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New Clare mothers improving communication with babies through sign language

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Claire Glynn is inviting new and expecting mothers in Clare to attend a free virtual baby sign workshop designed to both educate and connect new parents in their local community.

The four-week workshop, which started on January 18th, is called ‘Clever Little Handies’ and is facilitated by Clare County Library. It takes place via Zoom in class sizes of 15. The classes will contain nursery rhymes, songs and poems with ISL signs that pertain to day-to-day life with a baby. The workshop will contain approximately 100 baby signs over the 4 weeks, Claire informs.

The classes were adopted following a motion by Cllr Ann Norton (IND) to put together sign language classes in the local library, Executive Librarian Cora Gunter outlined. The workshop forms part of the Healthy Ireland programme run by Clare County Library.

“Babies are born communicators. They have the dexterity in their hands and muscle capacity to form signs long before their mouths are capable of forming words. By six months they can already communicate without words. They can clap, wave and point all before they can talk, these are all forms of communication. By doing the sign for milk, or bird, or car, or cow, it just gives them another action they can easily copy and repeat,” Claire explained.

Starting the classes in 2019, the purpose was to get new parents out of the house and meeting other parents with babies of a similar age to talk about the sleep regressions, teething, poos and endless piles of laundry. “The baby sign was and still is just a by-product,” she adds. Claire decided to redesign her course content over lockdown and move it online. Essentially, the workshops are conducted through various slides that include the words to the poem or lyrics to the songs with a static image of the sign being explained, including a written description of the sign.

First time mother from Clare, Ailbhe McMahon says she is delighted to see courses for parents and babies running online as it has been difficult to access services throughout the lockdown, in her opinion. “A friend recommended baby sign to me as she found it great with her children. She found it really reduced frustration for her. I feel that anything that can enhance communication can only be a good thing. I’m looking forward to a different way of bonding with my baby and connecting with other parents,” she comments.

Claire understands the difficulties the lockdown has presented, particularly for new parents, facing new anxieties and unknowns. Clever Little Handies provides a safe space for new parents to share these anxieties and connect with other parents in their area. This has been achieved by driving the classes through county libraries, Claire states. The hope is that parents can meet up once restrictions are lifted.

“I have always thought of my classes as a mental health break for Mum, it was always about getting Mums and Dads in some instances out meeting other parents in the same boat, with their babies of a similar age. It is apparent that this is even more prevalent now, since Covid hit and they are unable to go to the likes of mother and baby groups; swimming, baby massage, yoga etc,” Claire concludes.

Sign up for Clever Little Handies by emailing Frances.Pender@clarelibrary.ie or by contacting 065- 905 1504 to book your place. Spaces are limited and booking is necessary.

An avid reader from a young age, Cian’s love of the archives has been shared by Clare Echo readers who enjoy his Reeling in The Years section. Charles Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Michael Crichton were his favourites writers in his younger years while he was always a fan of studying the opinion columns in The Irish Independent. A past pupil of Lissycasey National School and St Flannan’s College, he is currently completing his final year studies at the University of Limerick in New Media and English. From September, he will be commencing a Masters Degree in Journalism at UL.

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