Falkirk High’s Jemma reflects on sign language

Jemma speaks in sign language at the Scottish Parliament
Jemma speaks in sign language at the Scottish Parliament

A profoundly-deaf Falkirk High pupil addressed the Scottish Parliament this week to give an account of her experience with sign language.

Jemma Skelding (12), became the youngest contributor to Time for Reflection, the first item of business taken at the start of the parliamentary week.

Jemma, who delivered her reflection in her first language, British Sign Language, was in the debating chamber with interpreter Mary McDevitt, who translated her words into English for MSPs.

She said: “My mum and dad are both deaf and I have an older sister who is deaf with complex needs. At home I grew up using sign language and, in fact, I thought everyone could sign.

“It wasn’t until primary three that I noticed things change. My friends would all be talking but I would be left out – I don’t think it was because they didn’t like me, I think trying to communicate was just too difficult for them. That’s when mum and dad decided I should move to Windsor Park School and meet other deaf children.

“When I got there, the teachers and children could all sign. I was so pleased to meet them and that’s where I met my best friend. I now go to Falkirk High School; they have full time communication support workers and I enjoy school very much.”

By speaking at Time for Reflection, Jemma has followed in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama, the Chief Rabbi, and Moderators of the Church of Scotland. Jemma was speaking ahead of next week’s Deaf Awareness Week.