A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Juliete Harpur, who runs Ashford’s Sing & Sign classes
Juliete first got into Sing & Sign about 5 years ago, when her eldest was just 3 months old. She was interested in getting involved with learning something useful and something that challenged her mind.
She originally set up her business in Belfast, and had a large client base, however due to personal circumstances, she relocated to Ashford with her family, and had to start from scratch. It’s been a tough journey, filled with lots of challenges. I really admire her persistence and determination, and hope to be able to help her build up her client base once again!
Q: Tell me more about Sing & Sign!
J: Sing & Sign is part of a franchise, and we have groups all over the country. We use sign language to help adults and children (0-2 years old) start their signing journey. We teach signs as well as the associated verbals, and find that this helps babies to develop speech even quicker.
We find that babies can also recognise facial expressions – they can tell when Mummy or Daddy is sad, angry, or happy. For them to be able to connect a facial expression to a sign or a verbal, helps them connect with the world and understand it a bit more.
The important thing, as well, is to get them learning things that are relevant to their age. Our younger babies (up to 6 months) mainly learn signs for nappy change, milk, tickle, body parts.
Most 0-6 month old babies’ worlds is all to do with Mum, Dad, the family unit; then they progress to the outside world.
Q: Some families don’t really get into baby signing until their second or third child – do your classes cater for older children as well, so they can learn to sign with their younger siblings?
J: Absolutely! We usually welcome siblings 3-4 and older, so that Mums aren’t too distracted during class. We find that families learn best together, as a unit, and there are always members that are new to signing (grandparents, siblings, etc.). A lot signs are learnt in class, but then they are practised at home too, and that’s where a lot of it is picked up by the other siblings.
We find that kids learn from kids a lot quicker, because they’ve got a connection in terms of similar interests. So if an older sibling signs, the baby will copy their big sister or brother.
We also find that if a child learnt to sign as a baby, but then stopped signing as their communication developed, they’re still able to remember the signs that have been ‘banked’ in their minds when a younger sibling comes along. All the information they once knew comes to the forefront of their mind quickly and easily, especially the ‘No!’ sign!
Q: How long are the workshops?
J: Each term is 10 weeks, and depending on the needs of the baby, most families attend 1-2 terms per age category.
Q: What’s your funniest/most embarrassing moment?
J: I think the most common is when I accidentally do the wrong sign, and one of my babies corrects me! I think ‘Oh well, at least I’m doing something right! They know the signs well enough to spot a mistake!”
Q: Any other memorable moments?
J: The most heartbreaking bit is watching your babies grow up and move on. The Mums in my classes are pretty good at keeping in touch and keep me updated on their baby’s progress!
One of my proudest moments involved a family that had been involved in a terrible car accident. Their little one girl was only 2, and ended up in hospital, but was able to sign to her parents even though she wasn’t quite sure what was going on.
The classes are fantastic for children with special needs as well. One of my babies started out terrified of the class and other babies, and by the end of term, he was the one holding the basket giving out musical instruments to all the other children!
Juliet’s classes are very popular, and fill up incredibly quickly!
If you are interested in trying it out, get in touch with Juliet and she’ll be able to sign you up for a class!