What Makaton means to me

Cath K
25th March 2014

Alissa and Cath


When I was a child, I loved the idea of meeting and talking to people in different parts of the world.  Growing up in a small city in Scotland, brought out my curiosity for other cultures, countries and languages.

However I realised quite quickly in French class at school, that learning a language could be hard work. I still loved the idea of communicating and connecting with people from different places but  learning grammar, nouns and tenses seemed a little dry to me.

When I moved to London as an adult, twelve years ago, I realised even more the importance of finding a connection with people and places. I think it's human nature; we try to find a 'foot hold' in a new place and create something familiar that can anchor us after feeling displaced, even when that movement is welcomed.

I have had many new experiences in my life since moving to London and even though I still don't speak fluent French, I have started to learn a new language. In the past five years, my partner and I have witnessed the mixed emotions and worrying times, of good friends who are bringing up a child with cerebral palsy.

I can see that in a number of small and significant ways, mum and dad's experience of parenting is 'different' from other parents. There are of course similarities and connections, but there are so many additional things they have to deal with that make being a parent more stressful, more physical and very possibly more rewarding. At the risk of offending every parent who reads this, I can say that their daughter Alissa is a miracle and brings joy to anyone who comes into contact with her.

Although we live six hundred miles apart, we were invited to a Makaton class at their home, run by Alissa's speech therapist Winnie. Mum and dad are building a 'communication community' around their child, to help her feel as anchored and connected as possible to the world around her. The nursery staff also have Makaton classes and they build this into their conversations with all children in her class.

Just recently we have all discovered 'Face Time' which is a delight - although difficult to hold a phone and sign at the same time. For me, it feels like such a privilege to be part of the family around Alissa, and share in those spontaneous moments of fun, frustration and curiosity. Connection and self expression are fundamental human rights that not every person or child can access.  I can honestly say, I feel a part of something that is important, not just fun and intimate.

March Is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: be part of a growing campaign to raise awareness about cerebal palsy, www.facebook.com/MarchIsCerebralPalsyAwarenessMonth

At home

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