It’s never too late…hopefully!


‘M’ for ‘McDonalds’!

Ellen learnt some Makaton when she went to a special school for her secondary education. Of course, the school never mentioned the fact that they were teaching her this new form of communication, nor did they offer us any training so we could reinforce her learning at home.  It seems unreasonable to expect a school teaching communication skills to its learning disabled students to have any skill at communicating with the parents, and they certainly didn’t.

Still, we knew she was learning something because she started signing a few words – ‘McDonalds’ of course and ‘finished’.  ‘Finished’ was always signed with a particular vehemence when she’d had enough of whatever enriching activity we were trying to engage her with.

So I’ve wanted to learn Makaton ever since.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that this is something I’ve put off for at least 10 years.  The Lockdown has prompted Makaton to develop online courses  and enforced much more family time than usual. These coinciding events have resulted in Daisy and I completing our Level 1 training over two morning sessions. 

Makaton isn’t communication instead of talking, you speak at the same time as signing and it’s multi modal; there are symbols that can be used to support choices and concepts.  I used to use symbols with Ellen when she was younger, these were particularly useful for social stories and daily routines and I still sometimes put a few pictures in when I’m writing a social story about a holiday or a major event that I know she’ll find challenging. Although Ellen’s speech is a lot better than it was 10 years ago, she still prefers to use non verbal communication, especially with people she doesn’t know well. So learning Makaton is still relevant, I just hoped that she hadn’t given up with it after signing for so long to people who had no idea what she meant. 

Luckly, Ellen has an incredible memory and doesn’t seem to have forgotten anything she learned all those years ago.  After our first session we were struggling to remember the sign for ‘G’ and Ellen immediately modelled it  correctly for us.  We obviously need to practice.  The plan of action is to think of five sentences that will be most useful to use signs with and start with that, see how it goes and then expand out.  Our five sentences are

What would you like for breakfast?

You’re very loud can you be quieter please? (Daisy requested)

Come here please and wash your hands

No more TV

What would you like to drink?

I tried the first one out this morning.  “What would you like for breakfast?’ I asked, as she came into the kitchen to plug her mobile into the charger.  She looked at me with complete annoyance and shouted ‘nothing’ whilst slashing her arm down rapidly in the perfect Makaton sign for ‘no’ or ‘nothing’.  I got the message.