Derwen College Head of Speech and Language Therapy Julie Hawkins is a Senior Makaton Tutor and a firm believer in the power of Makaton. She explains why Derwen is a proud advocate of Makaton.
Derwen College is incredibly proud to be officially Makaton Friendly, offering students with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), and communication difficulties, a helping hand to communicate.
We believe it is vital that students are understood, and that they should be given every opportunity to communicate their feelings and needs. Makaton signs and symbols support communication and increase understanding between students, and between students and staff, helping to extinguish some of the frustrations that students feel at not being understood. Makaton also allows staff to better explain what is expected of students in their work area, residence or free time, and to recognise and communicate quickly when there is an issue.
As a College, we are proud to be able to offer Makaton expertise. I am a Senior Makaton Tutor, and also have a team of two trained Regional Makaton Tutors and six Local Makaton Tutors.
The college was delighted to host The Makaton Charity’s Study Day on 21st February, with 37 people. It was an opportunity to showcase our work with Makaton and demonstrate the vocational learning, work skills and independent living skills that our students learn.
Derwen College is particularly pleased to showcase its ground-breaking ‘Support Work’ apps. The apps, which can be used on a tablet or a mobile phone, support students to access work, using Makaton options to prompt students. The apps, which have been developed with backing from The Makaton Charity, include a CV Builder App, Working in a Premier Inn app, and Working in a Café app. We believe that these apps are the first of their kind to help students with SEND in accessing work.
Using images, video, words or Makaton sign options, students can be guided step-by-step towards creating a CV; Hospitality students working in the college’s training hotel or at an off-site work placement are prompted gradually through ‘routes’ on how to make up a Premier Inn guest bedroom.
Having our own on-site Makaton Tutors means that all staff have access to a mandatory Makaton Taster and the new Level 1 and Level 2 training. Makaton symbols and signs are used in reception, food outlets and garden shop. Symbols are used as signage, on posters, college leaflets, student timetables and on the college website. Makaton can be embedded throughout learning and independence skills, not only for students with specified communication or SALT needs.
As well as facilitating the use of Makaton across college, Derwen is keen to spread the word locally, regionally and nationally. As a Senior Tutor, I am asked to train new Makaton Tutors for The Makaton Charity. At Derwen College, we are able to teach Makaton to groups in the community or to invite groups to come to us for workshops..The college runs courses on or off site, and has visited schools, groups and businesses. The college has hosted and led Makaton Taster sessions which have included teaching horse-related signs at a Riding Centre and festive signing for potential Santa’s Grotto employees.
The college also raises awareness of Makaton with our fabulous sign and dance group DOT (Derwen on Tour) who have performed at events including the National Eisteddfod, Christmas light switch-ons, and a Premier Inn national conference, bringing Makaton to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
We look forward to welcoming Makaton delegates to the college this month, and to continuing to support The Makaton Charity in creating a more inclusive environment for learning, work and communication.