Mum of four kickstarts sign language classes for babies

To mark Deaf Awareness Week last week a woman has launched her new sign language classes Babysign Bolton and Chorley.

By Emma Downey
Monday, 16th May 2022, 3:45 pm

Louise Donlan who runs the Babysign Bolton and Chorley classes said: "My classes are aimed at anyone who wants to develop communication with their baby or toddler.

"We do this by learning core signs each week and lots of songs and props to make for a relaxed class for learning.

"It's for anyone who is hearing or deaf. Everybody is welcome and it is a lovely, inclusive environment."

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One baby engrossed in signage

She added: "I think that sign language should be taught in schools so more people can be educated on it.

"There are so many every day barriers for deaf people to overcome and I think as a society we are not doing enough."

"Babies understand commands from four months when their vision becomes clearer."

Following on from the Government granting British Sign Language (BSL) legal recognition as an official language in the UK last month, she continued:

Babysign club for parents and children to help them learn sign language

With its first session taking place at Brazley Community Centre in Horwich, the 10-week block of sessions will enable parents/carers and their babies to start to learn BSL signs to support their communication together.

Babies can understand signs and develop the required motor skills, far earlier than they learn to talk. Using BSL signs to support spoken language can help avoid the frustrations that arise when you don’t know what your baby wants and can make parenting that little bit easier!

Further sessions are currently being finalised for June/July in Astley Bridge and Adlington. Sessions will run term-time only and more classes will be offered from September onwards.

The aim of babysign is to bring sign language to both hearing and Deaf babies and their parents/carers. Classes also provide an inclusive environment for parents who are Deaf to come and access songs and play led in sign language.

Louise Donlan holding one of her baby sign classes

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A recent OFSTED review (March 2022) has revealed that the pandemic has negatively impacted on young children’s communication skills and language development. As the use of BSL signs within the home and early years settings can go some way to reducing this; my aim is to help bring this wonderful skill to the parents/carers and babies/young children of Bolton and Chorley.

Louise Donlan, 40, who lives in Horwich is looking at bringing her classes to Adlington and Chorley.

The mother of four added: "Having gained my British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications and worked within the Deaf community previously, I have an immense appreciation for this wonderful language and the benefits it can bring. It’s now time, with my youngest starting pre-school to take the leap of faith and launch my new venture."

Photo Neil Cross; Babysign club for parents and children to help them learn sign language

Her mission follows on from the Government granting British Sign Language (BSL) legal recognition as an official language in the UK last month.

Though none of her children are deaf, Louise believes it is of immense benefit attending sign language classes.

Louise who has worked with the deaf community and British sign language continued: "In 2013 my eldest was born and I found a signing group in Bolton support of how to teach a baby and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I thought what would fit around childcare so decided to set up my own classes.

"The classes are about engaging the children but helping parents at the same time."

What percentage of England is deaf?

In the UK, more than 40 per cent of people over 50 years old have hearing loss, rising to more than 70 percent of people over the age of 70 according to the Office for National Statistics population data.