I first became aware of Makaton when I started my children's nursing career around 9 years ago, however I never became familiar with it.
My son James was born in 2016 and has complex medical needs including having a tracheostomy for laryngeal stenosis (narrowing of his airway), kidney issues and heart issues which he required open heart surgery. Despite all of this James is a very fun-loving, beautiful three-year-old.
Due to James’s airway problems he unfortunately cannot vocalise. When James was around 6 months old we were introduced to a speech and language therapist who began to teach us the basics of Makaton.
In the beginning it was a lot to get used to and it was quite overwhelming as you never think you are going to need to need and use signing for your children. Thankfully we did continue to learn and use Makaton signing with James and he has picked it all up so quickly.
We continue to see a speech and language therapist at home on a regular basis and it has been really good in helping us along with our Makaton signing. It has allowed James to communicate with us allowing us to understand his feelings, what he wants and needs.
Recently, with James’s sister Anna (5 years), brother Ryan (1 year), and Kevin, my husband and James’s dad, we have all been singing songs on Anna's karoke machine. The use of Makaton and learning the signs to songs has been absolutely amazing and means James can join in and be fully involved in family fun activities.
The use of Makaton also helps James’ siblings Anna and Ryan be able to communicate and play with James and learn what he is asking or telling them. Also James’s aunts, uncles and grandparents are all beginning to pick up and use Makaton now on a daily basis to communicate with him. We also use Mr Tumble, Singing Hands and YouTube to learn Makaton signs and songs.
To someone starting out in learning Makaton, I completely understand how overwhelming, scary and even frustrating it can be having to learn this form of communication, but the impact Makaton will have on your family life will be truly amazing to help you understand what your loved one needs.
It is also a skill you will carry with you when you meet other very special people who uses Makaton in you day to day or work life.