My beautiful daughter Gracie is four and a half years old, she has complex needs, including global development delay, and is non-verbal. Gracie has a small number of single words and therefore uses Makaton as her main way of communicating.
As an experienced early years practitioner I had heard of Makaton and like many other mums we loved to watch Mr Tumble. I started to pick up some signs and wondered if this was a way forward as Gracie seemed to take notice in the children signing, independently copying the 'friends' sign.
During a conversation with Gracie's speech therapist, she suggested that I could attend a Makaton Beginners' Workshop, and in the meantime we introduced 10 signs including 'more', 'eat', 'drink' and 'home'.
I began to follow Makaton videos on YouTube and we stumbled across the inspirational Singing Hands, who we are determined we will see live one day! Gracie has always had a love of music and their songs allowed us to enjoy singing together, while learning a host of new signs to add to our growing Makaton vocabulary.
Gracie has embraced signing and alongside picture cards she uses a total communication approach, enabling her to express her needs and ensuring that we are able to fulfill her requests... biscuit is still the most used sign and one everyone understands!
I have always been passionate about supporting children with additional needs and around the time that I attended the Makaton training I was offered a position as a SEN lead in a local nursery that encouraged me to develop the SENCO role. This is when I met Amber a two year old who had very little expressive language, which was impacting upon her development and causing her huge frustration. With Amber's Mums support and enthusiastic practitioners on board, I began to introduce a handful of signs and Amber instantly began to respond to these, copying them with accuracy and beginning to use them herself to make requests.
Amber had been awaiting a speech and language assessment, which as anyone knows is a long wait, and as the weeks rolled by Amber began to use two and three signs together, often only being shown a sign a couple of times. Amber had been able to acknowledge the birth of her sister by signing 'baby sister Ruby' and the most poignant and longed for 'love you Mummy'.
Amber's language has literally appeared before our eyes and she is now at the point where she is using 3-5 word sentences, understanding and using positional language and the pronoun "I". To cut a long story short her speech therapy is now on permanent hold!
Amber's story is truly exceptional and will not be a reflection of everyone's journey, it certainly isn't my daughter's. However Makaton has given Gracie her voice, enabling her to build confidence to communicate and her bank of spoken words is expanding.
I have become somewhat of a champion for Makaton as it is used within our setting on a daily basis, and several other parents have signed up to courses as a result, understanding that it is an aid to communication and never a replacement for language. Surely all we want as parents and practitioners is for our children to be understood and their voices heard... being non-verbal certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to say!
Makaton really does change lives and these two incredible girls are proof of that.