BROTHERS and sisters of deaf children are being taught sign language as part of a key project.

The Child Deaf Youth Project, based in Middlesbrough, runs a scheme which teachers siblings of deaf children to sign – helping both children communicate better.

The initiative has just received a £2,500 grant from Tata Steel subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise, which means it can continue into a fourth year.

Signing Sibling, the only programme of its kind in the region, provides 5 to 14 year olds with a Level 1 British Sign Language course.

It has helped improve quality of life for children who are deaf or hearing impaired and their families.

Sheelin Kilroy, the project’s manager said: “Communication is key to helping deaf children develop socially, intellectually and emotionally.

“Having a sibling who can sign makes a big difference to home life for the child and the family.

“Deaf children have complex needs and sometimes one or even both parents are also deaf so that a sibling can be the only hearing person in the household.

“In three years we have seen this programme make a real difference by improving communication, strengthening bonds, boosting confidence and reducing isolation. Private signing tuition is costly and many families just could not afford it.”

The Child Deaf Youth Project was recently named Tees Valley Club of the Year. It provides youth clubs, educational workshops, holiday activities, a befriender service and school leavers’ courses.

More than 50 families from across the Teesside area benefit from the charity.

For Sarah Thorpe, UK Steel Enterprise Regional Executive, the project is particularly close to her heart as she was recently diagnosed with a congenital hearing difficulty.

She said: “I have problems with pitch and tone and am managing well with the help of aids, lip reading and other tactics but I know just how important good communication is.”