What Signs?

When I was setting up Sign2Music I made the decision early on to use NI regional British Sign Language (BSL) signs, the language used by most members of the deaf community in Northern Ireland. Like regional accents, BSL differs throughout the UK. The differences are particularly significant in Northern Ireland. We do not use NI regional BSL, a complete language system that has different sentence structure and grammar than English. We use NI regional BSL vocabulary to support the spoken word

People often question this decision as it did immediately create additional hurdles to jump and a lot of work! It would definitely have been easier to use makaton or English BSL sign as these are the signs used in existing baby signing resources. The graphics pack I purchased was created by Cath Smith in England. Luckily she agreed to work with me and over a number of years we have created the huge bank of additional graphics needed for our programmes. I am very grateful to her for the amount of work she put into this on our behalf!

Does it really matter what signing programme we use as it is only used to communicate within the home for a short time? Yes, it matters to me for number of reasons:

  1. I have a great respect for the Deaf community and the signed vocabulary we borrow from their beautiful language. I feel it is my responsibility to promote the use of this language in its correct regional form. And if you are learning to sign you may as well learn signs that are accurate and potentially useful! 
  2. The signs we use are the basis of a second language used in NI that can be used to by you and your child to communicate with local sign language users.
  3. Many of our parents fall in love with sign language and decide to complete Stage 1 in their local college. If they weren't learning NI BSL signs in class they would have to start afresh and relearn the signs.
  4. Many children stop using signs when they no longer need to but some children continue to sign well into primary school. My daughter Cara is now 4. She loves to sign and it has continued to benefit her. I have a deaf friend and I think it is great that Cara has the ability to communicate with her on a basic level. Had she been using makaton or English BSL signs she would not have been able to do this!
  5. There are moves to introduce BSL as a language in schools. If your child has been to Sign2Music classes and their school is using Sign Language they have a head start!



The good news for busy parents is that it is quite easy to learn essential signs, even without prior experience using BSL. Signs are easy for babies to understand, as many BSL signs are iconic; they are manual imitations of the actions or objects they represent. For example, the BSL sign for "bird" is demonstrated by placing the finger and thumb next to the mouth in the shape of a bird's beak. Many signs involve miming the action, eg, brushing your teeth or hair, washing your face.


Yes and yes!! Deirdre is qualified to BSL Stage 2 and other presenters also have, and most are continuing, Sign Language training.

Having a sign language qualification is an essential requirement in becoming a Sign2Music teacher. Knowing your teacher is qualified reassures you that you are likely to be learning accurate signs. It also means your teacher has an awareness of deaf culture and of the context of signing. As well as the signs taught in the class, you can also request other signs that would be helpful for you and your child, eg, if your family has an unusual pet. Using accurate signs means that our classes are fully inclusive and are suitable for children with hearing impairments, speech delay and learning disabilities.



By using BSL signs, you are introducing you child to a rich and beautiful second language that they can continue to use and explore as they grow. Deirdre, founder of Sign2Music is currently the only Sign2Me presenter in Northern Ireland. Sign2Music uses the award-winning SIGN with your BABY programme by Dr Joseph Garcia, who was an American interpreter, and the first person to research the use of sign language in facilitating preverbal communication. In his words:

“By using American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL) or the signs of a specific region, we open the doors to communicating with a much broader community of people – and we lay the foundation for our children to continue learning and using ASL throughout their lives”

“I think ASL is a gift from the Deaf community. I can’t think of a better way for us to honour this gift than by using to facilitate early communication and bonding”