My son taught me everything I know about Makaton!
Although my 12 year old son does have some language (he is autistic and has severe learning difficulties), he cannot always find his words, especially when he is stressed or anxious. While we learned some Makaton when he was younger, and particularly used it with songs that he liked, I didn’t think it would continue to be useful as I just thought ‘well he has some language so to keep signing would be holding him back’.
I was completely wrong of course and to this day, I am still learning new signs and still using Makaton in all sorts of situations.
While my husband just makes up signs all the time to confuse us, my son is the expert and has taught us most of the Makaton that we know. Certainly his teachers at special school have been instrumental in him learning Makaton but I blame Mr Tumble for his proficiency and surprising knowledge.
Only this morning he taught me the sign for ‘fine’ as in I’m fine which was a new one for me. But he has also taught me all the colours, lots of animals and weather conditions. He loves pylons so we had to work out our own one for that which involves the whole body shape!
Yesterday, he was getting anxious about who was putting him to bed but was able to sign ‘Daddy’ to me as an indication that he wanted Dad not me when he couldn’t find his words. And yet, this is the same boy who came out with ‘what a beautiful sunset’ only last week!
As part of my day job, I work with trainee teachers and some of them have a special school placement as part of their training and they love to learn some Makaton, they really enjoy it and always want more and feel rightly proud of themselves for being equipped with some basic words before they go in to school. Happily schools can pick up from my rather amateurish start.
My 15 year old (neurotypical) daughter also enjoys our ‘secret language’ so that we can sign to each other when out and about if we want to go home or go back to the car.
We can also sign to my son across the playground that he needs to be careful or to look or to go to the swing without having to shout across to him and that also means that other people sometimes cut us some slack if they see that we are signing and that my son is not just being naughty.
We use lots of visual symbols as he loves to have a plan of what we are doing and where we are going and he can also now choose things for himself. He tells me off, takes my hands in his to show me a sign and never ceases to amaze. I love being familiar with another language!