Hands up if you know any sign language? What, not even with our ‘Sign of the Month’ blogs? Tsk tsk. Well, now’s your chance to get to know our tutorials a bit better, and most importantly, teach yourself the sign for ‘cake’. 

Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills we need in life. Almost everything we do involves communication of some form. Everyday tasks such as asking questions, expressing our needs, and learning at school all rely on our ability to communicate with each other. Communication is also essential for interacting with others, making friends and having fun. And communication does not just involve speaking – we use our hands, faces and bodies to express ourselves too.

At Steps , we love communicating and believe that everybody should be able to communicate with each other, no matter how you do it. Talking? Great. Texting? Sure! Emojis? Definitely. Signing and gestures? Absolutely!

That’s where signing comes in. For those who find it difficult to communicate verbally, the use of sign and gestures can play an important part in supporting functional communication skills and help them to connect with the people around them.

Key Word Sign (KWS) (also known as Makaton and sometimes referred to as ‘total’ communication) is the use of signs and natural gestures to support communication and language development for those with communication difficulties.

How signing works

With KWS, signs are used with speech in spoken word order. It is extremely flexible, can be used with anybody and research has shown that signs and gestures are easier to learn than spoken words. Children and adults can use Makaton to let others know what they want, make choices, share information and understand more.  This helps build and develop important communication and language skills.

It also helps support attention as the highly visual and interactive aspect of signing can help gain and sustain a child’s attention much more effectively than words alone. The idea behind KWS is that the main idea of any message is emphasised by the use of signs and gestures. For example, when signing the sentence “please stop playing and come and eat your lunch” the key words to be signed would be ‘stop’, ‘playing’, ‘come’ and ‘eat’. This helps the person to understand the main points of the instruction.

Another benefit of signing with speech is that it naturally helps to slow us down.

Children and adults with speech, language and communication needs often need a longer time to process information and understand what is being said to them. When we use speech and sign together, we naturally slow ourselves down, and reduce the amount of information given by using simple, repetitive sentences. For those who have difficulties understanding spoken language, this is just what they need in order to help them process spoken information.

Who uses sign?

Everyone! We use sign naturally in our day to day communication. However, signs are used more frequently in a structured way by:

  • People with communication difficulties
  • People developing their language and literacy skills·  Mainstream schools – many schools regularly signs to support all children to develop communication, language and literacy skills
  • People looking after babies and young children- signing while speaking, has been shown to encourage the development of communication and language skills.

If you would like to learn more about signing, keep an eye out for the Signs of the Month segment in our newsletter and blog each month. Our awesome team, colleagues and friends of Steps will be featured showing you new signs to learn. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get signing!

Visit sign of the month Youtube channel >

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