My Makaton Journey - Part 4

Shona Chambers
12th September 2017

Shona and Michael


In her fourth blog, Shona Chambers, North East Parent Adviser for Contact and a Makaton Regional Tutor, tells us how her son Michael is progressing. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

Michael is now 20 – OMG!  Where did the time go? He left school a year ago and now is a student at Percy Hedley College in Newcastle: it is a fantastic place and he loves it!  

Although Percy Hedley was originally a BSL organisation, they have Makaton on board to add to the Total Communication approach within college. Michael’s Makaton vocabulary is growing and getting better and more accurate with age and practice, and Makaton Signing at college undoubtedly reinforces this.  We are also hearing more words – always in the right context and often when we least expect them – which is fantastic! (I will never forget…..‘’Mum, Dolphin I want one’’ – but that’s for another blog…)

His course in Independence and Skills allows lots of Makaton and PECS use in many varied situations across the college day.  The students have many days out – museums, places of local interest, bowling, trampolining (Michael’s particular favourite), and visits to the pub for lunch, a very close second favourite! He’s having a great time and continues to learn new things every day.

Things are moving on for me too.  I am North East Parent Adviser for Contact and also a Sessional Tutor for a Further Education Learning and Skills provider locally. 

 I teach Makaton for one session per week to a group of 8-10 young adult learners. Last term my learners completed Stages 1- 4 Signs and Symbols plus many more additional signs and symbols linked to the learning outcomes of the set course. We looked at friendship, team working, safety in the community (where we met local community policeman, Liam, who knew some signs by the time he left too! We also learned more about the emergency services, healthy living, diet, sleep, fundraising, voting, and more.

Some learners had used Makaton at school and were a little ‘rusty’ as their previous respective FE Colleges had not, in many cases, been Makaton friendly environments.  It really is fantastic to see their signing confidence re-emerge, and as many of the learners are coming back next term to learn some more, I shall have to get inventive with some new resources and my Makaton Activities for Adults and other downloads! 

As our journey progresses,  I have been saddened to see that Makaton seems to be left behind at the school gates in many cases.  I am reminded why I learned Makaton in the first place 17+ years ago (I feel old!) and why I continue to be an avid practitioner.  In many lives - like Michael's - Makaton is for a lifetime of communication and does not stop when school stops.

When Michael leaves college and enters the world of adult social care, I shall make it my business to ensure that those around him are Makaton signers – even if I need to train them myself!

I am very pleased that Contact recognises the value and importance of Makaton as a means of communication.  They  are now offering Makaton training for professionals  - which I will be delivering across the North East - and  are looking at rolling out delivery to professionals across the country as part of their Learning and Development Programme for Professionals  

If I can help you to learn Makaton, contact me at or telephone 07961 979831.

At home

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1 Comment

  • Alix Lewer
    16 September 2017 6:23

    What a great blog! Absolutely agree about the importance of using Makaton for adults - to maintain skills, support understanding (so often forgotten!) as well as expressive communication and maximise chances of people fully participating in their lives. Michael is lucky to have such a terrific advocate as he enters the world outside education.