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Deaf Awareness Week 2020

Rebecca Toal by Rebecca Toal Additional Needs

Rebecca Toal

Rebecca Toal

Blessed, busy mum to four beautiful girls, the youngest with complex special needs due to extreme prematurity. We are always looking for ways to ma...

It is deaf awareness week this week, and we as a family have so much to be thankful for.

Our youngest daughter Brielle is 9 and she’s profoundly deaf. She also has bilateral cochlear implants.

She cannot talk, though she does make some noises and says what sounds like “hiya!”

We embrace ‘total communication’ for her.

This means, in a nutshell, she receives input  verbally/spoken language, through sound, pictures/vision, sign language and tactile signs/gestures, switches, technology and tactilely/ touch.

Some would argue that the deaf community is made up solely of those who are completely without hearing and rely on sign language and lip reading for communication.

But I would suggest that the deaf community is a lot wider. My daughter is deaf though she heavily relies on the hearing offered to her via her implants. She loves listening to music and nursery rhymes and understands many familiar words in spoken English.

The way she expresses herself, however, is predominantly in sign language and gestures. We’ve been fortunate as a family to receive guidance in deafblind sign language as well as family BSL (British Sign Language)- taught to us in our home over a series of months. This was so kindly sponsored by the British Deaf Association.

We are constantly learning new signs ourselves and teaching them to Brielle.

She could not absolutely not communicate without sign language, it is her preferred form of expressive communication.

I really think they ought to teach all primary school children basic BSL as part of the national curriculum. Too few people know sign language and that lack of basic communication can be very isolating for people who are deaf in our communities. It’s important to note that a great deal of deaf people chose NOT to use hearing aids or implants.

I work part-time as a nurse and any deaf patients or relatives I’ve had on the wards have always been so thankful that I could *attempt* to communicate in sign to the best of my ability! It makes such a difference to someone as it’s their FIRST language, their ‘mother-tongue’.

So go ahead and teach yourself some basic signs! There are many free resources online to help from simple BSL fingerspelling (the alphabet) to my favourite iPhone App called “Sign BSL”. You can basically search any word and it will give you a few options/videos with the sign language - awesome!


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