Our amazing little boy Theo is 4 years old and has 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder, which can affect individuals very differently. For Theo it means he is non verbal, has learning difficulties and a developmental delay. Prior to him using Makaton Theo was becoming increasingly frustrated and would often become upset and display challenging behaviours when we couldn’t understand what he wanted.
Our Makaton journey began two years ago when we were introduced to it by our Speech and Language Therapist: back then we had very little awareness of Makaton and its use. Initially despite us signing to him, Theo struggled to sign as he has poor imitation skills and didn’t really understand what we were doing. When he was 3 years old he started ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) therapy and within his first session he used his first Makaton sign, 'eat'.
The ABA therapist uses motivational strategies to encourage him to ask for what he wants by signing. In this instance he was asking for white chocolate buttons, which is still a favourite of his! His therapist also works on his imitation skills and fine motor skills, which is essential for Theo to enable him to sign. This was to be the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.
Makaton has made a massive difference to Theo’s ability to function as his world grows. He has recently started mainstream school and Makaton has given him the ability to manage in this environment. It enables him to ask for food, a drink or to use the toilet. It gives him a voice.
The teaching staff at school are all very supportive of Makaton and encourage its use among staff and other children. His signing vocabulary has continued to increase: he now can use 34 signs independently, which include functional signs but also things that he is interested in like helicopters and trains.
Theo can now tell his daddy when he gets home from work that he has been to school or that he has been swimming.
I love it when we are out and he spots an aeroplane and he starts signing to tell me. Just like any child Theo wants to be able to communicate and share his experiences with others.
We are currently teaching him colours, Theo is fascinated by traffic light’s so we use the natural environment and his interests as much as possible to aid learning new signs.
Makaton has also impacted us greatly as a family. We have all needed to learn to sign and we need to be one step ahead of Theo and ensure that we are signing as much as possible to promote Theo’s learning. So far it has been all self taught, with the help of Makaton resources and Something Special. Theo’s sister Amber is 21 months old and is talking (a lot) but she also has an amazing use of Makaton. She really enjoys signing and is a big fan of Mr Tumble!
We now need to encourage and promote its use around family and friends because as much as we hope to hear Theo’s voice one day we also have to be realistic that there is the possibility that it may never happen.
We are so proud of Theo and everything he has achieved and continues to achieve. Makaton really has changed his life.