Lámh Development in Ireland

Lámh was developed in the early 1980s in order to ensure there was a standard manual or Key Word sign system in Ireland for those that require signs to support their communication.

It is now used by many people throughout Ireland in their daily home, education and work settings.

In a typical year, 4,000+ families and staff members attend Lámh training.

There are 220 Lámh Tutors and Lámh Family Trainers working in services around the country - they are speech and language therapists, teachers, nurses, etc. who deliver Lámh training and support as part of their regular roles.

Lámh training is recognised by the Department of Education. Lámh is endorsed by the Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapists and Down Syndrome Ireland. Lámh courses are delivered by services providers around Ireland, including the HSE, St. Michael's House, Brothers of Charity and Enable Ireland. Lámh courses are delivered through AIMs Better Start and the NCSE (Dept of Education).

Key Developments for Lámh:


Dizzy Deliveries TV Series with Lámh signs first aired in October 2022 on RTEJnr. This exciting development of a 13-part TV series for young children who use Lámh is available on RTE Player, featuring Joe, Aisling and Ozzy who each week are joined by a young person who helps Joe to make deliveries around the country, to the zoo, the farm, the bakery and many more places besides! Each episode, Aisling (played by Lámh Tutor Deirdre Coleman), teaches us 3 Lámh signs and many more signs are used throughout the shows.


The 'Lovelamh' campaign offered free access to Lámh Signs Online for everyone for the first 7 months of Covid-19 restrictions, so that learning Lámh can continue while schools and services are closed. In early 2021, an online Module One Lámh training programme launched, with future plans for training to be offered face-to-face, blended and fully online. Little Lámh and Family Lámh Courses are being offered on Zoom and other platforms by some services and Tutors.


A year-long Schools Project begins, with 2 Team members engaged to complete the project. New Development Officer joins the small Lámh team. Lámh-a-Song 2 launched. Lámh Instagram is launched. 86 new Lámh signs are added to the vocabulary.


Lámh Time App wins Best App at the Irish Digital Media Awards. New Lámh signs project is started. Research about Lámh and families is carried out by St. Angela's College Sligo, and about Lámh in an organisation is carried out by COPE Foundation Cork. Lámh Research Seminar held in Dublin.


Little Lámh App for iPad launched. Over 2,500 family members and staff attend Lámh training around the country. Lámh Time App launched. More Lámh Tutors are trained.


Module One Add-on for Communication Partners of Children and Little Lámh Workshop and book launched. Largest ever class of Lámh Tutors trained.


Lámh Signs Online is an online resource for families and staff members who have completed a course in Lámh. Filmed clips of Lámh signs are presented by Lámh signing experts and users can practice and revise their signs online on mobile phones, tablets and PCs. Part Two Family Course launched. Workshop for Communication Partners of Adults who use Lámh is launched.


QQI provides accreditation in Lámh training on the Using Lámh in a Total Communication Approach Course, which provides intensive training in Lámh assessment, desiging a programme of Lámh use and all Lámh signs. Developed by Lámh and the Open Training College.


Strategic Review of Lámh carried out with input from stakeholder groups including families, Lámh users, Down Syndrome Ireland, Special Education Support Service.


Lámh and Down Syndrome Ireland produced a Lámh-a-Song DVD for young Lámh users which is very popular. Presenter Lámheen sings and uses Lámh signs with 15 nursery rhymes and songs for Lámh users – ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, Incy Wincy Spider and Old Mac Donald included.


Module Two Lámh training launched. Lámh Training DVD for Tutors produced. Management of Lámh undertaken by the Open Training College for a 3 year period.


A major project took place to update signs and materials through consultation with families, tutors, ISL, services providers and schools.  


The first Lámh Development Office opened in 2002 with a Development Office post with funding from the Department of Health and Children. Lámh continues to be grant-aided by the HSE. Lámh is governed by a voluntary Board of Directors and is a registered charity.


In the 1980s, a group came together to develop one manual signing system for Ireland so that there would be a standard set of signs that children and adults with communication needs could use and that would be understood. Brothers of Charity, St. Michael’s House, Stewarts and other service providers helped to develop training courses in Lámh for families and staff members and this range of training courses have expanded over the years.

Many Lámh signs are based on or adapted from Irish Sign Language (ISL), the natural language used by the deaf community in Ireland. There are differences (the number of signs used is smaller, hand positions are less complex, finger spelling is uncommon and the emphasis in training is different.) This close link allows for progression on to more complex ways of communicating if required. If a Lámh user requires a larger vocabulary, the transition to ISL can be more easily made. This is why manual sign systems from other countries are not used here, as they are based on the sign language of their own country, e.g. Makaton, which is based British Sign Language.