Speaking Up Speaking Out (SUSO) is a charity run with and for adults with learning disabilities and additional needs in Macclesfield. SUSO run a drop-in called Parachute, open 4 days a week, offering an affordable, friendly, welcoming place for people to come and meet their friends, have a cuppa and learn new skills. It is also important that we raise awareness of about learning disability issues. People who attend the drop-in are called Dropper-inners.
A number of our Dropper-inners have higher support needs and difficulties with communication. As an inclusive organisation, that wants people to be as involved as they can be, it was really important to find a way for us to communicate with one another. So, in 2014 we decided to find out more about Makaton.
We got in touch with our local tutor, Helen Adams, who came to the drop-in to do a Makaton workshop on some basic Makaton. Helen also asked the Dropper-inners to choose some signs to learn that would be useful around the drop-in. The signs included parachute, tea, coffee, sugar, games, computer, and radio.
We also put up a few Makaton symbols around the drop-and created a game called Makaton Bingo to keep refreshing our memory (though no-one forgets the sign for biscuit!).
An excellent example of how Makaton has helped our Dropper-inners is Philip. He is a friendly, enthusiastic, very chatty guy who clearly has a lot to say, but his communication is sometimes difficult to understand. Makaton has really given his conversations more meaning and better understanding all round. Philip feels empowered and satisfied knowing that we have understood what he has told us. Philip gave a speech at the Mayor’s Civic Ceremony about Parachute, using Makaton, to explain who we were and what we did. Something he is very proud of!
Makaton really helps people with and without a communication difficultly, and we found that people respond to it really positively. People with communication difficulties use Makaton to help people to understand them, and people without communication difficulties use the signs to reinforce what they are saying.
The free resources on the Makaton website are really useful and we use them quite a lot when celebrating holidays and special times of the year.
Last year, my manager Karen and I attended Makaton training. We found the workshops really useful and our tutor, Helen, had a great way of teaching the signs so they were easy to remember.
This year we want more people (including new Dropper-inners) to learn the basics and some extra signs too. We dedicated the whole of April to sharing Makaton, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. We also bought The Collection 2016 and made some really useful workbooks that people can keep and refer to whenever they want.
Wow! What a difference it has made to Parachute and the Dropper-inners! People are more confident using the signs. We have seen why it’s so important to speak as well as sign, and even though people were self-conscious at first, a bit of encouragement helped people to become more confident. Because we’re all now using it (Dropper-inners, staff, volunteers, and even some of the parents!), it really has helped people’s speech, language and comprehension.
We have put up more symbols around the drop-in and made another Makaton game to keep us on our toes – nobody gets past the door without a ‘how are you?’ sign!
In the future we will use The Collection 2016 to create newsletters using the symbols to make the writing more meaningful. Most importantly we all (staff and volunteers included) will be using Makaton around Parachute.
We are delighted to have been awarded Makaton Friendly status. We will continue to use Makaton at the drop-in and share it with people to make communication even better between everyone here at Parachute.
If you live in the area and would like to come along to Parachute please give me a call on 01625 424717, or visit our website: maccsuso.org.uk