Dawn Thorpe

Before she became a sign language expert Dawn Thorpe had her own beauty therapy businesses, which may not be as different as it may seem.

“After all both involve using your hands,” she jokes.

However, that is where the similarities begin and end and for the past 16 years, Dawn has run her successful Signing Tots business, using sign language to help children in the education sector, particularly in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

She has also worked as a specialist teaching assistant supporting deaf children in nursery on a one-to-one basis. This, and her own experience of wearing hearing aids due to hearing loss, has helped her further develop what she is able to offer.

It is in this capacity that she has been coming into High Bank each week (prior to the Covid-19 restrictions) to run her signing tots sessions with the children, who look forward to her visits.

Dawn, who has a British Sign Language Level 1 and 2 qualification, Makaton (for people with learning difficulties) Foundation and Enhanced status and an Early Years Degree says introducing children to sign language at a young age has numerous benefits.

She explains: “The sooner children learn sign language the better because they are like sponges and it can help their overall communications skills.”

When she is in the nurseries, Dawn’s uses music and puppet called Jack to initially engage the children. These even involves making her own music in a studio beforehand.

She adds: “I use existing nursery rhymes so the songs are familiar but change the words and generally slow everything down so the children can focus on the words and signs.”

Like many businesses, married-mum-of-four Dawn has had to adapt to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, so has taken her songs, rhymes and stories and pre-recorded them so nurseries and parents can subscribe and watch from their settings/homes.

She says she is looking forward to coming back into High Bank when it’s safe to do so.

She says: “My sons used to the go to the after-school club that High Bank did, so I already knew what a great setting that was for children.

“You get such a lovely feeling when you walk through the doors. It has a warm family atmosphere and are very professionally run.”

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