. The videos are the perfect at-home parent resource to use when reinforcing the signs children are learning in school and with technology, these tools are readily accessible. It is so exciting to hear back from parents when they see a change in their baby from screaming in frustration to understanding how to connect by using a sign for “more”. This program helps to create the school-to-home connection between parents and educators that creates the trusting bonds necessary for development, learning and importantly, a sense of well-being.”