Voice Thru Your Hands began operation on 10th November 2007 by the vision of one mother (but formed from many).
In November 2007 we made a move to become a Charitable Trust in our own right with five Trustees and two advisors. The Trustees run the organisation from the vision started by Alison Attwell which is moving fast on to becoming one of the strongest parent-driven organisations, providing families with the resources, networks, and information they need to improve communication access and educational outcomes for their children. Our outreach programmes, parent/professional collaboration, and advocacy efforts are focused on enabling children to reach their highest potential.
Alison (Ally) Attwell: Mother of Tarryn
Co-Ordinator/Founder - Voice Thru Your Hands
2007 – Current
Tarryn (who was seven years old when we set up VTYH) with Down syndrome is non-verbal and solely communicated with New Zealand Sign Language. Being a mother who loves to talk it was hard to come to terms with having a daughter that found it difficult to talk, let alone not be able to hear me properly.
Through a group called Aim Best for Children with Down syndrome (ABCD) we learned Markaton, gestured signing that only has 500 base signs - at the time was based on British Sign Language. Tarryn took her time in picking up the sign but once she caught on, there was no stopping her. I was the one that felt funny using sign in public; I was worried I would be judged. When people asked me "is she signing" I would say, "she is using Markaton" and they would go, "Oh". Unfortunately Markaton seemed to have a stigma attached to it, as it was designed for people with disabilities
However she was only the age of three years old when she outgrew Markaton and needed more signs. That’s when I went off to night school to learn New Zealand Sign Language. I was still getting told by a few professionals that the reason Tarryn was not speaking was because I was using sign with her. This couldn’t be further from the truth as the part of the brain that we use to talk is the same side that we use for signing. Therefore stimulating the area long before speech occurs can only enhance language.
Now when people see my little girl signing they no longer see a disability but a very clever girl that can fully express herself. This is where the idea for Voice Thru Your Hands came from. Seeing Tarryn not given the opportunity to communicate in her first language, as she is on the homepage, is heartbreaking.
Children that are not given the opportunity to express themselves are being robbed of their rights as a human being. Through using one of our official language, New Zealand Sign Language, our children can have a real chance to have a voice. The bonus of all children learning the same symbols of or the whole language of NZSL a chance to communicate with a wider group of people especially the Deaf community.