Challenge 4 – to learn some basic sign language

Your challenge this week:  To learn some basic sign language so that you can communicate with more people in the world.

This challenge encourages the following values:
Kindness, Courage, Responsibility, Generosity, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Optimism, Patience, Commitment.


What you need to complete your challenge this week:

  • The Internet or a course, a book, a leaflet or a knowledgeable friend
  • Two hands
  • A willing volunteer to practice with

If all else fails…

Learning just a few basic signs will allow you to communicate with someone with a hearing or communication impairment.


In this day and age, it is considered common courtesy to acknowledge a person, to say hello, whoever they are and to say please and thank you so learn these basic signs – it’s easy I promise you!

Food for thought for the grown-ups:

As we progress through life our communication skills evolve allowing us to better understand, make sense of and connect with the world around us. Good communication skills allow us to foster a sense of belonging and security, allow us to problem solve, build relationships, resolve differences, request help and express ourselves. It is one of the central functions which allows us to effectively contribute to society.


When this ability to communicate is impaired, especially at a young age, children will find it harder to learn and this, in turn, affects feelings of self-esteem and confidence which can last long into adulthood. A communication impairment affects a person’s ability to make friends and if it is not managed, regardless of the nature of the impairment, that person will often find themselves at a disadvantage and consequently isolated.

Unfortunately, statistics now reflect that without the right help children with communication difficulties are at a higher risk of suffering mental health conditions later in life. I feel, therefore, that we have a responsibility, an obligation even, to step up and educate ourselves and our children to be able to communicate with those who, for whatever reason, find it harder than we do.


So, who are these people who ‘sign’? You might be surprised to find out that there are a variety of reasons why people use sign language. It can not just be narrowed down to those who are deaf. There are those who just ‘can’t get the words out’, those who can’t hear the words properly or at all, those who don’t understand words or how conversations work. In addition to these, some have physical barriers or learning barriers. So as I said before just assuming sign language is for those who are deaf would be a very incorrect assumption.

British sign language is a way of communicating using gestures, facial expression and body language and is used mainly by the hearing impaired or those who are deaf.

Monkey says he’s ‘hungry’

Makaton is a little different in that it is a sign and symbol language system which supports spoken language. The signs and symbols are used in spoken word order and those who use it adjust it naturally and gradually as and when their speech develops and improves.

For more information have a look at these amazing websites British Sign Language (BSL) and Let’s Talk Makaton. As far as this challenge is concerned, make it work for you, maybe learn just a few signs? If you feel moved and motivated by this challenge (and have the time) download a booklet, buy a book or do a course and make a real difference in your ability to communicate with the world. You’ll be surprised to find that there are loads of resources online that can signpost you to charity organisations and offer you free downloads, so fire up the (insert your preferred device here), make a cup of tea, sit down and see what you can find out.


You may not initially think it’s a useful skill to have but when you come across someone who signs, their appreciation of your efforts will be immeasurable I can assure you. Knowledge is a beautiful thing.

And for the children:

Oh my goodness, the life skill of basic sign language for children is simply invaluable.


Children, regardless of whether they have an impairment or not, and especially very young children, view communication so very differently to adults. They think much more outside the box about ways to communicate, they gesture, they use their faces and they use their bodies so much more than adults to explain what they want or how they feel. Children will go to far greater lengths and have far less fear of judgement when it comes to trying to communicate.

If you have preschool age children you are no doubt aware of Justin from Something Special who uses Makaton on his CBeebies programme. You can download the hello song from Justin’s show for free from the Makaton website mentioned above but the Cbeebies website equally has lots of signing resources from Justin himself, here is a link that you might find useful!


Older children might prefer to learn more about the everyday signs like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, sorry, help etc. All of these can be found for free online from various websites, including the  BSL and Makaton sites, and will give your child the very basic tools to effectively assist someone whose primary method of communication is sign language.

Learning to sign the alphabet is also perfect for any age because if you happen to forget the correct sign you can always spell it out instead! If you’d be interested in a hearing-impaired child’s opinion about whether sign language should be introduced in school then check out the children in this lovely video from the BBC Should pupils have to learn sign language? Show it to your children, talk to them about it, what do they think?



So go for it, there are just too many positive values to be gained by joining in with this challenge, it really is such a lovely lifelong skill to learn. Most importantly make this achievable for yourself, learn a few basic signs and the alphabet. You can always build on your foundation knowledge, after all, you might find you enjoy it and want to learn more, your children can learn some basics with you and teach their friends. It’s a beautiful thing to teach your children to be inclusive and indiscriminate, they have a natural predisposition and willingness to make friends so encourage this beautiful childhood trait by giving them the tools to communicate with ALL of their peers.

Saying ‘goodbye’ to monkey

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