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Occasional communication through signs - sign language or makaton

Posted by liv
06/05/21 03:42 PM

Hello! My son wears bilateral hearing aids and is age 6. Diagnosed at 4.5y old following a sudden hearing loss. We communicate by verbal speech. Occasionally I would find it helpful to communicate with his through signs - like at bedtime, bath or water times when the hearing aids are out. Or when we are in a lound environment. It would be supplemental to our current verbal communication. I don't know what to learn though. I have been looking at BSL and at Makaton as well as signed supported English. We would learn it as a family including my younger 4 year old.

I don't know if anyone has any advice or thoughts on the matter. Or if anyone uses one of the above languages at home in a similar supplemental way. 

This may be an completely inappropriate question, like asking should I study Italian or Spanish. If so, I'm sorry. But we are still very isolated in the deafness journey and very unfamiliar. So any thoughts would be appreciated. 

Thank you!!!

Posted by jimjamjem
12/05/21 12:37 PM

I, personally, would go with bsl or sign supported English (you can easily switch between the two). Makaton is great for children with cognitive difficulties but sign language is great to learn to become part of the deaf community.  Your child may make lots of deaf friends when they are older and be able to communicate with them too.  There are lots of YouTube videos to show you the basics and NDCs can point you in the direction of classes.  I've done up to level 3 for my son (he's profound BSL user) and it's an amazing language. 

Posted by elliot
12/05/21 12:44 PM

Hi Liv,

I'd love to see any responses you get to this thread. I'm sorry I don't really have any advice myself - I know my son's nursery uses some Makaton with the children and I think the signs are slightly simpler than BSL signs. On the other hand, if planning on using signs long term BSL is more widely used. I've been speaking to the hearing teacher about which to use and her advice was that around 70% on the most commonly used signs are the same in both systems So maybe it doesn't matter too much?

Also, I'm really sorry you're feeling isolated with it all. I know it can be a shock. My son was diagnosed at birth, he was the first in the family and I was completely unexpected. We've now just had a baby girl and she's also just been diagnosed. I hope it all gets easier for you soon, I don't doubt it will :)


Posted by kat
12/05/21 01:06 PM

Hi, you sound similar to our situation. My daughter (now 19) uses speech to communicate but at night, across a room etc we use signs which we started learning when she was small. We don't use full BSL as we talk while we sign (so she can lipread) but use the main signs with the speech if it's noisy - like the main nouns and verbs. I also feel that if she wants to learn full BSL later she has a lot of the signs already. This is a long way of saying we use SSE to support her understanding if it's noisy or her implants are off. I learnt a lot of my vocabulary online - I signed up to Lisa Mills (google it) while it was on offer! It's never Wasted and I've been able to help people in shops etc too! Good luck 

Posted by tilly
12/05/21 01:10 PM

Hi Liv!

My two year old daughter wears bilateral cochlear implants and we are learning BSL and I can't recommend it enough! Oyes is a slightly different situation as Ada has been deaf since birth and is not yet using spoken language but my personal opinion is that you can't go wrong with BSL. I was advised to go with makaton when Ada was born as she had mild-moderate hearing loss and used hearing aids and it was only when her hearing loss progressed that I was advised to move to BSL and I wish I'd been told to go with BSL from the start. You can go down the Sing Supported English route to use it supplementally but it also gives you the option to learn the full language and take it further if and when you want to. It's such a beautiful language and I'm loving learning it and Ada really responds to it as well. After having done more research into deaf culture and the deaf community I have learned that there is a very strong feeling that BSL is super important for deaf children and I have to say I agree 🙂 as jimjamjim said, makaton is more suited to children with cognitive issues. 

Sorry to hear you're feeling isolated. I can totally relate, I felt exactly the same until I started reaching out and sharing more but very soon I found a whole community just waiting for us and I've got so much support from it and also learned a tonne! Do you have Instagram? It's been a life saver for me, especially during the pandemic when I haven't been able to get out there and meet other parents! 

Really hope that helps! If you have any other questions I'm an open book! Wishing you all the best,


Posted by gubbsmum
12/05/21 02:57 PM

We use makaton which has been a lifeline, where possible we sign and speak. My Son is now  11 nearly so I'm learning BSL which we will slowly introduce although a lot of the signs are the same , the intention is for me to learn BSL but use SSE as it's signed in the order you speak, BSL would confuse my son, he has DS and GDD. 

Posted by liv
12/05/21 09:17 PM

Thank you all for your lovely and useful comments. Food for thoughts indeed. Will launch into BSL or SSE. Now just to figure out if you learn as a family or independently.... what did you do??

Thank you! :)s

Posted by sc26
12/05/21 10:52 PM

Hi Liv,

As a family we did a Family sign course via NDCS to learn some basic BSL. I can highly recommend it.  My now 4 yr old was diagnosed deaf at birth and I did more sign early on with him. His speech is now great and he wears 2 hearing aids so we don't generally sign, but as others have said, I also sometimes use main signs to support my speech. I find the one I use most is the sign for 'wait'! Usually as I need to give him more attention when speaking to him to explain what is going on but I have to finish one conversation before turning to him. The other most common sign is 'sorry'.  

It really helped having everyone in the family involved as everyone knows what is going on. Two older daughters ended up doing more than me sometimes, they take on 'teacher' role with little brother and schools now use it more and more too, even just the basics and being able to sign your name etc. Husband uses it the least as he doesn't tend to be in the situation where it is needed, but it was good to have him involved and prevents feelings of exclusion. 

Good luck. My first BSL training was 25 years ago and have never used it until my son was born with hearing loss - it was like riding a bike, all came back so it's a skill that is never lost!

Posted by gubbsmum
13/05/21 09:39 AM

Hi Liv

If you have Groupon they have some cheap BSL courses they will give you a taste and the basicsjJ