We all Need a Sign.

I am lucky enough to be able to hear. I am also blessed to be able to talk (although, I’m not sure my boyfriend would agree!) Because, I have learnt these skills, I have also been able to read and write this today. All forms of communication, that a lot of us take for granted.

I recently started a sign language course, you see. I have always been fascinated by it and have wanted to learn it properly. In my previous job, I knew a little of Makaton sign langauge. This is a simplified version and often used with younger children. The course I am doing now is British Sign Language (BSL). Some bits are the same as what I have learnt in Makaton – some aren’t. The alphabet is the same, though. I had previously learnt this but the course has helped me to ensure that I hold my hands correctly and make sure the other person can see the signed letter easily. I am a firm believer that we should all learn the alphabet, because then anyone could communicate with deaf and hearing impaired individuals a little i.e. by spelling out key words.  Here take a look at it:

The fingers on your left hand make up the vowels. The thumb being ‘A’ and your little finger being ‘U’. The other letters tend to make the shape of the letter, making it quite a sensical system really.

We are taught by a tutor who can’t hear or speak. (Deaf and Dumb – but I am pretty sure that isn’t accepted terminology anymore with the negative connotations!). This makes us learn more quickly really because he has to sign to us mainly so we pick up more signs along the way. Naturally, he will write on the white board too to explain certain things. It was funny on our first session, as we had to all write our names on the board – as it was obviously the only way we could tell him to start with. He quickly picked up on the fact that my sister and I (who is doing the course with me) had the same surname. He pointed at us in turn with questioning facial expressions. I knew the sign for sister in Makaton and was pretty sure it was the same. But you know when you just start a group and you don’t want to be the nerdy geek?! Ha! Well, I was more worried of him thinking I was my sister’s Mum instead and realised that I could live with being the class geek and had to clear it up, so I signed sister and he nodded in understanding! 😀

We’ve had four weeks of sessions now. The part I am finding the most difficult is the numbers. It isn’t just a case of counting on your fingers as I had hoped. It changes at 6, ten and for the teens – because it is done with one hand you see:

This is the only similar one that I could find. We’ve learnt 10 slightly differently. But, yes you do a fist action for ‘6’ and then add on to make ‘7-9’. We were also taught to turn ‘2’ the other way to avoid swearing 😉

Funny story one week. We had to all have a conversation with the tutor in front of everyone else. He asked me if I had a car, what colour it was etc. I signed in reply. I then thought he asked how long I had been driving so I signed  ‘4 years’. Everyone started to laugh and the tutor looked shocked! Turns out, he had asked how long had it taken me to drive to the session that night! Ha! So even in sign language, things can get lost in translation 😉

So yes, it’s all very interesting. We are doing just the beginner’s course and then there is a Level 1 – 6. It is a whole new langauge and it will take years to perfect the grammar (different from the written word as words like ‘are’ don’t exist – generally explaining why deaf people can’t always write in the same way), facial expressions and then the slang and informal talk. I’d like to go all the way with it but we will see how obstacles like time and money get in the way!

But as I say, if people just took a little time to learn the alphabet then it would bridge that gap of communication. I also fully recommend the Beginner’s course. You learn, in addition to the alphabet and numbers, family signs, question signs, colours and the other bits (which we haven’t done yet!). The course is 11 weeks long and only cost £68 and that is including £15 for the exam at the end. Obviously, it will vary depending where you live or where you study at. But it’s worth the money for such a valuable life skill.

XSXS

Teenage Sitting

 

 

Noooo…. I am not sitting on a teenager. I am, to put it in more ‘normal’ way, babysitting. But it is for the Special Needs boy I know, who is 15 so to call it ‘babysitting’ feels a bit wrong! I find the whole term ‘sit’ strange anyway that it means to ‘mind’ or ‘take care of’. Weird… sit on em to keep em quiet! Remember I told you about the lad in my posts Never Play with Animals or Children and Swimming in Play Doh and Fish Tanks? Well, his Mum and Dad wanted to go out for dinner tonight so they asked me to watch him for a couple of hours.

I am currently writing this because he is completely engrossed in some Truck programme. He is obsessed with tractors, trucks and any other vehicles really. But the bigger the truck, the better. He is no trouble at all; doesn’t even know if I am there at all to be honest let alone that his parents have left for the evening. No trouble at all. I am, however having trouble with the dog! You will know that I am not used to or great with dogs from my previous posts Never play with Animals or Children (again!) and Two Legs in Charge, Four legs not. The dog, unlike the teenager, does know I am here. From the moment I walked in, she was all over me. Nuzzling me, rubbing up to me. Female attention, not male – dammit! Then when I was just washing up from dinner, I came back into the living room and the dog was eating some tiny pieces of something. It turns out she had come to the kitchen, took the remains of a red pepper and all the seeds had gone onto the carpet. Grrr. So no, no trouble with the Special Needs teenager but the dog has made me extra work! Haha.

We just had some pizza. Last time I came round to have lunch with him and his parents we also had pizza. Must be a favourite of his! His Mum let him put it in the oven as when given the baking tray and the uncooked pizza, he knew what to do. There was 3 pizzas in total to share between four of us. We chatted as they cooked and then his Mum went to check on the food. She exclaimed, ‘Oh he’s only put one pizza in!’ She then realised it was a very very thick pizza. he had stacked them on top of each other! Haha. Good space saver that! Bless him. Today his, Mum put the pizzas in before she went out. I joked that she should stack them as that is clearly how he likes them!

Anyway, I’m off to see what the youngster is up to before it’s time for bed….. guess I’m risking cutting this short as something else is bound to go wrong! Haha… guess I’ll have to update you tomorrow!

See you then,

XSXS

Swimming in Play Doh and Fish Tanks

Howdy folks, another busy day of the six week hols today. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as so far the holiday isn’t going too quickly!

Today, I took my new car swimming for the first time. No, don’t worry, I didn’t actually take it in water! But it had it’s first visit to the leisure centre car park for my swimming session, where I hope (motivation and energy depending) it will have many visits! Yes, I went swimming first thing. I was actually in the pool for 7am – crazy I know. I only do that every so often. I’d like to say I go that early because it is nice and quiet but noooo it’s  absolutely packed! With old people who clearly have it drummed into their retirement schedule, dedicated workers who get a workout in before they start work ( I only ever come this early when I’m off work! Lunatics!) and other crazy people like me I guess!

One girl really annoyed me today. I have no valid reason for this. But she just got in the pool and swam really fast and didn’t stop for a good 40 min. She swam past me a few times making me feel like a slow sea turtle that hadn’t woke up yet! Not only that but she looked perfect! At 7am! In the swimming pool! She had this really long plaited hair and just swam with such grace, I really felt annoyed! I go in with my hair randomly thrown on the top of my head, bright blue goggles on and I swim like a child, thrashing my way along the pool as if I’m rushing to get an ice-cream on holiday! My arms fly out as I attempt front crawl and I end up accidentally swallowing water and every now and then I have to stop to wipe the mist off my goggles just so I don’t bang into the oldies! Who would put the effort into looking and behaving amazing at swimming at 7am? Nobody I guess, which is why it’s so annoying because it probably just comes naturally to her! Boo!

One week, I went swimming in the evening and I saw a pupil from school. He said to me in a surprised voice, ‘Miss you look totally different from school!’ I think I laughed but really I was thinking, ‘Of course I bloody do, I’m wearing bright blue goggles, no make-up, my hair looks like it’s been dragged through a swamp and oh yes I’m wearing a tight fitted lycra costume!’ Kids eh?

Speaking of kids, I saw the Special Needs lad from Friday again today. I ‘babysat’  him for a few hours… I don’t like saying ‘babysat’ because he is 15! But you know what I mean and it does have the joys and downfalls of watching a toddler to be honest! We had lots of fun though, firstly with Play Doh! I made sure I got a bottle of coke and lemonade out so that he could show me if he wanted a drink and more importantly have a choice of drink (remember he doesn’t speak) but we ended up using them to hold up a cupboard door (that I have lying around after decorating the kitchen!) to make a ramp. Which, was obviously, for our Play Doh balls to roll down! I actually used to do this at school with him in Maths for a unit on Shape and looking at ‘Things that Roll’. It was great though to not have the same structure and rules of a classroom and just let him play (within reason… I had to keep a close eye on my pictures on the wall! haha). He was muchly excited and throwing his big splat of brown Play Doh up the slope, which quite frankly I could have played quite a prank on my boyfriend with if it had been left on the floor! I made a perfectly round ball for him to roll and he threw it back at me and then laughed his head off…. (so much that we could have used his head to roll down the ramp!)….he obviously preferred his ‘splat’ and wasn’t impressed with my attempt!

After, we watched Postman Pat. Mum said this was the latest craze that he was into. He was very excited and swaying and rocking about at the bright red van and Jess the cat and all that. So much that I had to swap seats with him because I was getting quite concerned about my corner cabinet swaying, which was full of my boyfriend’s glass rowing trophies!! Who knew Postman Pat was such a hit with teenage boys eh?

After Mum had a good few hours to run errands, we went to meet her for lunch. We went in my car to meet her and he was the first passenger in it, not that he was impressed… it’s no bright red van is it now?! We had a lovely lunch at a garden centre but I don’t think he had quite enough to drink because when we got to the water features (remember I said he loved water?) we couldn’t pull him away and he ended up looking in the one empty stone tank… no fish but plenty of fascinating bubbles! He got so close to the surface of the water that he had a little drink!! Luckily, he didn’t go in further (or we didn’t have to  go in after him!), or he wouldn’t have been the only swimmer today!  Very funny, he obviously wasn’t impressed with the apple juice at lunch! He got very excited looking at the various water features and especially the misted pond that he was swaying and groaning and getting very excited again..Sorry Postie Pat, you’re not the only one who has that effect!

So yes a day of swimming; with perfect women, in a sea of Play Doh and nearly in a garden fish tank!!

See you tomorrow,

XSXS

Never play with animals or children!

Well what a busy day! Started the day with an early morning walk to wake up the system! Was a lovely morning and me and my boyfriend’s Mum and his brother’s girlfriend walked in the countryside with two lovely dogs…..one being Stan the Dog who you may see on another blog! The dogs were more awake than us bounding about and I swear we were meant to be taking them for a walk but the border collie puppy Tom was pulling me along so much that I had to break into a run. At that time of day! But don’t worry, I’m OK……. I may be scarred for life at the bodily fluids and solids that came out the rear of the two little darlings though….. noone needs to see that at breakfast time yuk!

My next stage of the day……………. the reason I call it a stage is because have you ever seen About a Boy? Or should I say as an English enthusiast…have you ever read it? Will the main character in it divides his days into units as if to give the day different stages. Each unit is an hour and so each activity will take up so many units. I like to think of my life like that when I’m not working and it helps to cram a lot into a day. So today, the dog walk took up about 2 and a half units and I then spent 1 unit at home, doing some chores, having something to eat yawn yawn boring stuff. Then I was asked to go to a special needs activity day to help out with the boy I used to be a teaching assistant for. I have now left the school but I’ve stayed in touch with the family. The boy is 15 and has exceptional special needs… he can’t even talk let alone read or write. (He  has Autism spectrum disorder and also Down’s Syndrome) As a big talker myself we seem to complement each other very well! He is the most lovely lad so I jumped at the chance to go and help out. As an added bonus it also gave his Mum a break for 2 units so she could lunch with her friends.

So I sat with him for 3/4 of a unit while he ate his  lunch. He is the funniest person to watch when eating chocolate. It is also torture for me as a chocaholic as he likes to savour every morsel. He also tries to put the bar in his mouth long ways as if he is setting himself a personal chocolate challenge! I watch him with fascination and he grins at me every so often with a brown sticky lip as if to say ‘You’re not getting any!’ The rest of the bar becomes a brown sticky river by the end and I have to rush him to eat it before it all melts. And not one tiny crumb (or drop!) for me! 😦

From one liquid to another we moved onto painting for just over 1 unit! Thank god for the invention of wet wipes! He had much fun stamping various paint sodden stamps onto a black blank canvas. The lady in charge… who is trained to work with Special Needs kids and adults ….kept telling him he had to pick up the stamp after each print and then dip it the paint again. I thought to myself ‘You don’t even exist because he is so engrossed in that red paint!’ There was no way he was going to stop excitedly banging the stamp and dragging the paint across the canvas… I had no problem with this because it’s art right? He was truly expressing himself! We were definitely the rebels of the group!

Shortly after, he decided to ‘help’ with the washing up of the paint trays, which really meant watching some other poor sod do it. he loves water and got very excited by seeing the swirls of purple, red and yellow mix into the water. Shortly after, Mum returned and my activities with dogs and kids were done for the day.

Never work with animals or kids, people say. But in work environments there are structures and rules… it’s the playing part that gets messy! All good fun though!

I’m now  off to enjoy the rest of my units… which I will confess may include some alcohol units also 😉

See you tomorrow,

XSXS