I began to learn Makaton in 2008 when I was working in a hospital, supporting adults with learning difficulties.
When I joined The Castle School in 2012, I participated in an Introduction to Makaton, as part of the induction package. The tutors, Dominie Burton and Ruth Punshon, made the session fun as well as informative, I jumped at the chance to do the Foundation and Enhancement Workshops. These sessions were a lot of fun, but intense, with an incredible amount of signs and symbols as well as the theory behind it all.
From here, Ruth and Dominie both supported me through part 1 of the training to become a Regional Tutor, while Dominie and Lesley Bungay supported me through Part 2.
I primarily use Makaton at work, in particular in choir, however, I have also used it in my previous and current volunteer roles.
In one of my early volunteer roles, I met Madison and her mum Michelle. Madison has Down's syndrome and is 14 years old now, but was 6 when I first met her at a games session. She is a lovely girl, with a big personality and has proven to be a natural performer.
Madison was introduced to Makaton at 18 months by her devoted mum, who used basic, early signs such as ‘banana’, ‘milk’ and ‘biscuit’. Michelle stressed that she didn’t introduce ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or ‘more’ until much later, once Madison’s requesting was concrete.
During the early days of working with Madison, I learnt a lot of signs, and was able to use it effectively with Madison to help her communicate with myself and others. Madison says she feels “good and proud” when she can communicate using Makaton.
Madison later joined Castle School, where I was a Teaching Assistant, but had not yet applied to be a Makaton Tutor. Although Madison didn’t rely on Makaton as much as she had previously, she still uses it, particularly when she is excited and talks much faster.
In addition to Madison using Makaton to communicate, she also uses signing to help her with new and different achievements. For example, she played mouse in The Gruffalo. Once Madison had her lines, Michelle worked hard to practice with Madison at home using signs, while also creating a book to help Madison on the day.
In addition, Madison has recently joined the school choir, which she really enjoys. We sing and sign three songs at the end of term assembly, however if anyone is stuck on a sign, they always ask Madison because she knows an incredible amount of signs, which are mostly accurate.
Being able to sign while singing, helps Madison to focus on what she is doing, which means she can really enjoy performing. She got a great deal of praise for her performance at the Summer Fete, as the audience loved her.
Although Madison is verbal, it has been wonderful to see how her speech and confidence have grown in the eight years I have known her. She is a wonderful young lady with so much potential, who has an amazingly supportive mum and Nanny.
Through working with Madison over the years, I have developed my fluency of signing, which has been beneficial to my own role in using Makaton with singing in choir as well as communicating with staff ad pupils across the school.
So many places are becoming Makaton Friendly now, recently including The Castle School, Newbury. We communicate with people all the time at home, work, in the supermarket and so on, so why should people with communication difficulties miss out on the same opportunities to develop their social and communication skills?