Speech therapist Martina teaches hearing children how to sign: ‘They learn it faster than spoken language’

Perhaps when you think of sign language, you automatically think of the hard of hearing or the deaf, who are also used with/by them quite often. However, speech therapist Martina Pullman (35) has the task of making sign language popular for young hearing children. “It can increase vocabulary by three times.”

In March 2022, Martina started De Gebarendoodle. Through her courses, you want to get parents excited about the gestures you can use in a conversation with young children. To facilitate this, I released a brochure on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 doodle signature. This contains the word-of-mouth gestures that you need as new parents with young children up to three years old.

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from Germany

Martina has a passion for learning new languages. Originally from Hanover in Germany, I thought it would be a good idea to study in another language. “I knew I wanted to become a speech therapist, but in Germany there was no such study as here in the Netherlands. That is why I came to the Hanse University of Applied Sciences in Groningen.” Through a compulsory intensive course I learned a little Dutch in six weeks. In the end, Martina also accelerated her studies in linguistics at the University of Groningen.

Gestures for the first time

During her studies in speech therapy, she did an internship at the Kentalis Guyotschool in Haren. This school offers hearing and deaf children a bilingual education: Dutch and Dutch Sign Language. She first dealt with sign language because she had to attend a course in it in order to train it. She loved the training so much that it was the deciding factor for starting a business in the Netherlands. “Then I got to know my partner, and that was another reason to stay,” she says with a smile.

Sign language teacher

After her studies, she began working as a speech therapist at the Hans University of Applied Sciences. Teaching has always been my dream, but I found myself missing sign language a lot. Especially to learn more and more of him.” When she explained it in her work, an additional unit was created and I also became a Dutch language teacher with Gebaren. “That was really Christmas on the cake in terms of my career.”

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Types of sign languages

Martina explains that she is primarily interested in Dutch with Jabarin. This means that you speak Dutch out loud and support it with accompanying gestures. However, this is not the same as Dutch sign language. “This is a self-contained language where you no longer speak out loud. It also has its own grammar and focuses more on facial expressions.” Dutch with gestures is also used for children with, for example, language development disorders, autism or Down syndrome.

doodle signature

Due to exhaustion, Martina was unable to continue teaching. “Then I thought ‘what am I going to do now.’ I had a great need to work out of passion and asked myself what made me happy. The answer to that was sign language.” This is how De Gebarendoodle’s idea of ​​supporting parents with gestures for babies and toddlers was born.

special book

“A friend of mine had a baby and wanted to do something with gestures, so I just sketched out some basic gestures and gave them as a bundle gift.” This was met with great enthusiasm and before Martina knew it, she published her own book in July 2022. “The booklet basically contains the words that you as a parent need at the beginning and I have provided an explanation and explanation of each word.”

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Prevents tantrums

What Martina especially wants to convey is that gestures are not only for the deaf and hard of hearing, but also for hearing children. She explained that at six months of age, babies are already able to sign, much earlier than they can speak. “This prevents frustration and tantrums because the child can indicate what they want more quickly.”

Spoken language stimulation

Parents may find it strange to sign with their hearing child. “If you’re on a visit and you say to your child ‘wave’, you’re actually already pointing. This is how you should see it.” According to her, parents fear that it will have a bad effect on the spoken language. “Research shows that gestures actually stimulate spoken language: an 18-month-old has a greater vocabulary than his non-signing peers.”


Martina’s mission succeeds when everyone knows that sign language is also suitable for children’s hearing. “This might be ambitious, but I love getting people excited. It’s just great fun!” She doesn’t have kids yet, but she really wants to. “How nice to start using these gestures in practice with my child.”

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