My Smart Hands: A #SmallBusinessThatRocks

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We’ve all been misunderstood at some point in our life, and depending on the context, we’ve probably felt somewhere between mildly annoyed to extraordinarily frustrated. Anyone who has spent any time around small children and infants knows that they, too, experience this frustration. However, they have not yet acquired the verbal skills that enable them to clearly communicate their needs. What tools are babies born with to communicate? Crying. A typically happy baby can quickly turn to screams and tears when their needs require attention. But it can be easier, for baby and parents, alike!

Signs are to Eyes What Speech is to Ears

Charlene is #SmallBusinessThatRocks proprietor of London’s chapter of My Smart Hands, a group of American Sign Language (ASL) instructors that use signs to teach parents how to communicate effectively with their hearing babies. Charlene is a certified independent sign language instructor who additionally works as an administrator. During volunteer work at Robarts School for the Deaf, she became aware of the need and desire for hearing parents to learn to communicate more effectively with their children, who were experiencing various degrees of hearing loss and/or impairment. This motivated her to learn ASL and to earn her instructor’s certification.  As an instructor, Charlene is passionate about ensuring that everyone has a means of communication and has expanded her practice to include those with aphasia, autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, trauma, and other speech or cognitive disorders. She offers group lessons, workshops, private instruction, as well as guest lectures on topics related to the benefits of learning and using American Sign Language.

The My Smart Hands Program

My Smart Hands ClassResearch supports the idea that preverbal infants can communicate through the use of sign language well before they acquire their verbal skills. Harnassing this research,  “My Smart Hands”  is the first baby-sign language program in North American to earn the honor of the Parent Tested- Parent Approved Award of excellence.  Featured in Chatelaine, Chicago Tribune, Global news, Globe & Mail ROB, Front page of the Toronto Star, MacLean’s Magazine, App Central and more, this program focuses on supporting early communication skills, language development, and parent-child connections. Using a class format including music, dance, play, and literacy skills, participants learn around 12 signs per week, focusing on themes and words appropriate for their development and thought-process. Starting as early as 3-months of age, babies are taught to sign words like “mom”, “dad”, “I love you”,  “more”, “milk”, etc. This early ability greatly reduces frustration, for both parents and child, as well as enhances early literacy and communication skills. 

A Voice for Everyone

Charlene at My Smart HandsIn addition to the accolades My Smart Hands has earned as a parent-baby resource, the premise of the program has far-reaching applications. Recently listed as a top 101 Quality Hearing Loss Resources for Speech Therapists, My Smart Hands aims to offer communication tools to anyone and everyone. Workshops are offered to educators, assistants,  health care professionals, and first-responders. Classes are taught according to the specific needs of the group, be it how to integrate sign into daily classroom activities, or common signs to use in the event of an emergency. Care is made to talk about and understand the Deaf community and to teach facial expressions and their importance when communicating. Learning ASL provides an unparalleled skill applicable to any situation or environment.

If you’d like to enhance your communication skills by learning ASL,  contact Charlene at My Smart Hands London. You never know whose life you’ll enrich when you learn to sign.

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