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November 25, 2003

Sign language learners' inspiration

From: BBC News, UK - Nov 25, 2003

A boy has inspired a group of women to learn sign language, helping them to communicate more easily with him.

The trio - including a pensioner - from Brynteg, Wrexham started to learn signing a year ago after the 12-year-old, named Ben, came to one of their volunteer groups in the village.

"We felt that if we learn signing we would be able to communicate with people and this young boy in particular," said Eva Jones.

The 65-year-old and her fellow volunteers have now started a social group every Thursday so they can continue to practice their new skill.

"We need practice because some of the signs are so similar and the more you practice the better you get at it," said Mrs Jones.

"When I met this young boy before I couldn't communicate with him at all, he was making me understand but I couldn't make him understand and it was so frustrating and I felt sad.

"I felt that he must feel extremely isolated because he couldn't get any sense out of anybody.

"I feel that he's much happier, calmer....he was here at a party and we noticed a difference in his behaviour because he was quite disruptive but he's much calmer now.

"I feel great that I can say 'Hello to him' or 'Goodbye', or 'Would you like something?'"

Her classmate Diane Griffiths said she believes she has already made a difference to the youngster.

"He was upset in the shops and didn't know what to do, I asked him how he was and ever since then he's made a beeline for me," she said.

"If I didn't know sign language I would've had to go to pen and paper and that takes more time."

Carol Webster from Deeside has been profoundly deaf in one ear since she was two.

She said what the women are doing is wonderful.

"Even if it's only minimum knowledge of finger spelling, people are going to know it's sign language," she said.

"I think people as a whole have no idea what being disabled is all about."

Her sentiments were echoed by Lyndon Williams, a community officer for the RNID - the charity representing deaf and hard of hearing people - in north Wales.

"There should be awareness of the deaf community and [for people] to learn British sign language," he said.

Mr Williams said he first witnessed sign language during his time at school.

"For the first time, I saw older children looking confident and speaking with their hands...I now realised it was a language - it was sign language," he said.