Using Lámh at School

In the classroom, if those around the Lámh user can become familiar with Lámh signs and use some signs themselves, the child will have the opportunity to participate in school life from the start.

Along with school staff members, peers are also communication partners and can be supported to learn about their classmate’s communication system. They are often enthusiastic signers as well as being interested in learning about Lámh.

The child who uses Lámh will have been supported by a team that has included a speech and language therapist. They will already have a communication programme or plan in place, which will provide useful guidance to those now supporting them in school. Families will be experienced in using the child’s communication system, and will play a key role in providing initial and ongoing information to SNAs, teachers and others.

In the classroom, if those around the Lámh user can become familiar with Lámh signs and use some signs themselves, the child will have the opportunity to participate in school life from the start. Along with school staff members, peers are also communication partners and can be supported to learn about their classmate’s communication system. They are often enthusiastic signers as well as being interested in learning about Lámh. The role of the communication partner is important:

Communication is a cooperative undertaking and the successful use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems is as dependent on the communication partner as it is on the user. (Murphy et al)

Sign users are more likely to use sign with someone they have seen signing. The most effective way to use signs is to include them in day-to-day activities and routines. This is a signing environment, where sign is part of everyday life. This is more effective than setting aside specific ‘Lámh time’, which can lead to having signs only being used during this set time by a limited number of people. Using Lámh in context also ensures that the signs being used are relevant and will support the child’s communication:

  1. Use signs in natural contexts e.g. circle time or when giving instructions to the class
  2. Offer opportunities for making choices, to encourage sign use e.g. red crayon or blue
  3. Try structured opportunities for sign practice within routines e.g. “forgetting” to give the child their book so they need to ask for it
  4. Introduce topics of conversation that will be of interest to the child e.g. talk about their dog. (based on Beukelman & Mirenda)

Providing those creating the signing environment at school can access support and training, a signing environment can be put in place. One of the tools that can be used in the classroom is the Lámh-a-Song DVD, which includes well-known songs for young children such as Old MacDonald and The Wheels on the Bus performed using Lámh signs. These songs are usually used in classrooms with gestures and actions to accompany the words, so it’s easy to ‘swap’ Lámh signs for those gestures and actions.