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To think that it wouldn't be too difficult or costly to teach basic sign language in schools?

(164 Posts)
Theicingontop Fri 11-Jan-13 23:40:13

Not expecting a five year old to sit and learn the entire BSL, but I think it would be nice if children were taught the basics. Maybe they do in some schools, but none I've ever heard of. Why do you think that is? Am I being unreasonable in thinking that it wouldn't be that difficult to do?

roughtyping Sat 12-Jan-13 08:11:26

I've taught my class the BSL alphabet as part of their active spelling activities. They love it and have gone off and looked more up on the Internet, their parents have shown them more wee bits etc.

meditrina Sat 12-Jan-13 08:14:51

One of my DCs did some BSL at school.

The 'cost' element would arise from the time taken to train teachers (and I remember mrz's comments about teacher training courses giving only a couple of days on how to teach children to read, which shows how difficult it would be to add there; and I've no idea how you'd cover enough already qualified teachers). Plus of course the opportunity cost of something being taken out of current timetables. How long per week would be needed? And what would be top of your list of things which could be disposed of?

roughtyping Sat 12-Jan-13 08:15:08

We have 2 severely hearing impaired children at our school, not why I've taught my class though.

SilveryMoon Sat 12-Jan-13 08:23:51

I'm quite good at makaton because I use it at the SEN school I work at.
My ds's attend a mainstream school and learnt/learning makaton in the nursery and reception.
When ds1 was in the nursery, one of the TA's (who's still in the nursery now with ds2) was specialising in makaton, so I took her in a copy of some signs I had on paper.
Both ds's really enjoyed it and it means we can communicate in loud busy surroudings, they understand when we are at a party when I sign that I'm going to the toilet or (most popular) that it's time for cake.
I think anything that promotes inclusion for people who have any kind of barriers to overcome is well worth it, but where's the time? If it was done as a matter of course, that teachers just used it, dc's would catch on in no time.

sashh Sat 12-Jan-13 08:30:14

* I'm sure it's all very lovely to learn, but round here it's very much a middle class thing to do which has no real life relevance . I view it in the same way as learning mandarin ( anyone really know anyone who's needed to use that in real life? ) *

1 in 7 have a hearing impairment. Many elderrly people are very lonely because they have lost some / all of their hearing.

Knowing some basic signs would make life less lonely.

meditrina Sat 12-Jan-13 08:34:34

If you live in Asia, knowledge of Mandarin is very useful, and I know lots of (non-Chinese) people who use it. The world doesn't stop at The Channel, and Mandarin is just as useful as any other language.

Perhaps the timetabling issue might be resolved by adding it as an approved MFL?

Loquace Sat 12-Jan-13 08:38:40

What Custardo said

The only real way that could work in practice would be if volunteers offered after school clubs to teach it to any child who was enthusiastic or had parents who felt their kid would enjoy it AND had time to spare over and above all their homework/activities/downtime/family time etc.

3birthdaybunnies Sat 12-Jan-13 08:42:25

My dc learn Makaton, and love it. They do it alongside their everyday life, so at the school gate and in the morning they sign 'goodmorning Mrs X', when they choose their lunch options they sign. In choir they learn signs as well as the words. It is led by one of the TAs, who helps to disseminate it. Sometimes the children will teach the teachers a sign they have learnt too. The whole of the primary school sign. They have a signer of the week who gets a reward in assembly. It is fairly established and although each class has some children with SN all children are expected to use it.

Dh has had to learn BSL for his work, and there are lots of overlapping signs, but some which are significantly different! I think that one problem with teaching BSL would be that the sentence structure is different, and that every word is signed, whereas in Makaton you talk in standard English, adding in signs for some words. You would need separate lessons for BSL whereas Makaton can be integrated into normal lessons.

If your school is interested then have a look at it is a good way to start Makaton, might be too late for this year, as their school has just started learning the songs, and the national event is on 6 Feb.

The evidence is that it enhances language and commuunication, and is so easy to add into the school day.

HoratiaWinwood Sat 12-Jan-13 08:44:39

DS1 has learned Makaton throughout nursery (from 11m), preschool and now school. At school it is a volunteer who comes in to teach it - no "cost" except finding time.

It is very useful in supporting and including a handful of children with SEN, specifically spoken language delay, who sign well.

I was at a primary school with a semi-integrated Deaf Unit, and we all learned a reasonable quantity of BSL to.communicate with our friends. But by the end of my first year at my next school I had forgotten it all.

I think fingerspelling is a very useful skill for anyone in a service industry tbh and particularly for anyone in the NHS. The kinaesthetic spelling support is fascinating - hope more research is done.

Punkatheart Sat 12-Jan-13 08:44:42

I do a little bit of work for a local deaf charity and they are always trying to apply for grants etc.

It is a great skill and could be rolled out into schools, money permitting.

moogy1a Sat 12-Jan-13 08:45:23

Well, obviously if you live in Asia then Mandarin is useful, but I would hazard a guess that 99% of us using this site don't and 100% of the children and adults I come across and that my DH teaches definitely don't!! That's like saying that if you live in Lithuania, then Lithuanian would be useful so should be taught in British schools

Punkatheart Sat 12-Jan-13 08:51:40

Mandarin is extremely useful and a language that will be used a lot in the future. A great deal of business is now conducted with Asian a number of business people/bankers are indeed learning Mandarin.

Communication is so very important. Going back to the deaf community - I had no idea, before I worked alongside people with impaired hearing, how very isolated so many feel. There is an odd reaction to them - blind people are treated with sympathy and kindness, whereas people with hearing loss are treated as if they are 'daft' or 'annoying.' It's a shocker - but I have learnt a lot from a deaf friend. Teaching children when they are young is spot on. Hopefully they then grow up as tolerant adults..not ones who shout and laugh and someone for whom the world is largely silent and potentially hostile.

3birthdaybunnies Sat 12-Jan-13 08:52:19

But the difference is with Mandarin, that most Mandarin speakers whom you come across will have chosen to come to the UK (or wherever you live) and so might have learnt some English. A deaf person or a person with SN hasn't chosen to live in a country where no one can speak in a language that they can't understand, they were just born into that situation.

CaseyShraeger Sat 12-Jan-13 08:53:01

The NDCS would like to see fingerspelling taught in schools -- it's something you do tend to remember once you've learned it and while it's not ideal for communicating with deaf people it does provide an option. If there is also a benefit to children in their regular learning from using fingerspelling then that would seem a no-brainer (it's very quick to learn).

There's a pretty wide crossover in vocabulary between Makaton and BSL, at least with basic everyday words (although also some glaring disconnects, e.g. "happy" in Makaton looks rather similar to the BSL for... umm... something that might very well make you extremely happy but isn't normally discussed in front of children) but BSL has its own complex structure and grammar and really ought to be taught by a Deaf instructor (or if that's not possible by someone highly qualified and experienced). Having Makaton as a regular part of nursery life seems like a good idea and more achievable than teaching all children BSL at school. I would like to see BSL more widely available as a GCSE modern language option, though.

3birthdaybunnies Sat 12-Jan-13 08:53:33

Sorry can understand

moogy1a Sat 12-Jan-13 09:05:35

Hopefully they then grow up as tolerant adults..not ones who shout and laugh I never learnt to sign and wouldn't deal with a hearing impaired person in this manner!! I think tossers will be tossers whether they've been taught to sign or not.

3birthdaybunnies Sat 12-Jan-13 09:14:08

Yes, but moogy1a you still think that it is fine for someone to live in a society where most people can't understand them and they can't understand most people. My dc know how easy it is for them to learn Makaton, so wouldn't see why people should continue to be isolated.

Punkatheart Sat 12-Jan-13 09:17:23

I understand your point, moogy - but it is all about it becoming mainstream, part of society rather than people on the outskirts, struggling to understand and be understood.

Less tossers. Indeed. But sometimes tosser radar can start earlier...

Theicingontop Sat 12-Jan-13 09:27:13

A deaf person or a person with SN hasn't chosen to live in a country where no one can speak in a language that they can't understand, they were just born into that situation.

Spot on.

I agree with those who point out that perhaps it wouldn't be very useful in day-to-day life for some children, but I do think it would help them become more aware. Not implying that children who don't know any sl are intolerant, but I think it would be lovely for them if they did meet a deaf person, to be able to at least say "hello, nice to meet you" and not be too intimidated to give the basic level of politeness they'd give anyone.

I've only met a few deaf people outside of OH's family, but it has come in useful. Once was on a train, where a man was travelling to London alone and had no-one to talk to. Had a nice (albeit slightly rusty on my part) conversation. If I hadn't known any sl we'd have nodded hello and sat in silence for an hour and a half <shrugs>

MrsMelons Sat 12-Jan-13 09:30:07

They do at both my DCs (community) preschool and DS1s infant school. They do Makaton at the pre-school as they are ECAT accreddited and have lots of children with S&L difficulties there.

DS1s class teacher just happens to know BSL so does a lot of signing with them.

I would love them to have it as part of the curriculum TBH. Would prefer it to them learning French TBH.

Loquace Sat 12-Jan-13 09:39:15

but I do think it would help them become more aware.

I have no argument with that.

But where do you suggest cuts are made to free up the time and money within the school budget and timetable in order to incorperate a new subject, train staff ? Which subjects should lose time to make room for this ?

My son goes to a non traditional school with less "over stuffing of programme" than a typical school, but I can't see what can be cut without casuing a shortfall in his learning. And I don't want his day extended. He has subjects over and above the school timetable that we as parents need to prioritise due to our circumstances. He has a busy (and IMO valuable) social life with sports and hobbies and downtime.

I have already turned down a request from him to learn something else this year, cos for the life of me I don't see where I can shoehorn it in unless he gives something else up, which he doesn't want to do.

Multiply me by a few hundred, and you can see why it would be a bit of a nightmare for schools to sell the concept to the parents, let alone find the time, money and trained staff to make a good go of it and not fall into the trap of lip service.

3birthdaybunnies Sat 12-Jan-13 09:42:54

Oh, and the reason that there aren't any children who sign in mainstream secondary schools is that deaf children are usually sent to boarding schools so that they can be with other people who sign. Children in mainstream schools are often marginalised from their peers at best. If more people signed then they would be less isolated in their home communities. Sometimes even their own parents can't be bothered to learn to sign, imagine never talking to your own child. At least if any of the children in my dc's school had a deaf child they would (having used signs for 7+ years) have some rudimentary basis for communicating with their child.

Loquace Sat 12-Jan-13 09:46:03

Would prefer it to them learning French TBH.

I couldn't give a toss about French, it's not on our programme. But I'd be seriously put out if Spanish were cut from my son's school to make room for sign language.

I don't think I'm the only parent who places importance on modern languages.

hazeyjane Sat 12-Jan-13 09:46:43

x2boys ds has had SALT since he was 10 months old, because of swallowing issues and poor oro motor skills, and we have been learning Makaton since then (not formally, but using books, dvds and just picking it up from SN nursery). We always say the word as we sign, and I help ds to do the sign using hand over hand, he has just starting signing a bit spontaneously to us (he is 2.6). I think my heart would break in 2 if he started to speak, but he has a probable diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder, and many of the children with this disorder remain non-verbal, or have very limited expressive language. Ds is at the level of a 6-8 month old with speech, no words, limited babble (no bababa, dadada) his main noise is - 'uh', and he is often silent. Sometimes he points to his mouth and moves it as if to talk, but he doesn't seem to be able to control the way his tongue moves very well, and so even if his verbalisation improves, I think it would be very difficult to understand what he says. However, he has fairly good understanding, and communicates a lot through his eyes and his body language, and to me it seems the most important thing is not to teach him to speak, but to communicate, and makaton signing is a very good way of doing that, obviously the more people around him that can understand the signs, the less frustrating the world will be for ds.

I think the thing about Makaton that makes it such a perfect thing to introduce into the early years curriculum, is that it is so simple for children to learn, it is whole word signs, that are not complex, and are universal. It is useful for all children with a speech delay or social communication problem, and is something that can be taught, simply through use - so songs being sung in assembly, with the signs included, simple signs being stuck up around the classroom.

i think it is wonderful that a programme like Something Special, has become so mainstream and loved by all children, because it helps children to realise that children with disabilities and additional needs are just like them, and with children with sn being part of mainstream education, I think it is really important that we include the language that is so helpful for communication in the curriculum.

sameoldlovebunny Sat 12-Jan-13 09:48:34

hmm. worked in a school with a hearing impaired unit some years ago. we weren't allowed to use sign - totally not politically correct. the mainstream community uses the spoken word so devices to boost hearing and learning to lip read and to speak were considered important. sign was a distraction. a teacher who knew sign and taught some was sanctioned.

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