British Sign Language (BSL)
British Sign Language is the preferred language of over 87,000 Deaf people in the UK today. If Deaf people with additional needs are to be able to contribute to the wider Deaf community and Deaf culture, they need to be able to communicate in BSL. It is too often the case that Deaf people with additional needs are in support settings where BSL use is limited or non existent. This results in isolation, frustration and miscommunication which can lead to aggression. Our experience is that if communication is good then positive outcomes follow.
BSL is sometimes referred to as being Britain’s third language. Like Welsh, it is a language with a different grammatical structure from English. This means that signs are not presented in the same order as English. It is a visual language and is the natural first language for most pre-lingually Deaf people in the UK.
In our experience, Deaf adults with additional needs have often been taught to communicate using Makaton. Whilst respecting the original thinking behind this, in our experience BSL has more to offer. Not only can the vocabulary be developed as the individuals communication skills grow, they are less likely to find themselves isolated by language from both the hearing and the Deaf communities. This is why we use BSL as a key part of tailored Total Communication.
All our support staff use BSL to communicate. We offer training to staff that is accredited by Signature and we also teach people we support to develop their signing skills. We have a staff team that includes hearing, Deaf and hearing impaired staff members. This allows for Role models and also benefits the service by staff having shared experiences with people we support which then gives us an advantage when problem solving or discussing barriers faced.
Each person has differing levels of communication skills and we tailor our support to meet individual need. Other parts to our tailored total communication include pictures, computer software packages, time boards and daily planners.
A quote from a supported individuals support plan:
“I enjoy being in situations where other people use BSL, take me to places where I can meet other people who are deaf or use BSL.” From this persons wishes, House Martins support him and several others to attend a group in Salford for deaf people.