It’s a sign of the times!

It’s good to talk – and staff at a Heckmondwike children’s home have been learning how to communicate with young deaf people who live there,

The staff at Elm Grove are taking part in a course in British Sign Language – which is being delivered by workplace training and consultancy company HearFirst.

Until now, their experience of signing has been limited, having supported only one deaf young person some time ago, but they were keen to develop and improve their skills.

Manager Claire Morgan said: “The eagerness and enthusiasm of the staff in wanting to develop new skills and knowledge has always been a strength at this home. Staff have high aspirations for the children and always go the extra mile to ensure they meet the needs of all children and young people in their care. We expect the best.”

Her deputy Kelly Smith said that since learning their new skills, they had been able to significantly improve their communication with the deaf young resident, Rachel, who has since left the home

“She was very excited, it helped to extend her vocabulary and we noticed that her behaviour and general wellbeing improved,” she said.

“After a few training sessions and understanding the signs, we found it was the little things that made a big difference to her life and she started asking us questions. The fact that the course is delivered by a profoundly deaf person {HearFirst tutor Kate Brierley} allows us not only to learn the language but to learn and understand the culture too.

“This helps all the staff understand that some of the signs and certain behavioural patterns are in fact, quite normal for a deaf child and allows us to see the environment from their perspective.

Julie Ryder, director and founder of HearFirst said: “Staff are really embracing the sessions and enjoying learning the signs and developing their knowledge about deafness. They have seen at first-hand the benefits the training has had by helping them to communicate with Rachel. The training has helped her to progress her signing and give her more confidence in communicating with the staff.

Young people live at Elm Grove because they are unable to stay at home with their family, for lots of different reasons. Some young people live there while they are getting ready to move into a foster family and others may live there for a year or two while preparing to live on their own.