How Does ASL Support
Motor Development  

Jenning Prevatte, M. Ed.

Have you ever wondered what are the benefits of using ASL beyond language development?  When I work with early childhood professionals, I like to share the connection between American Sign Language (ASL) and child development. Often it is easy to understand the benefits of language development.  However, the connection between ASL and the other developmental domains isn't as noticeable—especially in motor development and planning.

Using ASL with young children is one of the best strategies for language development and vocabulary development.  But it supports so much more! It also strengthens fine motor skills and helps develop cognitive motor planning.  Since ASL is a physical language, communication is constructed through hand movements, naturally strengthening fine motor skills and the body-mind connection. The repetitive nature of sign language and the fact that many signs either meet at the mid-line or cross it helps strengthen the muscles in the hands and supports motor planning in the brain. Encouraging children to engage in activities that meet at or cross the mid-line supports the brain's wiring and creates a mind-body connection that supports communication. Through this mind-body connection, ASL helps children develop neural pathways that enhance memory and recall allowing them to recreate a sign to communicate a specific need.  Since ASL is a visual and motor language, implementing it into your classroom supports children by providing meaning-making visuals of the words and sounds they hear.  In addition, children are actively engaged in watching and repeating the signs. This engagement makes language more tangible by building neural pathways for young children to remember words and meanings. 

A word of advice, it is strongly recommended that you speak and sign in a tandem approach to ensure that children receive the full benefit of ASL.  

Using this tandem approach supports language, literacy, and cognitive development.  ASL is a multi-sensory teaching approach that is easy to integrate into any curriculum and meets the diverse learners in our schools. Providing experiences that support early brain development provides opportunities for children to strengthen their natural talents and be prepared for school and life success.


I love implementing ASL through a play-based approach. Some of my favorite games to integrate ASL into to support language and motor development are:

Now when someone asks you, "Why are you using ASL with hearing children?" you can provide them with some excellent information. And know implementing ASL into an early childhood program ultimately supports all developmental domains. It is a great language to integrate with all young children. 

Happy Signing!








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