So here she is, finally… Glamourpuss, face-paint devotee, artist, sous chef (don’t expect much potato left after the “peeling” process), dancer, HUGE supporter of Ben 10, awesome nativity lamb, queen of “sucking your nostrils in and holding it”, pirate, fairy… The list goes on. More than anything she is just really good fun to teach and work with and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
And there have been difficulties to face. As with any country, anywhere in the world, lack of Deaf Awareness can cause huge problems. So many people forget to tap her to get her attention and instead grab her and swing her round to face them; a communication breakdown can often mean her behaviour is misinterpreted as naughtiness rather than a lack of understanding; and the general assumption that lip reading is easy and she can do it well (she can’t because it’s bloomin’ difficult, especially for someone born deaf, as she will never have heard the word in the first place). It’s often also hard to explain that for many English words there is no BSL equivalent, that BSL is an interpretation not a direct translation so when Leila signs “mat cat sat” for the sentence “The cat sat on the mat” she has fully-comprehended and read the sentence well and has given it back correctly in her own language.
Teaching her to read has not been easy. Whilst other hearing children have the use of phonics plus the advantage of incidental learning just from hearing conversations around them, Leila has to learn and understand the meaning and appropriate use of each word through a lot of images, BSL, English, flashcards and masses of repetition. And it’s not simple; she’s still getting to grips with BSL and also trying to learn to read and understand another language with totally different grammatical structure that doesn’t use images but words.
But thank heavens, the girl is whippet smart. Her reading and comprehension is really coming on, her numbers are improving daily (we now have a borderline obsessive counting of everything in a room!) and you should see her BSL. From just singular signs we have whole sentences, descriptive stories and her NMF… I think I may have gifted the poor girl with my rubber face but she’s so expressive now.
And as I’ve always said, her family are incredibly supportive. Family sign nights are fun and her siblings are really growing in confidence and using all sorts of methods to communicate with her. Her classmates are being taught 3 BSL signs a week and there’s always an effort to include sign in different activities.
So I have high hopes for Leila, not least because she has the most incredible personality and is utterly unfettered by her deafness, Any mention to her that she is Deaf is met with a big grin, a double thumbs up and a “No they’re fine”, whilst pointing to her ears, so who am I to dissuade her?