The Scottish Parliament opened today with its youngest-ever contributor to Time for Reflection, the first item of business taken at the start of the parliamentary week.
Jemma Skelding, a pupil at Falkirk High School, delivered Time for Reflection in her first language: British Sign Language.
Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament, thank you for your kind invitation.
My name is Jemma Skelding, I am 12 years old and profoundly Deaf. As you can see I use BSL and Mary McDevitt will interpret into English for you.
I am really happy to be here for Time for Reflection, as next week is Deaf Awareness Week from 15 – 21 May.
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 I went to Olivebank Nursery that I met people who couldn’t. At the nursery they used gesture which was okay.
I then went to Wallyford nursery and for a half day every week, everyone learned to Sign. This was a really happy time for me. I was with my friends and I just felt like everyone else, we played together and we laughed a lot, we even had special sign names for each other and later we all moved on to Wallyford Primary.
It wasn’t until primary 3 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. I remember one girl in my class having a birthday party and all my friends were invited to sleep over at her house. I wasn’t invited, the girl’s mum didn’t know what to do with a Deaf girl overnight. By Primary 4, I was really unhappy and felt very lonely.
My mum and dad could see that it was hard for me and how sad I was. It had been different for them as they both went to a Deaf school and had loads of friends. That’s when they decided I should live with my Dad and 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. We did a project on the Scottish Parliament and even came for a visit.
Thank you for reflecting on my school experience.
Time for Reflection is normally the first item of business in Parliament each Tuesday. A speaker addresses the meeting for up to 4 minutes.
Invitations to address the Parliament at Time for Reflection are issued by the Presiding Officer. The pattern of speakers reflects the balance of beliefs in Scotland (based on the Census).
Jemma follows in the footsteps of speakers, representing all faiths and none, including the Dalai Lama, the Chief Rabbi, Moderators of the Church of Scotland and atheist and philosopher A C Grayling.
In general, nominations for contributors are proposed to the Presiding Officer by MSPs or by the religions or faiths directly. Jemma was proposed by Elaine Smith MSP, member for Central Scotland.