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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Cumbrian schoolkids learn sign language to talk to class helper

Children at Thursby Primary School have signed up to a language course to help them speak to their deaf classroom helper.

Sign language photo
Louise Dickson teaches the youngsters

Around 30 youngsters are getting to know profoundly deaf Helen Thomson, of Nealhouse near Thursby, thanks to lunchtime classes in British Sign Language. After just two weeks, they can already tell her their names and recite the alphabet.

Mum to pupils Louise Dennis, ten, and Robert Dennis, seven, Helen joined the school recently as a student teaching assistant.

Louise said: “Mum thinks it’s good that people are learning sign language – it’s nice to know that they want to get involved. It’s easier for her, because sometimes if my friends are round and they’re trying to talk, she won’t understand.”

The lessons were the brainchild of student teaching assistant Louise Dickson, who has studied sign language for the past seven years. When pupils saw her speaking to Helen, they started asking if they could do the same.

She decided to set up a weekly lunchtime club to teach the children, aged from seven to 11, sign language.

She said: “Even teaching one child to sign their name makes me so proud, and seeing so many of them doing it is just amazing. It’s really nice that from now on, they’ll be able to introduce themselves to a deaf person.”

Headteacher Rita Yeowart was keen for her pupils to learn sign language, after forging a connection between the school and charity Deaf Vision. In October, she arranged for an interpreter to hold an assembly and teach them the signs to Sing A Rainbow. She said: “We always have interpreters from Deaf Vision who come to parents evenings and school productions for Helen. What people don’t realise is that sign language is another language – it’s not just gestures and things.”

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