Body Signing

I have found body signing a very simple and effective method to enhance communication with visually impaired or PMLD students. Above all I felt it has enhanced my ability to respectfully and purposefully interact with students, I have been able to regularly put this into practice and I have observed that some students are actively engaging with the signing, using this to direct our non verbal communication

Body signing 

I recently took part in training on how to use Body Signing with visually impaired and PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabled) students, I found this a very interesting and practically useful training session. We were given a brief overview of research into the use of Body Signing and how it can enhance a students learning experience and in particular enhance the ability of those working with the student to communicate.  

We then moved onto some of the basics of how to work with the students (ensuring that we are supporting the student and allowing them as much control as possible, rather than hindering or overly directing). I have found this especially useful for letting students know when we are about to move and to help them know which way we are going, and for saying hello, goodbye and when an activity has finished. I have noticed some students initiating signs which I feel is a great progression in their ability to communicate. Above all I felt it has enhanced my ability to respectfully and purposefully interact with students. Here is an excerpt from the Leicestershire Schools info manual, the full guide can be found at

Seven steps to beginning hand under hand signing

(this is done from in front)

1. Say the learner's name and say who you are

2. Touch the left shoulder of the learner with your right hand to alert them that something is about to happen

3. Move your right hand gently down their left arm

4. Place your right hand gently under their left hand with your palm facing down

5. Place your left hand under their right hand

6. Both of the learner's hands are now resting on yours with your thumbs linked

7. Gently bring both hands to mid line in preparation for the body sign

For the sign

• Allow the learner to withdraw their hands if they wish

• If the learner has withdrawn their hands, continue the sign

• Make the sign slowly and say the key word

• Repeat the sign and the key word

• In general, the learner's right hand is making the sign and the left hand is receiving the sign but reverse this if best for the learner.


307 reads


Julie Wright's picture

Hi Kate, this looks very interesting, i've not come across it before.

How did you find out about it, and access the training session?

KateR-zoladay's picture

Hi Julie, it was a staff training session at the SEN School in Leicestershire, provided by the Local Authority special needs teaching services. If you want to pop in and have a chat with some of the staff who use this with their students regularly i am sure it would be o.k. Let me know. Body signing is used as part of a 'total communication' strategy in the school, in which speech, objects of reference, body signs, photographs, ICT devices and a simple form of BSL called 'Sign a long' are used to help support learners communication and understanding.

Rhythmix's picture

Kate - thanks so much for sharing this really useful information. We are planning some work as part of our MINC module with an organisation that support Young People with Visual Impairment. Definitely going to highlight the team!

KateR-zoladay's picture

Hi, thanks for your comment and I hope your project is going well. I saw Miranda, the lady who delivered the training on body signing and was able to get a little more detail on how people are developing and using this technique. Miranda explained that in Leicestershire a team of people are working with schools to develop a simple body signing method that is best suited to the young people and the overall communication techniques used within that particular setting. For example using signs based on either BSL or Makaton depending on which is predominantly used. Miranda said that if anyone would like advice or further info they are welcome to email her (please contact me for email address).