Have you ever learned to sign?
This morning, I stumbled on a beautiful, and, not surprisingly, Oscar-winning short film on YouTube.
Watch it all the way to the end, all twenty minutes of it, when the statistics on how many deaf children start school without any appropriate support in place really shocked me!
How can it be that we all know so much about the struggle to obtain learning support in mainstream education settings for children who can hear but who struggle with difficulties like dyslexia, autism etc, and yet parents of children with one whole sense missing – their ability to hear (that informs how they might learn, understand or feel) are apparently offered so little support for their deaf children that they are forced to start school with no support at all?!
In this day and age I am stunned that this is the case. I am sure we all assume that deaf children are simply educated in special schools set up to cater for their unique needs, living some sort of parallel life that equips them to lead independent lives as adults.
The message in this film suggests otherwise in a powerful way.
If all those children have similar experiences of isolation as shown in The Silent Child, this is not just tragically sad for those without hearing but something we should all be appalled by as it is really not hard to learn the basics of sign language and could so easily be taught in schools and even to new parents as part of antenatal or postnatal education.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take The Teen to Sing & Sign classes when he was The Toddler. They were so much fun for the little ones and a great support network for us mums too! It certainly improved communication between us as he learned to speak, and those moments of toddler frustration he may have felt for not having the right words were certainly kept to a minimum, as a fully hearing child. Hopefully his experience will have normalised signing for him somewhat, should he ever encounter anyone who uses it and I hope it may even encourage him to learn more one day if he gets the chance.
I’m pretty convinced just from this twenty minute film and my own limited experience of signing, that teaching sign language universally in schools would not just help deaf children interact and learn more easily but build more empathy in those around them and may even help others who struggle to communicate verbally for other reasons.
What are your experiences of signing?
If you are interested in signing, for yourself or your children, here are some further resources to look into yourself.
British Deaf Association
National Deaf Children’s Society
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
Sing & Sign Baby Classes
Other classes for babies and toddlers: Tiny Talk and Ettie Bettie.