British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan 2017-2023: analysis of consultation responses

The report sets out the analysis of the public consultation on Scotland's draft British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan.

Children in their Early Years

Goal: Families and carers with a D/deaf or Deafblind child will be given information about BSL and Deaf culture and will be offered support to learn to sign with their child.

Steps to be taken by 2023 are:

8. Develop information about BSL and Deaf culture for parents whose baby is diagnosed as deaf through the newborn hearing screening.

9. Commit to continuing the support for families and carers with D/deaf and Deafblind children to learn BSL appropriate for communicating with 0-5 year olds.

10. Support families of D/deaf and Deafblind children by ensuring that they have access to BSL resources as early as possible in their child's life. This will include providing information on BSL resources on our online Family Information Service website.

11. Develop key materials about play in BSL so that parents who use BSL have access to this information at a critical time in their child's life, so that all children can benefit from positive experiences of play.

12. Improve information and access to early years services for parents who use BSL.

13. Explore the best ways of bringing together children who use BSL as part of the early learning and childcare provision.

Question 4 - Do you think these are the right steps under Early Years?

In total, 107 people or groups answered Question 4. Of these 78% agreed that these are the right steps under Early Years, 9% disagreed, and 13% said they did not know.

Question 5 - Please tell us why you think this.

Question 6 - If there are there any additional steps, or potential solutions that you think could be added to the Early Years section, please tell us.

Around 100 people or groups made a written / BSL comment about Early Years and it was discussed at around 55 events.

People felt that support and information to parents in the early years of a child's life was important to strengthen the bond with the young child. People also felt that having the skills to communicate effectively with their child was very important. Some people suggested that new parents would be anxious and would need help to know what their options were and although people generally agreed with the steps suggested, many people felt there needs to be a clear plan which explains who is responsible for making sure things happen.

Develop information about BSL and Deaf Culture for new parents (Step 8)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • The early stages can be difficult but are critically important. A lot of support should be available at this time as parents are dealing with a new baby as well as learning about the Deaf culture. The time spent in the early stages will make a real difference in the longer term.
  • Having written information is not enough, practical support is also needed. However, this should be offered when the family need it or when they feel ready. This will be different for each family.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • The information provided should be easy to find, clear and provide practical help such as how to make contact with local services, tips for the home and information on welfare benefits.
  • It would be helpful to create opportunities for people to speak to a BSL user or another family in the same situation. A peer support or parent mentoring programme could be put in place

Continue to support parents to learn BSL suitable for 0-5 year olds (Step 9)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • This step was seen as very important and most people felt that access to training could be improved.
  • Good parent / child communication helps with self-confidence, resilience and socialising. It is also important to offer training to other family members, including brothers and sisters.
  • Support and help should be informal so the parents do not feel under pressure.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • Training should be started as early as possible and should be free.
  • Support and BSL training should be offered for at least one year as it can be a difficult skill to learn.
  • Training should be appropriate for the Deaf culture and where appropriate the hearing culture. Training should also consider the needs of different faith groups where this would be beneficial.

Support families with BSL resources as early as possible, including the Family Information Service Website (Step 10)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • The best information at the earliest stage will support families to become as independent as possible.
  • Many people felt that the best support for families of Deaf or Deafblind children would be one that provided BSL training as well as emotional and practical support.
  • Face to face help and support is best if families are struggling, but information should be provided in a range of formats.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • Meeting other people who have had similar experiences would be useful.
  • Resources to support families could be made available in nurseries and schools.
  • Awareness of the Scottish Family Information Service Website could be improved as many people don't know about it.

Develop materials about play in BSL so that the child can have positive experiences (Step 11)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • This step received strong support with play seen as important for learning and language and other development and also as providing opportunities to spend time as a family.
  • Supporting families to play would help with emotional wellbeing by making connections, building relationships and making friends.
  • Play can be an opportunity to meet other parents of Deaf or Deafblind children and to learn together. Children who are Deaf or Deafblind should also be encouraged to play with hearing children to improve language and social skills.
  • Play is important in the later years of schooling too; books, places to go and activities to get involved in.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • Materials on play also need to be fun.

Improve access to early years services and information (Step 12)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • Most people felt that BSL using children should go to mainstream early years services with the right support in place. The more BSL using children can be part of mainstream services, the more BSL will become a familiar language to all children. This will be a positive development.
  • Early years services can be a place where a wide range of support and help can be provided. This can be the springboard which helps the child achieve what they want to in their life.
  • Some people said that one-to-one support in nurseries was reducing due to budget cuts and this was creating problems.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • The current free provision for a CSW is not enough and needs to be increased based on the needs of the child.
  • Current early years resources such as books or DVD's should be adapted for Deaf or Deafblind children.

Bringing BSL using children together in early learning and childcare services (Step 13)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • Most people felt that although bringing children together was important that early learning and childcare support for Deaf and Deafblind children should be provided through mainstream services.
  • Role models are important for Deaf or Deafblind children and opportunities to meet others are very valuable for both the children and their parents or guardians.
  • Opportunities for both children and parents to meet other BSL users also helps increase confidence and provides opportunities to talk about challenges people are facing and possible solutions.
  • Clubs and social groups for BSL users are a positive and informal way to meet, although this may not be possible in rural areas because of smaller numbers of people and long distances to travel.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

The Scottish Government and local councils work to an inclusion agenda where children are educated together and not separated due to any differences, where appropriate. It was seen to be important that groups worked with local councils in developing supports aligned to this aim.


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