The Diary of a Makaton Ambassador

Amica writing on a flip chartTutors encounter so many Makaton users and their families/ professionals around them, at different stages in their lives. As such, we often wonder how those people are getting on. Are they still using Makaton? Are they still supported with their communication?

Well, this year, Makaton Ambassadors Sarah Laszlo and Amica Davies got to find out! (For privacy reasons we are calling the young person Ben.)

In the early 2000s, Sarah Laszlo was delivering some Makaton training for parents and carers in Shropshire in an Early Years setting. There were some parents that really stood out; they absorbed everything and were super keen to get started with Makaton to ensure they could communicate with their child who had significant communication needs. Little did Sarah know that years later their child would be a student at Derwen College where she worked as a teacher, Makaton Tutor and Learner Voice Lead. Derwen College is a National Specialist College which has been considered a centre of excellence for Makaton, so this was ideal for Ben.

Sarah LaszloBen’s parents recognised Sarah straight away and she remembered them. This gave Ben a link and he often sought Sarah out to share a joke or to talk about football, always using Makaton to augment his speech. His confidence really grew in an environment where everyone was using Makaton.

Ben has now left Derwen. His parents and family are still passionate about using Makaton but earlier this year felt that they really needed a refresher. However, as fulltime carers for their son, they were not in a position to be able to leave him to go on a course. In usual circumstances, Makaton training is for parents, carers, professionals etc that support a Makaton user rather than for the person themselves. However, when Ben’s parents approached Course Beetle, the organisation running the Level 1 and 2 workshops, they explained their situation and asked them to consider Ben accessing the course with them. They felt he would manage the theory side of the workshop. After lots of communication at all levels and considerable consideration, Course Beetle agreed that Ben could come along. They ensured there were clear boundaries and that everyone had a full understanding of the situation.

In May 2022, Ben and his parents accessed Makaton training, this time with me, Amica, as the lead tutor. When they learned that I also used to work at Derwen with Sarah, they were so pleased and shared Ben’s journey with Makaton. They remembered Sarah Laszlo and Julie Hawkins, the Speech and Language Therapist and Makaton Senior Tutor from Derwen too.

Ben was an absolute pleasure to have on the course and really in his element; he was beaming with pride each time he produced his signed sentences. In fact, so proud he took a bow after each one! His parents were thrilled as Ben, in usual circumstance, has social anxiety. But there, with everyone speaking ‘his language’ he was confident and communicative.

In our training we frequently talk about the importance of continued use of Makaton and how it is essential that there is a shared communication system to increase the opportunities to communicate. Ben was a real life example of this! Thank you, Ben, we have loved working with you on your Makaton journey and hope to see you and your family again as you continue that journey!