Today, Saturday 16th May, I went on another course, this time a free two hour session to learn Makaton. Makaton is slightly similar to British Sign Language in that some of the signs are the same, however Makaton is for a completely different set of people.
Makaton was first developed in the UK in the 1970’s by a speech and language therapist and was devised as a way of increasing the ability to communicate in those who live with learning difficulties, such as those living with Autism and those with cognitive impairment. Makaton is a much simpler form of communication and uses common vocabulary that is used in everyday speech. It also incorporates the use of picture cards and ties in facial expressions with the word to produce more content in the shortest form.
Unlike British Sign Language, Makaton uses speech as well as actions and symbols. This encourages children to learn many different forms of communication which has shown good results in academic and social achievement by those who use it. It has even been proven to increase literacy and numeracy skills and encourages development of visual, recognition and identification skills. As babies develop, they often use signs and gestures to communicate what they want, such as a drink, and most parents also use this method without realising it. For example, many parents and carers symbolise a drink using a hand to mouth action, or a spoon to mouth action when encouraging children to eat for themselves. Makaton is merely an extension of this, with specific actions, signs and symbols for each activity.
I learnt quite a few everyday words and signs, and very much enjoyed learning this new way of communicating. The key to this technique is to TALK while signing... A lot of people were just signing like you do for BSL as deaf people can't hear the words. However, with Makaton it isn't about the signing, its about being able to communicate effectivly, the signing and symbols add to the meaning of the spoken words, to help the person with difficulties learn the meanings of the words. It is like a child learning to read. Childrens books have lots of pictures, and this helps give clues to what the story is about and what words might be being used. For a child with language difficulties, the signs are visual clues to what the words are, and will hopefully help them to eventually develop and learn to recognise the oral words alone.
A very enjoyable two hours, and something I might like to progress with in the future. A well spent saturday morning :)
For more information on Makaton: http://www.makaton.org/about/about.htm