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A Campbeltown mum is leading the way in promoting the use of sign language after learning to communicate with her own son.
Martine Craig learned British Sign Language (BSL) in 2008, following the birth of her first son Gregor, who was born with a severe to profound hearing impairment, enabling her and her husband to communicate more easily with him.
Over the past 11 years Martine has continued to learn, so much so that last year she managed to attain funding to facilitate not only her but also three other women from the area (Kristin Gillies, Michelle Leishman and Susi Lunn) to undertake, complete and pass an accredited qualification for Level 1 BSL.
‘It took years of investigation to get the funding but it was well worth it,’ said Martine.
‘Over those years I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the technique and have unearthed a keen interest and passion for this amazing language.’
Due to the remoteness of Campbeltown, Martine found furthering her skills and knowledge was not an easy task: ‘There were no courses available locally and BSL tutors were non-existent,’ she added.
Logistically a round trip to Glasgow each week was not an option, but because of her determination and drive Martine managed to secure a course delivered via Skype and, three years ago, Martine decided to find out if she could help the community and promote the use of the language locally.
Since then she has managed to raise awareness through social media, school shows, MOK music festival performances and local clubs, and she is hoping to continue her drive to promote the language.
‘Over the years I have always been on hand to help in my son’s nursery and school education,’ she continued.
‘This has allowed me to ensure parents, teachers and children are more aware of hearing impairment and BSL.’
More recently Martine has been using her skills to assist parents and teachers voluntarily to help other children with similar needs to her son.
‘Indirectly this amazing language helps the deaf community to communicate but, in actual fact it helps so many more,’ she added.
‘There are many adults and children around the world that use this type of
communication, from hearing impaired to autistic, people who have aphasia (cannot communicate verbally) to people who are deaf/blind or have additional needs.’
Martine has assisted parents whom have contacted her confidentially, she has given advice and taught BSL to the Meadows under-fives’ team, as well as helping in her children’s classes at Dalintober Primary School.
She has taught important basic signs, such as the alphabet and everyday words which enable the children to sign songs they are singing at music
festivals, school shows and displays. She has also supported the local swimming club, and Live Argyll Kintyre and Footnotes Dance Company with BSL learning.
Martine fully understands the difficulty a lot of parents face when they are unable to communicate with their child.
‘It is hard enough for families to come to terms with this situation without having to fight for help, which is not easily accessible in Campbeltown and the surrounding area,’ she said.
‘In many area’s there is no assistance available and parents have to
fund themselves to learn signing so that they can do what many people consider normal and take for granted – communicate with their child(ren). It’s heart breaking. ‘
Martine continues to raise awareness and support in Campbeltown and the surrounding areas, and was delighted when she was approached by Dalintober Early Learning Centre to see if she would come along weekly to teach the children some signing.
She has been doing this voluntarily since January and confirmed this early stage in learning is vital.
‘It’s just amazing what children pick up in their early years – their brains are like little sponges,’ she added.
Parents and pupils alike have given both the nursery staff and Martine so much positive feedback, which has reinforced her commitment to continue.
Martine has also recently become a tutor with Argyll College, having successfully completed two taster BSL Sessions for beginners in Campbeltown with students coming from as far afield as Lochgilphead to take part in the short course.
While everyone else is enjoying their holidays, with schools and colleges out for the summer break, Martine is currently studying hard for the next level of British Sign Language (Level 2), with her exams fast approaching in September.
Photograph: Martine Craig (right) with her Early Learning Centre group.