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HELP FIGHT FOR CLEANER WATERS, BETTER ACCESS AND INCREASED SAFETY FOR OPEN WATER SWIMMERS

Breaking down barriers the inspiration in helping deaf people learn to swim

Communicating with those learning how to swim is essential … but when people are deaf or hard of hearing, an additional skill is required to ensure lessons remain inclusive for all.

As part of National Deaf Awareness Week, we take a look at the Introduction to Deaf Awareness and using British Sign Language in Aquatics workshop.

Breaking down the barriers for both young and old people learning to swim while deaf or hard of hearing has been the inspiration for a number of Swim England tutors and teachers.

Around one in six people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing – and an interactive online CPD is helping ensure teachers have the necessary skills so they can communicate effectively with those learners.

The Institute of Swimming’s Introduction to Deaf Awareness and using British Sign Language in Aquatics is a three-and-a-half hour course led by Swim England tutor and Level 2 swimming teacher, Clare Brewer.

Clare decided to learn British Sign Language as her niece was born in 2015 with severe conductive hearing loss.

She said: “To help her communicate, we started learning British Sign Language. 

“As time went on, I found myself teaching children with varying disabilities and special educational needs to swim – but I wanted to do more! 

“So, in April last year, I started working in a special needs school during the day, as well as being a swimming teacher in the evenings and an aquatics tutor (under Swim England) at weekends. 

“I am now a higher level teaching assistant and working towards the role of communication support worker. 

Inclusive

“This involves working with children who use varying forms of communication, from sign language to Picture Exchange Communication Systems. I hold the British Sign Language Level Three qualification.”

Ashleigh Scott, a Swim England tutor and Level 2 swimming teacher, said she was inspired to learn British Sign Language in 2012 when she began teaching swimmers from the Royal School of the Deaf in Derby.

“Over time, my deaf-awareness skills grew and I learnt how to make my swimming lessons more visual and inclusive for deaf swimmers,” said Ashleigh.

“I have now been a swimming teacher for around 13 years and a tutor of Swim England qualifications for three years and have worked with deaf children and adults in a range of swimming contexts. 

“From 2014 to 2018, I managed the award-winning Deaf-Friendly Swimming Project on behalf of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), a four-year Sport England funded project to break down the barriers for deaf young people to learn to swim.

Amy Hughes also explained her passion in teaching the Introduction to Deaf Awareness and using British Sign Language in Aquatics course with the Institute of Swimming.

She said: “I have been a swimming teacher for almost eight years now and have experience working with all ages and abilities in the water. 

“Back in 2015, my second daughter was born with severe conductive hearing loss and therefore I started learning British Sign Language.

Privileged

“I currently have the British Sign Language Level Three qualification and have been accepted to start British Sign Language Level Four in September 2021. 

“It wasn’t long before I started to combine my skill set and started looking into adapting my own lessons to become more deaf friendly.  

“As well as swimming teaching, I also work for a company who supports people who have a sensory loss. 

“I am therefore privileged to support people who use British Sign Language as their first language, everyday.”

The Introduction to Deaf Awareness and using British Sign Language in Aquatics gives an introduction to working with deaf or hard of hearing swimmers in the aquatic environment.

It covers technology, terminology and adapting games/ activities and the considerations to make when teaching people who are deaf or hard of hearing – and also details basic fingerspelling and signs including introductions, aquatic skills, instruction and feedback.

The next course is taking place on Saturday 15 May and places can be booked by clicking here.

If you are unable to attend, the CPD will also be held later this year on 4 July, 11 September and 7 November.

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