I did not see the program to which you are referring, however there have been a couple of reports on t.v. , in Practical Parenting, and Brisbane Child, in the recent past on this same topic.
I came into contact with a book called "baby signs" when my child was quite young, bought it, read it, and began to implement the ideas - teaching my child to baby sign...
Not long into the process i switched to using AUSLAN signs, the Australian language of the deaf. As a teenager my best friend was deaf, so i knew a little bit, general signs, the alphabet, some songs, - so it wasn't too hard to pick up a sign dictionary and remember the signs. Sign was new to my husband, but he didn't find it too hard.
I am really passionate about the benefits this language strategy can have on children. At 12 months old children are generally not saying too much, but because my child could sign, I could understand her requests and our lives were so much easier. The idea of teaching your child to sign (refering to the baby signs book) is not instead of to talk but rather as well as...It is just one piece of the language puzzle.
My daughter just turned two in Feb. and she uses 6-7 words in a sentence. A lot of her sentences are quite complex, and some of the words she uses just dumbfound me (like crocodile - that's a really hard word for kids!). Looking at other children her age in her groups at swimming, kindy, Gymboree play and music she is well on the way, and certainly her language seems to be quite advanced. When people say to me, "wow isn't she a good talker" I just reply "yeah she talks all day...I think it's because I taught her sign language when she was younger"... Honestly it is the only thing that I did differently to all these other parents.
Another benefit which just blew me out of the water was potty training...Ashleigh was fully trained for daytime before she was two (even her day sleep). I know that most children don't train until they're three, and muscles aren't meant to be developed, but she told me she wanted to use the toilet, and refussed using nappies..."no mummy, Ashleigh do wee wee on toilet".... So she did, and two days later she's using undies and keeping them dry.
My daughter doesn't sign anymore, she began talking when she was ready, and as she spoke more and more the signs dropped down. I'm sure she'd remember them, but unless it's really noisy, like at the shops on a Saturday, we don't really have a need for sign.
I really do agree with "baby signs" philosophy and reasoning behind teaching the hearing child to sign, but I really strongly reccommend that parents take the time to teach sign as a "second language", and as we're living in Australia use AUSLAN.
I do acknowledge that it was a bit surreal when other people came over who didn't sign, but everyone she was familiar with did. When my friends saw my daughter signing they were so amazed, they didn't realise just how clever little ones could be. They too then taught their babies to sign, and they have found the benefits rewarding also.
Whatever choice you make regarding language - Goodluck...All children are different and you will know what's best for your little one.
mAy all yOur wiSheS cOmE trUe...