Canaan Barrie 'on body' Sign System

pdf The full text of the book can now be downloaded from this website along with the sign illustrations.






Canaan Barrie ‘on body’ signs are part of a wider communication approach which is described fully in the book Learning Together (formerly Movement, Gesture and Sign) by Mary Lee and Lindi MacWilliam and published by RNIB in 2008.

‘Learning together’ is an interactive and person centred approach to communication for children and adults with complex support needs. The approach has been successfully used in a variety of settings including people with visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical difficulties, autism, and/or additional learning needs. For simplicity we shall refer to them as┬ápeople with complex support needs.

The approach has three main sections:

Everyone can and does communicate

Underlying this approach is the belief that everyone can and does communicate and it is therefore up to those who are supporting people with complex support needs, to tune into them and try to see the world from their point of view.

Touch is important

Touch is central and plays a major role in allowing communication partners to make contact and build understanding between them. Touch enables them to exchange their thoughts and feelings, a process ordinarily supported largely by eye contact and the visual channel. Without contact through touch, a person with visual impairment is deprived of vital information about the people he or she would like to communicate with.

Three key principles:

Watch Wait Follow
Skilled, on going observation is fundamental to this approach as it allows us to look in detail at what and how someone is communicating. It takes time for people with complex support needs to process and respond to communication and it is important to give them time and to avoid intervening too quickly. This approach is interactive not directive and the aim is to respond to and develop their communicative attempts.

We have devised observation forms that allow for detailed and informed analysis of communicative exchanges. Follow the link to our resource section.