At the age of 18 months our small person was using Makaton. Initially I was a bit dubious but the grumpy frustrated little boy instantly changed the minute he could sign biscuit, book and sausages!
His vocabulary increased so quickly and as words were finally spoken those signs faded only to be instantly replaced with new ones. His system of learning vocabulary has been so efficient that as a family we have not even noticed how little he signs now; so when I was asked to write a piece for the Makaton website about how my son now uses it in mainstream school it felt like it was the first time I had to say ‘I can’t’. The reason was not that I didn’t want to, far from it, I still believe it should be part of the curriculum while children are young with their eager sponge like brains, but simply because he speech has improved so much that his hands have been given a little rest!
Then while cobbling together a ‘sorry I can’t help’ e-mail I started to think of how much Makaton has evolved in the short time we have been using it. There was its bold step into tablet technology with its MyChoicePad programme and many new resource materials have become available. Of course there is its ever growing popularity with all children through its use on children’s TV and finally this new website and I thought how sad it was that as a family we were moving away from it just as things had started to get exciting.
But are we? Just as I was e-mailing Makaton the small one started nagging for a snack, typical I thought. Frustrated that I did not want my thoughts stopped I just signed ‘wait’ –and then I realised that actually you never leave Makaton behind, it is STILL our second language.
Thanks to Makaton I do not have to shout over a busy park to tell my son it’s time to go home and at wedding’s, parties, days out there is no need to announce to the world we are off to the toilet, just a quick sign instead. It is thanks to Makaton that in certain situations I can tell my son ‘enough... stop... calm down’ without raising my voice or drawing attention to it.
Then there are the rare nights out when the music is loud and the place is busy, a few swift hand moves to get the wine in, and sneaky sign for ‘home’ when you’ve had enough.
At work I know there have been times where my husband has been able to have basic conversation with people using Makaton and made them feel valued and welcomed where they would have found it difficult to communicate.
Then there are the silly things, like my son loves the fact he can sign most of the Postman Pat theme tune and I would never have suspected that I could sign the bridge section of Pulps disco 2000 with my 4 year old whilst boogieing away!
It is something that for our family has changed everything. It gave our son his first proper words but also the tools to be able to communicate with everyone. He may not use Makaton now as the foundation of his communication, but has become bilingual with the ability to talk to all his friends, mainstream or with additional needs, and that is why Makaton is truly brilliant.Katie K