Sunday, 17 July 2011

What Signs Do We Use? And Does it Matter Anyway?

When I was setting up Sign2Music I made the decision early on to use NI regional British Sign Language (BSL) signs, the language used by most members of the deaf community in Northern Ireland. This was a very personal decision. I had studied BSL in Northern Ireland up to Stage 2 and was aware that, like regional accents, BSL differs throughout the UK. The differences are particularly significant in Northern Ireland. One of the reasons I sought and gained accreditation with Sign2Me, the international Baby Signing organisation based on the work of Dr Joseph Garcia was that it strongly endorsed the use of local signs.

People often question this decision as it did immediately create obstacles and a lot of work! It would definitely have been easier to use makaton or English BSL signs as these are the signs used in existing baby signing resources. For a start the graphics pack I purchased was created in England. Luckily the developer agreed to draw Northern Ireland regional signs and over a number of years we have created the huge bank of additional graphics needed for our programmes. I am very grateful to her for the amount of work she put into this on our behalf!

Does it really matter what signing programme we use if it is only used to communicate within the home for a short time?

Yes, it matters a lot to me for number of reasons:

1. I have a great respect for the Deaf community and the signed vocabulary we borrow from their beautiful language. I feel it is my responsibility to promote the use of this language in its correct regional form. And if you are learning to sign you may as well learn signs that are accurate and potentially useful! 

2. The signs we use are the basis of a second language used in NI that can be used to by you and your child to communicate with local sign language users.

3. Many of our parents fall in love with sign language and decide to complete Stage 1 at their local college. If we didn't use NI BSL signs in class they would have to start afresh and relearn the signs. We are very proud that we are 'doing our bit' to promote this beautiful language. Although we don't teach sign language (which has a different sentence structure and grammar than English) we do introduce class members to basic signed vocabulary.

4. Some children stop using signs when they no longer need to but others continue to sign well into primary school. My daughter Cara is now 4. She loves to sign and it has continued to benefit her. I have a deaf friend and I think it is great that Cara has the ability to communicate with her on a basic level. Had she been using makaton or English BSL signs she would not have been able to do this!
I feel that it has been important for the integrity of Sign2Music that our teachers have training in Sign Language. Some current teachers have actually undertaken sign language training in order to fulfil the essential criteria to become a Sign2Music teacher! I have been approached by many potential teachers over the past few years who hadn't a signing qualification and decided not to join us because of the requirement to undertake this. Some may say I'm daft to miss out on potentially great teachers. Maybe they are right but I do feel it is important if you have principles to stick to them!

I am will finish with some words from Dr Joseph Garcia, the first person to research the use of sign language in facilitating preverbal communication. In his words:

“By using American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL) or the signs of a specific region, we open the doors to communicating with a much broader community of people – and we lay the foundation for our children to continue learning and using ASL throughout their lives”

“I think ASL is a gift from the Deaf community. I can’t think of a better way for us to honour this gift than by using to facilitate early communication and bonding”

Deirdre :)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

More excitement!!

Being nominated for the What's On 4 Little Ones UK Junior Awards was amazing. Reaching the final was one of the biggest surprises I have ever had. How did a little Northern Ireland business compete with the 'big guns' in the UK to reach the top 4 'Best Local Activities for Under 5s' in the UK? Wow, even when I say it now I can't help smiling! My Finalist badge will stay on the website forever, yaaay!!

Guess what? Sooo excited as Sign2Music has just got another badge:

Our NI Choice Awards Nomination Badge.
We are nominated in category 6.4
Favourite Northern Ireland Pre-school Activity of the yr
This nomination means so much to me as it is a local Award. It is also a very meaningful Award as it is not only votes that count, the winners are chosen by experts, which would make winning a real achievement. However, we really need votes to get to the final. Sorry to ask again but PLEASE VOTE:

1. Facebook: write on the wall: I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4

2. Twitter:!/nichoiceawards tweet: I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4

3. Text Free: to 07716 711 744: NITODAY AWARDS I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4

4. E-mail:  to I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4

Thanks so much to those who have voted already. I will keep you posted on our progress!

Hope you all have a lovely summer! Signing Sandy and Daisy Doggy are having a little rest at the minute before the summer sessions commence next week!

Deirdre :)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

It's summer time again!

Can't believe we're into summer term already! Looking forward to summer sessions, summer schemes, more sessions for National Deaf Childrens Society (NDCS) and of course our Annual Sign2Music conference at the end of July.

I also had the chance to take a short break and reflect on the past year, while sitting in a leaking tent in the rain...... What a year it has been for Sign2Music since last summer! Reflecting on where we are now compared to this time a year ago has been refreshing. Not only do we have 2 fab new teachers, Bahia in North Belfast and Laura in East, we have also had a year of HUGE publicity for Sign2Music in Northern Ireland and the UK. The publicity has largely been due to our nominations, and later reaching the final of the What's On 4 Little Ones Junior Awards. We are so grateful to the amazing support we received which helped us get to the final.

From Mar 2011 we have had a number of fab local media articles. Thanks to the newspapers who profiled us:

23 Mar Down Recorder:

19 April Dromore Leader:

27 April 2011 Down News:

I am particularly grateful to Jim Masson, Editor Down News. He not only wrote 2 fab articles but used his influence to campaign on our behalf for votes, as he was impressed by what we do and the benefits it can bring to children!

9 May Andersonstown News:

14 May South Belfast News:

24 May 2011 Down News:

9 Jun 2011 Ulster Star:

14 Jun 2011 Irish News:

The Irish News article was fantastic publicity for Sign2Music as one the biggest newspapers in Northern Ireland!

We also had a few shout outs from local celebrities to support our Award nominations: Pete Snodden, Lucy Evangelista and Wendy Austin on Twitter. Wendy Austin even mentioned us on her talkback show! Emma Kearney and Lynda Bryans mentioned us on their Facebook pages.

I am particularly grateful to the local businesses in Northern Ireland, particularly my local Co Down businesses who supported us in reaching the finals. I am so grateful to the new connections I made during this time.

Oh, and did I mention we were on TV? Yes the SevenThirty Show came to visit one of our classes and filmed the class, an interview with me and some of the parents. It was edited to a very short clip, but still great to have Sign2Music featured on TV!

I wonder what the next year will bring.......

Deirdre :)