MEET Joyce Jones and Dexter.
Colourful character Dexter is a signing puppet, designed for a pioneering new programme to teach babies and toddlers to communicate using simple signs and gestures.
As part of the TalkFirst programme, Blackpool mum Joyce will be running the special signing sessions for tots across the Fylde coast.
The aim is to reduce frustration, develop speech, encourage bonding and improve communication between parent and child.
The 52-year-old has set up her own baby signing franchise, after working as a secretary for 30 years.
Classes will encourage hearing babies and toddlers, aged up to 30 months, to learn sign language through Dexter.
Babies and parents learn eight British Sign Language (BSL) signs each week, based around a set theme incorporating music, songs, rhymes and games.
Joyce, of Heron’s Reach, has first-hand experience of communicating through signing with her profoundly deaf daughter Shona, now 20.
She said: “My experience of being a hearing mum to a deaf child has made me passionate about good communication for all children, both hearing and deaf.
“Research has shown baby signing provides the invaluable link to help hearing children and their parents to understand each other.
“Young children, especially babies and toddlers, are always learning – they’re like sponges – they absorb lots of information, but get frustrated they cannot communicate or express their feelings.
“During classes, babies and toddlers are encouraged to say the words as they sign, which speeds up their learning development and communication skills.”
Joyce, who has a BSL Level 1 qualification and is studying for her BSL Level 2, lives with partner Colin, and recently took voluntary redundancy from her NHS secretary job.
“I felt I needed a fresh new challenge in my career and heard about TalkFirst.
“I attended one of their franchise open days to see what it was about.
“I am looking forward to helping lots of families and child care settings in and around Blackpool to benefit from the TalkFirst experience, and help improve their communication skills. The classes are great fun and ideal for parents and carers who want to try a new exciting activity with their child.”
Classes will be delivered from June 6, on Tuesdays at 9.30am, in Poulton Leisure Centre (YMCA), Thursdays at 1pm at the Garstang Leisure Centre (YMCA) and Fridays from 10am, at Great Eccleston Village Centre.
Call Joyce on 07766 078 199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org