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Sign language aiding children of all levels

BY LAUREN ENEY : The Herald-Sun
Apr 6, 2007

CHAPEL HILL — At first glance, it appears as if Amy Williford is animatedly using her hands to emphasize what she is saying. But after a closer look, it is clear that she is signing as she talks.

Williford, a Chapel Hill speech pathologist, believes that children — not necessarily just those with hearing impairments — should be taught sign language at a young age, and she has created a company called SignTeacher SignWare to reach that goal.

With the help of a doll named Signing Sam who appears in classrooms, books and videos, Williford has brought sign language to children around the world.

Williford, 40, who earned her master’s of science in speech language pathology at the UNC School of Medicine, has worked as a speech pathologist and volunteered as a teacher in classrooms for more than 10 years. During her time in the School of Medicine, Williford conducted research on children with various hearing and speech problems and learned sign language.

Williford said that research from the 1990s showed the benefits of teaching sign language to typically developing children, and she was intrigued. Williford decided that the best way to evaluate the research was by experimenting on her own kids: Odom, 10, Jane, 9, and Noah, 7.

Williford used signs for words such as “more,” “finished,” “happy” and “eat” as she spoke to her infants, and she was impressed by the results. All of her children began speaking single words at only 9 months, whereas most children do not start speaking until they are a year old. Continue

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