Sign language use with babies and young children is an area of growing interest from families and those who work with pre-school youngsters.
The use of signing is now believed to be beneficial to a whole range of children – pre-verbal hearing babies – children who are autistic, dyslexic, have specific speech and/or language difficulties or learning disability, in addition to those with hearing loss. The visual and kinaesthetic elements involved in signing certainly add new dimensions and alternative channels to help children internalise and take pleasure in language use, and whole group or class involvement is a way of ensuring a rich and inclusive communication environment.
Not only that, but children do seem to love it and there can be little doubt that as a general life skill, it offers all children the potential of improved language and communication skills and to have some confidence andawareness to meet the communication needs of others.
British Sign Language (BSL) is the indigenous natural language of the British Deaf community and forms the basis of other systems such as Makaton and Signalong which were developed to help communication with people with special needs and support speech with the signs of BSLvocabulary.
People often express surprise to discover that BSL has only been officially recognised by the government since 2003 and that its use in deaf education only re-emerged in the last 20 years. Deaf people have always used and valued their language, and BSL was in use by deaf children in schools despite policies against it that were based on the belief that signing wouldstop deaf children developing speech.
From profoundly Deaf co-writer of Let’s Sign Early Years, SandraTeasdale (translated from BSL)..…..
…..BSL is my first language, even though my parents and family didn’t sign and I had very little access to it when I was small . It is the language that feels natural and comfortable to me and the only way I can express myself properly. Like my Deaf friends andcolleagues, English is not easy for me.
……The important thing is that we all signed – and those who spokestill spoke – signing never stopped them.
Fortunately attitudes and teaching methods have undergone great change. The Baby Signing movement has helped this too – Adele Marshall BabySigning teacher…..
“In America extensive research has been carried out on the benefits of using some simple signs (derived from genuine sign language, such as BSL) with hearing babies, in order to communicate with them before they are able to express themselves verbally. Recent research suggests that babies are learning about the foundations of language and making important connectionslong before it was previously believed….”
See Adele’s site www.signingbabes.co.uk
There is now a healthy interest in and attitude to sign language use withresultant growth in materials and resources to support this.
A new development for DEAFSIGN is a joint venture with new Baby Signing franchise TalkFirst who also run a deafness and BSL training and consultancy agency, HearFirst. Julie Ryder, the founder of TalkFirst was already familiar with the Let’s Sign Series of publications and liked the child-friendly graphics. Julie and her team are developing a comprehensive programme of classes and materials to support Baby Signing groups nationally and have created thecharacter of Dexter (from the word ‘dextrous’) to demonstrate the signs.
Their details and samples of the signs being used can be seen on www.talkfirst.net including some lovely on-line games onhttp://talkfirst.net/dexter/
More detail and information can be found on our own National Grid for Learning website www.deafsign.com which details our range of BSL materials, including the ‘LET’S SIGN Early Years collection’ (book,posters and flashcards) as sampled here.
Children are like linguistic sponges with innate ability for communication and language acquisition that can leave adults standing. The best time to learn is when we are young; things learned in the early years can stay with us for life – old adages, but true. So why not add signs to our everyday communications with young children – it’s always going to be an extrastring to their bow – and what’s more it is wonderful fun!
DEAFSIGN’s founder, Cath Smith is the author and illustrator of a number of successful and accessible books for learners of BSL. She has developed the LET’S SIGN Series of resources for Early Years to Adult learners. She is a qualified British Sign Language Interpreter and social worker with many years experience in the Deaf community and also in deaf educationand runs the BSL information and resources website www.deafsign.com
Please contact us to discuss new ideas for materials or for permissions if you would like to use some of our sign graphics – this is usually freelygiven for non-commercial use in return for acknowledgement of source.
Tel: 01642 580505
© Sign graphics DEAFSIGN from the LET’S SIGN Series