My husband Gene and I took some ASL in an adult ed class at the local community college. We loved it. I had wanted to learn it for quite some time. We bought some books, some flash cards, and practiced quite a bit (it's really cool when you're in the supermarket and you don't know if you need tomatoes or not so instead of shouting from one end of the produce dept to the other, you just sign!). We learned enough key words to teach a baby.
Why ASL? Babies cannot physically form words at a young age. Not until they are closer to a year can they potentially control their vocal chords to make a word. So, if you can get a baby to communicate his/her needs at an earlier age... think about how much less crying they would do? That's why they cry... it's their only form of communication. There are lots of other benefits too, but Gene and I were most interested in getting our kids to tell us what they need earlier in life. Plus, we wanted to learn it for ourselves. If we teach it to our kids, it forces us to practice!
People are frequently asking me if we are going to continue teaching Phoenix ASL or not. We absolutely are! Why wouldn't we? ASL is the 3rd most popular language in the USA, so knowing it gives him lots of opportunities. Some argue that he's not speaking enough yet. Just because it's not "out loud" doesn't mean that he's not speaking! If you teach a baby English and Spanish, but they favor Spanish for whatever reason, are you gonna stop teaching the kid Spanish? No! You just need to define the fact that not everyone knows both languages... but that's not until the child gets older. If a child can communicate effectively and feels more comfortable/confident with a certain language, then why would you discourage it? Since the beginning of April, Phoenix has actually been speaking a lot more new words. We knew at some point his vocal speech would explode... well, this is the month.
We are so happy with ASL that we look forward to teaching it to our daughter in a couple of months. I may actually take some ASL courses so that I can become more proficient and learn proper grammar. I certainly do not want to teach it to my kids incorrectly!
So, if you're thinking about it for your kids, do it. If you think I should stop, sorry, I'm not. It has made our lives much simpler. In a lot of ways. It's a beautiful language and we all really enjoy learning it.