In her third 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 and Part 2)
My son Michael is now 16 and his signing vocabulary has increased over the years with new interests being included as they have come and gone. His most recent interests (or shall we say "obsessions"?) are aeroplanes and airports – so these are used regularly and anything else around these that will stimulate conversation. Signs and symbols for issues around puberty and teenage boy stuff have also been added!
Michael’s use of Makaton is currently moving on from Key Word level, which means that we are working toward adding more than 2 – 3 words in each sentence being signed (but remember always the whole sentence spoken). I am conscious not to overload him with too many new signs at a time and also keep signing as simple as possible, so as not to over-complicate matters. I am developing an expanding Makaton Thesaurus in my head and try to stick to the Makaton Core Vocabulary as much as possible. Obviously I know how to personalise Makaton for Michael, which is something I help other parents to do for their own children in my workshops here in the North East.
Michael has found Makaton gives him another way to communicate, alongside his use of PECS. However, many children and adults use Makaton as a form of communication until their voice comes, and then drop their use of signs when their confidence and speech grows. Today over 100,000 children and adults use Makaton symbols and signs, either as their main method of communication or as a way to support speech.
Michael's Makaton and PECS use will hopefully continue to grow and expand in the future – we are busy practising using an iPad mini with Makaton's MyChoicePad at the moment, so his PECS continues with the help of technology. MyChoicePad has pre-loaded grid templates and we are personalising these for Michaels use. The Makaton Core Vocabulary symbols and signs are also provided on this app, and we have already added some more through in-app purchases. We are also working with The Grid 2 system, which is compatible with Makaton signs and symbols. This system allows us to use a computer as a voice output communication aid, and uses symbols and text to build sentences. We are practising both systems to see which Michael prefers.
As a Makaton user, Regional Tutor but most of all as a parent I think that Makaton should be used by everyone who shares the life of the child, young person or adult – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and carers and education and health professionals – in fact all of us should know at least some Makaton signs and symbols.
If you are in the North East then contact me – I shall be happy to help you learn!
firstname.lastname@example.org / 07827 84861
Shona is North East Parent Adviser for Contact and a Makaton Regional Tutor. This article first appeared in Cerebra News.
To find out how Michael is progressing at age 20, read Shona's Makaton journey - Part 4