On 30th November I completed a short course that helped me develop my skills in Keyword Signing. 

Key word signing is a technique of simultaneous communication whereby the communication partner of the person with limited communication abilities will use both natural speech and also produce signs for the words that carry the most important information. Key word signing puts emphasis on the pertinent words in a sentence or a phrase, rather than signing every word like you would for British Sign Language (BSL). For example, if someone said, "Go wash your hands" the key words that would be signed would be "wash" and "hand". 

Staff from the Speech and Language Therapy Department led the course and there were a couple of dozen participants. By the end of the course we had all learnt the signs, with varying degrees of competence, covering a basic vocabulary of around 350 signs. The vocabulary we learnt covered topics such as greetings, colours, common nouns and verbs as well as the more abstract W’s (who, what, why , where and when) which I found particularly difficult to remember. 

However, I am confident that this new skill will improve my ability to communicate with the, albeit small, proportion of VIVA clients who use Keyword Signing to enhance their limited verbal skills. I have a personal Action Plan in place that includes making sure that I ask whether any new clients make use of Keyword Signing and introducing myself using my Keyword name (finger spell the letter S and then use the sign for beer!). I am also hoping, at a suitable time such as a full Staff Meeting, to introduce my colleagues to the basics of Keyword Signing and (perhaps) encourage them to learn how to sign their own personal Keyword names. 

As the Communication Charter lead for Volunteer Cornwall this training has equipped me with the skills necessary to ensure, as far as possible, that I am able to communicate with the widest possible range of VIVA clients and elicit the necessary information to provide them with a comprehensive, and equable, service.