Friday, 30 December 2011

My very own 'Twin Study'

As a result of some discussions recently on Twitter I decided to use my last blog of 2011 to talk about some of my experiences of being a twin mummy. Most of you are aware I am the proud mummy of twins, my son Eoghan and my daughter Aine, now aged 15 (16 in April 2012, eek!)

They were born in 1996 when I was in the middle of my postgraduate Social Work training. I had already completed a degree and masters in Psychology so it's fair to say I was interested in how being different sex twins would affect their socialisation and development. The little babies had no idea they were going to be subjects of their mum's experiments even before they were born!

When I was at Queens there was research being undertaken in the Psychology Dept on prenatal responsiveness by Peter Hepper **. I remember being fascinated with the discovery that newborn babies who had been exposed to a specific TV theme tune as foetuses (Neighbours!) responded to this hearing this tune by exhibiting changes in heart rate, number of movements, and behavioural state! During my pregnancy the 'Mozart Effect' was widely debated, i.e., the idea that hearing classical music while in the womb affects developing babies cognitive development. Wanting to give the twins the best start I could I made a tape of classical music and played in on my stereo every night, holding the speakers to my belly to be sure the babies could hear it! It was obvious they did as there was a flurry of activity when the music started!

I have absolutely no idea if the music affected their cognitive development (although they are both very academically capable) but it definitely was remembered by them after they were born. We were in hospital for a week after their birth (that wouldn't happen now!). The first night I got home I put my classical music tape on when they were becoming unsettled. The results truly shocked me! As soon as the music started, both babies stopped crying immediately. It was very clear by their reactions that they recognised the sound. For the next few days I played the music every time they were upset and it comforted them. It only lasted for a short time but it was still fascinating to see that not only can babies hear in the womb but they find those familiar sounds comforting!

I had always been interested in the nature vs nurture debate and the impact of socialisation on children. I believed that nurture had the greatest impact on children's sense of identity. I saw the range of toys available for children and how they were categorised as male or female and was determined not to differentiate. My very traditional father was appalled when Eoghan got dolls to play with as a toddler and Aine got Lego and train set. I expected that how I 'nurtured' the twins, bringing them up in exactly the same environment, giving them the same toys to play with, treating them the same would result in their not adhering to traditional gender roles. How wrong was I?

I was soon very clear that, despite both children having access to all toys, Eoghan favoured the toys that would be seen as 'male' and Aine those seen as 'female'. Not only that, everyone commented on how Eoghan was a 'typical wee boy' and Aine a 'typical wee girl'. Eoghan loved climbing, rough and tumble play, building and making things. Aine on the other hand hated climbing and rough and tumble play and loved playing with dolls, role play and dressing up! My theory of socialisation and nurture having more impact than nature was turned on its head! I have no idea if this is because the children were born with a predisposition to certain characteristics and behaviours or due to other influences I had no control of, such as how they were treated by others, advertising, etc.

Eoghan and Aine continued to grow up as individuals who are as 'different as chalk and cheese' still displaying stereotypical 'male' and 'female' behaviours. As teenagers, Eoghan does not discuss his feelings (or much else for that matter!) and Aine discusses little else! However, they are both gentle, caring, well mannered and beautiful children. Aine will hug me for saying that and Eoghan will grunt!

Being the mother of twins is such a precious gift. The experience of their early years was so different than my subsequent experience of having a single child. They were a comfort blanket for each other on occasions like the first day of school (there were no tears or tantrums). The fact that they are different sexes meant that they were never really labelled as 'the twins' but had their own identities. They looked out for each other (and still do!), played together and fought with each other. They are now very close and I hope they will remain that way forever.

I can't believe my 'babies' are going to be 16 in 2012. My do I feel old!

Happy New Year everyone!

Deirdre xx

**(Hepper, P, G. An examination of foetal learning before and after birth. The Irish Journal of Psychology, Vol 12(2), 1991, 95-107)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Importance of Being Accurate!

This article describes how a toddler group in York has decided to stop using the commonly used symbol for diamond as it is similar to the sign for female genitalia and could potenitally be offensive to deaf children or parents. This has caused a controversy similar to that caused when Justin Fletcher was accused of using a rude sign (the sign for happy in makaton is similar to the sign for f***ing in BSL).

Some people think this political correctness gone mad while others understand and support the decision of the toddler group. From experience I know how easy it is to change the meaning of a sign by altering the handshape, movement or orientation of the sign. Most people who have studied sign language will tell you a funny or embarrassing story about making a slight error that completely changed the meaning they were trying to convey.

People often find it hard to understand why I insist that our teachers have a qualification in sign language. The accuracy of the signs we use is very important to me and while we all make mistakes I want to do what I can to ensure signs are shown accurately in all our classes. Knowing our teachers are all trained in sign language not only helps our service users have confidence in the accuracy of the signs they are learning but gives them the flexibility to ask for additional signs.

Anyone who has been coming to Sign2Music classes for a number of years will tell you how many signs I have substituted since I first started to ensure accuracy and that I am using the most commonly used N Ireland regional versions of signs! No doubt we will continue to make mistakes and correct them, but we are trying our very best!

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject so feel free to share your comments.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas is Comiing!

Christmas really is on it's way! Where did 2011 go to? It must have been the fastest year on record or I am simply getting old!

I had 2 wonderful Christmas parties this week in Ballynahinch and am in the middle of Christmas sessions galore! Our parties are so much fun. Some of the children really get into the swing of things by dressing up...and so do the teachers! We sing Christmas songs, read a Christmas story and of course have a visit by Signing Santa!

I love this time of year as it gives me the chance to dig out the multiple Christmas trees and boxes of decorations that I love to decorate my house with. And of course I get to sing Christmas songs once again! I LOVE them!!!

I made a couple of videos of Christmas songs last year and have added Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to the collection this year.

I will be adding more over the coming weeks so keep an eye on our You Tube page. Why not subscribe and you will be e-mailed when I add a new video?

Have a very Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Love is the Answer!

Being a mummy is, and always will be, the most important job I have ever had! I love my children more than life itself. I know how tough life can be and feel so responsible for giving them the best start I can in life. And what a rollercoaster ride it has been so far! Like all parents I have had many proud moments when I have given myself a pat on the back and felt proud that my efforts have paid off. I have also had many guilt-ridden moments where I beat myself up for not being a good enough parent!

I am not sure if my academic background and work experience have helped me as a parent or have got in the way. I have studied psychology and social work and spent the past 15 years working with young people who become involved in offending behaviour and their families. This is why I had a tape (oh yes, not a CD!) of classical music and played it to my tummy every night during my first pregnancy in the belief it would boost my children's cognitive development! It is also why Eoghan and Aine, as male and female twins were both given toys that would have been perceived as more appropriate for one sex (despite my father's serious disapproval!). And it is why my teenagers moan all the time about not being able to do things their friends are allowed to do!

When I started working with young people involved in offending and their families I began to really question the role the early years has on adult behaviour and family dynamics. Family therapy training made me explore my own family history and the how my parenting has impacted on my children.

I love watching how the babies we see in Sign2Music classes grow and develop into confident, loving and bright children. I love the amazing stories I hear about how signing has helped communication, bonding and development. I spend a lot of time discussing the benefits of signing for supporting communication and development. There is also a lot of information on the internet about these benefits.

The benefits of signing in supporting bonding has not been featured and researched to the same extent. I have a video on our You Tube channel showing how signing supports bonding with siblings Signing Supports Sibling Bonding

However, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to nurture the bond between children and their caregivers!

A child's first relationship will have a significant impact on subsequent relationships throughout their lives. Current early years research reinforces this, even indicating that the first 18 months of life are the most critical in developing or preventing the propensity to violent /criminal behaviour in later life.

Much of a humans brain development takes place in the first 3 years of life. During this period of accelerated learning the number of synapses (brain connections) multiply 20 fold. Modern research indicates that early experiences can override genetics. A baby's potential is therefore based on the experiences in their early years. Early learned behaviour can be resistant to change and can be the foundation to adult behaviour. Stressful experiences wire a child's brain for stress and trauma. Loving experiences can wire their brain for loving relationships and experiences.

Connectness between a child and caregiver is the basis for the development of empathy. This means the nature of the child's first relationship, most often with the mother impacts on later emotional relationships:

‘The child’s first relationship, the one with the mother, acts as a template…[that] permanently moulds the individual’s capacity to enter into all later emotional relationships’ (Schore, 2000, via Wave Trust)

This is a beautiful video featuring the The Still Face Experiment which demonstrates how important our interactions with our little ones are. Can you imagine the impact on a child if they experience the 'still face' during most of their interactions?

Reading all the research available to us in relation to child development can be mind blowing. Being a parent is hard enough without trying to ensure you are doing everything right. I have no doubt that signing with babies and children, music and other activities can help support your connection with your child. However, it is clear from all the research that the secret to well adjusted children is actually quite simple - LOVE them! Everything else is a bonus. Wow, I don't feel guilty any more! 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How Lucky Am I?

I was 'born and reared' in Belfast but always wanted to live in 'the country' when I got older. Then 'the country' I meant was a little cottage on White's Road that led to Colin Glen, where I went walking as a child. We used to head off with our packed lunches and make our way to the waterfall and up the glen. It took us all day and we thought we walked for miles but were only a stones throw from home!

I also used to play with my friends in the fields around home. I was obsessed with Enid Blyton so when I wasn't climbing trees, bouldering up the river with my friends or playing in our secret tree hut I went to look for mysteries with my dog Prince!

When I got married I moved to Co Down, which really is one of Northern Ireland's most beautiful counties. When I lived in Belfast, Eoghan and Aine had their own waterproofs, ruckacks and walking boots and we often spent Sunday on the Trassey track! I spent many days bouldering in Bloody Bridge, trekking through and camping in the Mourne Moutains with groups of teenagers. However, since moving to the area I have rarely been to the Mournes. Why do we often not appreciate the beauty that we have on our doorsteps?

There are some fantastic places to go and amazing historical sites in Co. Down and throughout our beautiful country. I have made it my mission to try to introduce my children to as many of these places as possible before they refuse to come with me!

Inch Abbey

Loughinisland Churches
Struell Wells
Stepping Stones, Tollymore
One of the benefits of being a Sign2Music teacher is being able to travel to and from classes. I am lucky that my classes are in beautiful places. My first 'job' yesterday morning was a taster session for a Mother and Toddler group in Kilkeel, about 45 mins drive from my home. I set off, looking forward to the session but seeing the drive as an inconvenience to be endured to get there.

How wrong was I!!! It really brought home to me the beauty I have on my doorstep that I take so much for granted! I was blown away by the amazing beauty that I have seen a million times before, but for some reason never really appreciated in the same way! Driving along the coast with the sea on the left and the Mourne Mountains to the right....what a way to drive to 'work'!!

How lucky am I!!

Newcastle, Co Down
Dundrum Bay

The Mourne Mountains
Bloody Bridge

Bloody bridge

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: STEPH HANNA

The third in our series of blogs entitled 'Introducing our Teachers' features the super Steph Hanna. Here is what she said:

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Im Steph, I live in Drumreagh - near Ballygowan- with my hubby Colin and my 2 amazing sons Dainiol, who will be 18 at the end of this month!!, and wee Mason who is 3. We also have 2 doggies Monty Moo and Walter.  Dainiol is at tech in Bangor and works part-time in Supervalu in Comber. Mason just started pre-school. Colin works away in London all week and gets home every weekend. This works well as it makes weekends special for all of us. I feel very lucky and proud to have all my boys around me.

During the week I work from home as a childminder, take care of the boys and the house. I'm also going to evening tech studying BSL Pre-Level 3.

Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

I had taught myself some signs off the internet when Mason was a baby after reading an article about the benefits of signing with hearing children. I then signed up for some signing classes in my local area (not Sign2Music) with Mason when he was about 5 months old but found them haphazard so I left after only attending 2 classes! This didn't put me off signing and I luckily found Sign2Music classes in Bangor on the internet. We just loved it right from the 1st class. I loved how structured and fun each class was and Mason was amazed at the music, puppets, shakers and especially the bubbles. And that was us totally hooked!
I had been thinking ahead to what I would be doing with myself when Mason started school. That's when I decided to apply to become a Sign2Music teacher. I now get to work with fantastic children and their wonderful parents doing something that I love and am passionate about.

Where do you do your classes at the moment?

I deliver Wrigglers classes in The Hall Cherryvalley Drive Comber, The Elim Church Carryduff & The Methodist Church Cairnshill and a Movers class in Comber as well. I also have an after school club in Millisle Primary School and The Mother & Toddlers group in Strangford.

What are you are most proud of about yourself?

The way my eldest son has grown into a gorgeous person. As parents we are here to love, guide and nurture and looking at my big son now I think I got it right  :-)

Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)?

My favourite experience of baby signing would be when I was out for a walk with Mason when he was 9 months: He was frantically signing Cat and I kept saying 'Where?' as I couldnt see one. Then out of a garden walked a big white cat! Mason had spotted it 1st and was telling me all about it, I just thought... bless ....x
I had an experience shared last weekend when a mummy from class rang me at 8pm on Saturday nite. You could hear the excitment in her voice! She said she had to ring me to tell me her 9 month old daughter had just asked her and daddy for a bath! She even signed it again and they got to record it. It had been a big day for her as her daughter had just taking her first steps too. I felt so excited, emotional and proud for them!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

How do you know I havent already ????????

Tell us a secret about you?

I brush my teeth 6 times a day.

Your favourite film? Book?

City of Angels and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The book makes me recall things from my childhood. It's an amazing true story seen through the eyes of a boy called Christopher.

Who makes you laugh?

Definitely my boys, even the doggies

Who inspires you?

Anyone who has overcame hardship or trauma in their lives.

What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?

Yes do it, you will get to meet some wonderful people and the best part of it is the children. From the wee cutie smiles and waves to the big goodbye hugs and cuddles. Every day is such an adventure for them and you become part of their journey....x 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: EMMA MCSPARRON

This is the last, but by no means least of the Meet the Teachers blogs. In this case the first indeed the last! Emma is the lady who started the ball rolling in the Sign2Music Licensed Teacher Programme. She contacted me in Sept 2008 asking if I was offering opportunities for others to facilitate Sign2Music programmes. It got me thinking and soon I had developed a training programme and put the wheels in motion. She and Alison completed their training in July 2009 and that was the start of our the lovely Sign2Music family you have learned so much about this week!

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Ekkk! Here goes  … Born in Reading, London.
My parents decided they wanted to bring up the family back home and so they returned with their little bundle (me!) to the small but quaint town of Limavady, and I’m sooo glad they did
J Don’t get me wrong I love London but don’t think I could live there.  I’m the eldest of 3 children. Owen (the middle one) has just recently became a proud Dad to beautiful little Ava. She indeed will be my next super signer if I’ve anything to do with it! The youngest, my lovely sister Amy is 16 years my junior! Oh what a shock that was for my parents, lol.

Now some years later I’m a mummy to my very beautiful and entertaining 5 year old, Georgina, who has just started P1 (time flies!). Just today (Friday) she made me very proud by singing ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story at her school open day. I’ve got high hopes! J  I currently work full time in Hands That Talk (Deaf Community Group) in Dungiven as Client Services Manager. Having a passion for Sign Language, I feel very lucky to have a job and vocation I love very much. Outside of work I love music, (too many favourites too mention), gigs, concerts and festivals. Hehe, sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade!

Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

Having worked in the deaf community for a number of years and witnessed babies and toddlers signing to their parents and grandparents I was immediately hooked. I couldn’t believe those tiny hands were actually communicating! I soon learned baby signing was also taught to hearing babies to aid communication before speech. I loved the idea! I researched a number of baby signing franchises and came across the fabulous Deirdre McLaughlin and Sign2Music. The rest is history as they as say! J

Where do you do your classes at the moment?

I run Saturday Baby and Toddler classes in Windy Hall Community Centre, Coleraine and have recently facilitated a number of private classes in The Women’s Centre, Derry, an after schools activity programme in Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, Derry and sessions for The National Deaf Children’s Society.

What are you are most proud of about yourself?

Firstly I’m proud of being a mum to Georgina – she’s a real star! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in relation to my career, having received my Level 3 certificate in BSL, the Junior Trainee Interpreter Certificate and taking the leap to become a Sign2Music teacher.

Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)?

Ohh too many too mention, just look at the ‘signing stories’ section of the Sign2Music website - It’s impossible to pick a favourite! However I do have to mention Shawna my super signer competition winner, she is such a star and makes me very proud J

What would you do if you won the lottery?

OHHHH HOLIDAY, HOLIDAY HOLIDAY!!! I’m ashamed to say my last foreign holiday was in 2001 (I guess this is the reason for my excitement lol!) I’d buy a nice house with a big garden for Georgina and Kim our very crazy Springer Spaniel. Needless to say I’d share my fortune (assuming I can’t spend it by myself :-p) with my dear family who have been so supportive over the years (you ever hear of the bank of Mum and Dad?)

Tell us a secret about you? 

Terrible but true and I’m embarrassed to admit this! In my teens I finished with a boyfriend because he wore white running trainers and needed to sit on a cushion whilst driving to see out the window! Oh how your views and priorities change over the years!  

Oh one more... On many an occasion (usually a Saturday morning) I’ve got an ahem... “Really sore throat” (I’m really trying to reach Deirdre’s high notes!) hehe J

Your favourite film? Book?

Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, I read it twice (out loud) when I was expecting (that’s another story) poor Georgina!

As for films, I haven’t a real favourite. As long as there’s a good story line and a decent finish I’m happy. Don’t you just hate it when films finish and you’re left thinking… “Is that it”?

Who makes you laugh?

Easy one J Georgina (daily), friends and work colleagues... I love to laugh, it’s such a tonic.  

Who inspires you?
Lots of people inspire me... family, friends, and work colleagues; people who have gone through the toughest situations and are still able to smile and be happy!  My favourite inspirational quote... “When you stop trying to change others and work on changing yourself, your world changes for the better”

What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?

Go for it! It takes hard work and dedication to get your classes up and running but when you do, it’s so worth it. Those smiling babies and toddlers melt my heart every Saturday! I’m positive that very soon Sign2Music will be a household name and will be the most popular class parents can attend with their babies and toddlers. Happy signing J


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: BAHIA MA'ANI

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Well, I come from a family of 6 plus my parents: 3 girls, 3 boys. We’re all quite different in our own ways…yet definitely have family traits. I contemplated listing out all of their hobbies and careers to give an idea of their individuality…but I think that would take too long. Let’s just say we’ve got magician, outdoor leadership, web programmer, writer and 9 nieces and nephews in the mix. I am the 6th child (some may refer to me as the baby) and although I made the decision to move far away from them (we grew up in Western Massachusetts in the US…feel free to look it up ;) ) I feel blessed that I have such inspiring people as examples in my life, my parents included. They all definitely had a very big part in shaping who I am and what I value.

But now my family consists of me and my husband, much less people than I’m used to but no less entertaining. I shock a lot of people by telling them that I’m married; not only am I 24, but I look about 16. I’ve been told I look young and that I am young…pretty much since I can remember, and although it can be a little tedious at times, somehow it’s made me appreciate my age and where I am in life. I never planned to marry young – I even planned to never get married at all if I never met the right person, so I feel very fortunate that I found him so early on. He’s been my rock for these past 3-4 years, and I will always credit him for pushing me to pursue Sign2Music despite my own fears, and generally helping me to believe in myself. (awww….)
Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

Good question ;) I think a strange consistency in my family is that it’s taken all (or most) of us a while to figure out what we really wanted to do with our lives. There are a few things in my life that I’ve always loved: children (even when I was a child), expression, performing arts, and when I learned sign language in high school I loved that too. Not only did I love it, but I discovered that it was a great tool for all of the above. I’ve always thought about how I would raise my own children, so when I got married and moved to this country it was even more on my mind as it was becoming a more and more plausible thing to happen. One day I just decided to look up baby signing in Northern Ireland because I was curious to know if the phenomenon had reached this part of the country and to what extent, and that’s when I happened upon Sign2Music. I was so impressed with its message and its values. It was also after I had done my NVQ II in Children’s Care Learning and Development and I was a bit unsure of what I wanted to do next. It became pretty simple when in big letters was written “URGENT! TEACHERS NEEDED”.
Where do you do your classes at the moment?

I’m currently holding a Wrigglers class and a Movers class on Saturdays at Boys Model School on the Ballysillan Rd. I’ve started doing sessions for a mother and toddlers group in Sandy Row, and I’m about to start a Wednesday morning class at Whiteabbey Community Centre.
What are you most proud of about yourself?

Another good question. I’m proud of myself for facing my fears. I’ve had a lot of anxiety over the years, and had a hard time pursuing things that really interested me because I didn’t believe I had the capacity to do them. Looking back on my life I see how this crippled me in so many situations I was in and it kept me from really taking full advantage of many opportunities that I had. With the help of someone by my side cheering me on and telling me that I can do anything that I really want to, I finally feel like I’ve taken charge of my life and I’m doing things that I love, that challenge me, and that I feel good about.
Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)? 

Seeing as how I don’t yet have children of my own to enjoy the experiences of signing with, I have to say that my favourite signing experience was when I got my very first video from a parent in my very first term of teaching Sign2Music classes of their little boy signing the word ‘bath’. I was surprised at my own reaction of how excited and emotional I was. I must’ve played that 3 second video about a million times. Now I know exactly what I mean when I tell parents that they have to play down their excitement when their child does their first sign…it wasn’t even my own child and I reacted like a crazy person!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Haha…if I won the lottery I’d be pretty over the moon considering I never buy tickets!! I consider the odds to be pretty grim, so I find it hard to part with even a pound…every penny counts! Buuut for the sake of an interesting blog, if I did win the lottery (especially a free one) I’d like to say that I’d donate or set up wonderful foundations…and maybe I would somewhere down the line. But I’d probably put it into buying a house and I’d probably finally have children and I’d definitely travel to every country in the world and use it to visit my family more often….I would also love to introduce baby signing and children’s development to as many places as possible, so maybe I’d find a way to do that.

Tell us a secret about you? 

I’m never good at these ones. A secret about me…I don’t like most things pop culture related. It’s not so much a secret, but I have tried to tone it down in recent years. I’m usually pretty critical about different fads that are popular and I’m pretty apathetic when it comes to celebrities and tv shows. I mostly just like movies and tv shows that are cleverly funny. And I tend to really like celebrities that are quirky, different and usually hilarious. It makes it difficult to have normal conversations with people ;) But I also don’t mind if people like things that I don’t, I don’t believe we all have to like the same things J

Your favourite film? Book?

Hmmm, well I tied that in nicely. I tend to like quirky movies that find a way of showing the human condition. I have quite a few favourites. One of which came out recently: Bridesmaids, starring one of my favourite comediennes Kristen Wiig. It’s outrageously funny and I tend to identify with someone who goes against the grain and generally doesn’t identify with many of the feminine traditions and social norms. Another one that is very similar to that idea is Little Miss Sunshine, which is similar but about a child who wants to compete in a beauty pageant. Both very funny, neither for young audiences though ;)

One of my favourite books is called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A book of poems full of wisdom and insight on all different aspects of life. Another favourite is the Poisonwood Bible about a missionary family that goes to The Congo in Africa and ends up being greatly affected by the culture in very different ways…a very insightful read!
Who makes you laugh?

My family, and my husband, and my friends. And children. And sometimes myself. I really like to laugh ;)
Who inspires you?

Ahhh once again, my family and my husband. And a few people I’ve met here and there. I get inspired when I see people work hard to pursue what they love – and more often then not they end up making a difference in other people’s lives. It’s not just pursuing what they love, but standing up for what they believe in and staying true to themselves. I think really small gestures like that can go a long way… 
What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?

It definitely takes work and responsibility. I went to the Go For It program which was offering free business classes at the time and I found that very useful to apply to Sign2Music as I really had no sense of business at all. It is useful to have a business head on you, but I
ve found that its simple enough to learn and its incredibly rewarding and empowering when you do. Ive also been very touched by the enthusiasm of all the parents Ive met. They have helped so much to promote Sign2Music and its so rewarding to feel like you have a community around you, supporting you and wanting you to succeed. Its fulfilling to be able to provide such a useful, fun tool for parents but its just as fulfilling to be able to build relationships with them and watch their children grow. It definitely feels like a give and take environment and without a doubt has made all the hard work well worth it. As you can tell, Im a very happy camper :)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: LAURA JACKSON

The second in our series of blogs entitled 'Introducing our Teachers' features the lovely Laura Jackson. Here is what she said:

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Im Laura, I live in Bangor with my 3 gorgeous boys. Mark is 10yrs Reece is 7yrs and Bailey is 3yrs. Its a busy crazy house but I wouldnt have it any other way :O) I enjoy reading and love cosy DVD and popcorn nights on the sofa with my boys.

Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

I attended Sign2Music classes with my youngest Bailey. Sign2Music became the highlight of our week. The classes are great fun and I also saw the wonderful benefits of baby signing first hand !! I enjoyed classes soo much and just love the whole concept of babysigning, I decided to go and do BSL level 1 at bangor tech to learn more! I applied to become a sign2music teacher because I love working with children and I liked the idea of teaching such a well run and educational programme. The bonus for me was that I would be self employed! I have a fantastic job that I can fit around my own children :O)

Where do you do your classes at the moment?
I have a beginners class in the Robinson Centre in Castlereagh. I also run a private class for sure start at Chinese Resourse on the Ormeau Road and I have an after school club running in Dundonald Primary School (P3/P4)

What are you are most proud of about yourself?
I am proud of myself for always choosing my own path in life and never following the crowd:
'Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.' ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)?

Oooo! Hard question.... I get super excited every time I see a 'first sign' in class !! 
My favourite experience of baby signing would be my bedtime story with Bailey most nights. I gets lots of cuddles. As I sign the story to him in bed he copies me and gets soo excited if he is able to sign the word before me. Its just soo cute and a really special time for us xx 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I have always said I would set up an organisation for underpriviledged children in NI: Daycare; day trips; youth clubs; holidays away, etc.

Tell us a secret about you?

I hate the dark.

Your favourite film? Book?


Who makes you laugh?

My kids - daily.

Who inspires you?

My Mum.

What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?
Go for it :O) I don't see it as a job I am priviledged to meet so many lovely families and show them the benefits of babysigning and watch as they learn and grow. Mark Twain once said:
"Make your vocation your vacation".  

Sign2Music is definitely my vacation x

Monday, 17 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: ALISON PRIDDLE

I thought it was about time our super Sign2Music teachers introduced themselves properly! I am so proud of each and every one of them and, as I keep reinforcing, I chose them very carefully. Therefore I can say without hesitation, we have the best teachers who are a credit to Sign2Music! You may know some of these lovely ladies, but the next few days will be an opportunity to find out more about every one of our team! And if you live in an area where there are no Sign2Music classes and you feel you have what you take to join us, get in touch!

The first brave lady to answer the questions I posed to all the teachers is ALISON PRIDDLE. Here is what she said:

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Mum of two boys Dylan, 8 and Toby, 4. For any of you who are Facebook friends with me personally you will know they are my world and I talk about them a ridiculous amount, but can't stop myself! Toby started P1 this year and so far is loving it..... parent/teacher interview next week so am excited about that!

I have completed Level 1 and 2 British Sign Language (BSL) and have started NVQ Level 3. It's addictive!!

I have recently started as a volunteer support worker/ communicator for the National Deaf Childrens Society (NDCS) and am about to experience my first residential with eleven deaf 8-11 year olds and am very very excited to be a part of that! Obviously I will be working with an experienced team and really cannot wait!

Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

I have been a Sign2Music teacher since September 2009. Emma McSparron and I started together and were Deirdre's Guinea Pigs!  Oink Oink ! (OK, I know this is the wrong sound but work with me, lol!)

I attended Deirdre's Sign2Music classes January and April 2009 when Toby was 20 months old and Dylan was 5.  I was already studying my Level 1 BSL, heard about Sign2music and thought it would be a great way to practice. Also, at 20 months Toby wasn't saying a great deal and I had read that signing with babies and toddlers could help with their speech and communication development. IT DID! For the first term Toby didn't sign or say new words but he understood, then 2 weeks into the second term he had a signing explosion. With every new sign came the word, it was such a great feeling and he was so delighted that we understood him!

Signing with Toby has been an incredibly bonding experience for me and him. I have endless stories of signing moments I have had with Toby (which I torment my poor class members with). Even now at 4 he will use a sign if I am too far away from him to be heard or if I cannot understand his pronunciation. It has 100% removed that frustration and the smile on his face when he knows mummy knows exactly what he wants to say is priceless!

Anyhow... there I go again rattling on about my kids. Deirdre approached me, as she wanted to start classes closer to home and needed someone to take over her North Down classes. Knowing I was studying Level 1 BSL and loved the classes she asked me if I would be interested in becoming a teacher and the rest is history!

Where do you do your classes at the moment?

I hold 10 week block classes in Bangor on a Tuesday and Saturday morning. I also run a drop in class at Snakes n Ladders In Bangor on a Wednesday morning. (Contact me for more info on times and costs)

What are you are most proud of about yourself?

I'm proud that I work hard and that my children are my priority.

I'm not proud that I am such a lousy housekeeper and that I spend half my life chasing my tail!! (all self inflicted)

Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)?

This is tricky to narrow down one experience. I have loved reading books with Toby. Before he could speak he would point out a tiny fish on a page or an emotion on a face of a character from the book. I used
to get butterflies and feel so close to him knowing I could see the book through his eyes. Totally bonding experience!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Presume we are talking about millions here and not a £10? When the lottery first started I used to say if I won I'd buy myself a brand new Ford Fiesta and would carry on working..... clearly I have
had my head read since then!!

Then I went through a phase (before kids) of thinking I would buy a huge house and foster loads of children, but having my own kids meant I had their feelings to consider in that dream.....

Nowadays.....flip this is a hard question! A home for me and the boys would be amazing, a trip to New York would be on the cards. I'd save lots for the kids for later in life and help family and close friends

Would I carry on with Sign2music?......... You will have to wait and see! lol!

Tell us a secret about you? 

I used to be secretely in love with Shane Ritchie when he hosted Win, Lose or Draw back in late 80's or early 90's!!

Your favourite film? Book?

My all time fave movies are the likes of Dirty Dancing, Beaches, Waynes World.... I'm not a big watcher of films, find it hard to sit and focus for that long lol!

Books... only time I read is on holiday and I like to read light hearted, non serious books... purely recreational! Nothing heavy or too thought provoking! My old brain can't cope!

Who makes you laugh?

Easy.... my kids!

Who inspires you?

I think it is too easy to want to be like an actress, a really influential business woman, politician, charity worker, popstar or like 'yer woman at number 9'. I totally love people and admire people who are 'satisfied and contented' with their lot..... I would love that for my children!

What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?

The hardest part of being a teacher is promoting the classes and finding new babies and toddlers to join the fun..... If you expect the families to come to you with no hard work on your part then this is not the job for you. It takes months and months to build up a reputation....when you get it right it is without a doubt the best job in the world!

I have been overwhelmed with the families who have passed through my classes, some for a short while, maybe only one term. Others are still with me from day 1 and now starting again with their new babies, now on term 7! I would estimate that in the past 2 years I have met around 100 families through my classes... How amazing is that!!

The feeling when you watch a previously shy child grow in confidence, dance and sign in class is unbelievable. The pride you feel when a parent tells you how their child communicated with them, with a grandparent or health visitor is a HUGE! Sometimes I have to fight back tears when parents tell me their signing story (sometimes I just cry, lol!)

Some words I would use to describe my past 6 terms (2 years) as a Sign2music teacher are: Nerve- racking; joy; laughter; bubble machines x10..grrrr...; forgotten words; pride; inspirational; mind-blowing; loyalty and most of all FUN!