My beautiful daughter Gracie is four and a half years old, she has
complex needs, including global development delay, and is non-verbal.
Gracie has a small number of single words and therefore uses Makaton as
her main way of communicating.
As an experienced early years practitioner I had heard of Makaton and
like many other mums we loved to watch Mr Tumble. I started to pick up
some signs and wondered if this was a way forward as Gracie seemed to
take notice in the children signing, independently copying the 'friends'
a conversation with Gracie's speech therapist, she suggested that I
could attend a Makaton Beginners' Workshop, and in the meantime we
introduced 10 signs including 'more', 'eat', 'drink' and 'home'.
I began to follow Makaton videos on YouTube and we stumbled across
the inspirational Singing Hands, who we are determined we will see live
one day! Gracie has always had a love of music and their songs allowed
us to enjoy singing together, while learning a host of new signs to add
to our growing Makaton vocabulary.
Gracie has embraced signing and alongside picture cards she uses a
total communication approach, enabling her to express her needs and
ensuring that we are able to fulfill her requests... biscuit is still
the most used sign and one everyone understands!
have always been passionate about supporting children with additional
needs and around the time that I attended the Makaton training I was
offered a position as a SEN lead in a local nursery that encouraged me
to develop the SENCO role. This is when I met Amber a two year old who
had very little expressive language, which was impacting upon her
development and causing her huge frustration. With Amber's Mums support
and enthusiastic practitioners on board, I began to introduce a handful
of signs and Amber instantly began to respond to these, copying them
with accuracy and beginning to use them herself to make requests.
Amber had been awaiting a speech and language assessment, which as
anyone knows is a long wait, and as the weeks rolled by Amber began to
use two and three signs together, often only being shown a sign a couple
of times. Amber had been able to acknowledge the birth of her sister by
signing 'baby sister Ruby' and the most poignant and longed for 'love
Amber's language has literally appeared before our eyes and she is
now at the point where she is using 3-5 word sentences, understanding
and using positional language and the pronoun "I". To cut a long story
short her speech therapy is now on permanent hold!
story is truly exceptional and will not be a reflection of everyone's
journey, it certainly isn't my daughter's. However Makaton has given
Gracie her voice, enabling her to build confidence to communicate and
her bank of spoken words is expanding.
I have become somewhat of a champion for Makaton as it is used within
our setting on a daily basis, and several other parents have signed up
to courses as a result, understanding that it is an aid to communication
and never a replacement for language. Surely all we want as parents and
practitioners is for our children to be understood and their voices
heard... being non-verbal certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to
Makaton really does change lives and these two incredible girls are proof of that.