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Signalong is a sign-supported communication system based on signs adapted from British Sign Language, to be used together with speech. The system was originally developed in a special school in Kent and is now used in most parts of Britain. It is used with children with a wide range of speech, language and communication needs.
The Signalong Group charity has published the largest illustrated vocabulary of signs in Britain. The system is made accessible to parents, professionals and carers through its meticulous approach to describing how the signs are performed. They are analysed for handshape, orientation (the way the hands are held), position and movement. The descriptions are supported by clear line drawings which will include facial expression where appropriate.
This methodology, explained in detail in the front of every manual, enables users to choose the most appropriate vocabulary and produce accurate signs, without having to be shown how to perform each one. Since the charity's range covers needs from pre-school and pre-language right up to life skills and preparation for work, no person who needs signing has to be excluded from living life to the full.
The charity also offers a free sign research and advice service, so anyone who needs a sign in a hurry can ring the Signalong office and be given a sign description if they understand how the system works. Training is provided by the charity and its network of registered tutors. The focus is on teaching transferable skills, including the interpretation of the descriptions and diagrams and the application of key-word sign-supported communication.
Signalong encourages organisations to commission their own manuals to incorporate vocabulary which is relevant to the needs of the service users and to the local environment. Keeping it meaningful is important not only to the users but also to practitioners, and signing is more likely to be used if staff understand why the vocabulary is used and may have had a say in its selection.
Signalong's development programme is on-going, with new vocabulary and other visual communication resources being introduced continually. The charity also works with others in the field, offering resources on CD and DVD, and is collaborating with Widgit Software to ensure that the sign graphics can be used with symbol programmes.