Amy Gibbs: Why I set up a BSL friendly group for parents in Bristol

Posted on June 30, 2016

This article is about a Deaf and BSL friendly group in Bristol that I set up with other mums in our area. The group has become successful and important for Deaf parents or signing hearing parents nearby.

It was set up in 2011, and the group is called ‘Little Hands’.

I want to stress the importance of access to Deaf and hearing people who use BSL parenting groups.

There are plenty of local parenting groups or sessions available for hearing parents to attend and choose from, but there are few Deaf parenting groups with an access to information in BSL around in the UK.

It is the same in the South West area. Even parents from outside of Bristol attend our Deaf parenting group.

Being a mum can be a lonely experience especially when my son was a baby, so I felt so much better after starting the Little Hands group.

It is so useful, sharing our experiences and tips. We understand what it is like being Deaf and we enjoy welcoming hearing or hard of hearing parents who can sign or want to develop their BSL skills.

I attended few local hearing mainstream groups in the past. I did not have any bad experiences and some mums tried to welcome myself and my son.

But I felt singled out as the only mum who is deaf and none of them could sign or are deaf aware. I could only manage small talk and felt unable to ask any questions about things that I was worried about.

At the Little Hands group, we provide lots of fun interpreted activities like forest school trips, messy glow play, toddler yoga and football and much more.

We invite various people to come and give talks on topics, such as choosing childcare and schools. We also provide workshops that are fully accessible for Deaf parents with qualified BSL interpreters present.

So far, we have done First Aid, postnatal depression and even fire safety with a visit from firemen with their fire truck, which our children loved! There are activities in half terms and summer holidays to keep the children busy. Occasionally, there are sessions for fathers only.

The parents and child members have established close friendships and the children invite each other to their birthday parties.

This group is well loved by our children who are mostly CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults).

Outside Little Hands, my hearing son does not have friends who have Deaf parents like himself. However, he enjoys getting asked how to sign this and that and often sign in school assemblies.

It is the same with other children in the Little Hands group. It is important for children to positively identify themselves and not feel left out simply because their parents are Deaf.

When the Little Hands group was first founded, there was only one baby member who is now my five year old son and other two heavily pregnant mums.

A year later, there were about eight members and growing. Now there are about 25 parents with children and I have lost count!

The mums are giving birth to their second and third children and in one case, twins! Just recently, we celebrated Little Hands’s five year anniversary.

We work hard together to help this important group continue. We get funding and raise our own funds. Once, we did a sponsored toddle walk to find the Gromits in Bristol and raised few hundred pounds. We are not stopping here, there are many activities planned for our children ahead and carrying on with our fun residential forest school stay every Spring.

It is well worth setting up your own Deaf and BSL using local group. It is fun and you feel more included, while bringing deaf people together and helping each other.

Amy Gibbs is a proud Deaf mum to a happy and sociable five year old hearing son.

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