I am a Canadian Speech and Language Pathologist currently practising in Ontario, Canada. I completed my training in Scotland where Makaton was a staple of speech therapist’s practice in all settings. Each placement I was assigned to, no matter the demographics (adults or pediatrics), there was a requirement to use Makaton and I do mean REQUIREMENT. There was a large focus on the total communication approach at schools, retirement homes, and daycares. I would see Makaton symbols labelling different rooms around the environment, symbols used for visual schedules, and all staff signing. There was an expectation that all staff when communicating with a client would sign, showing and saying the word to communicate. If the staff was not using signs they were told and encouraged to embrace the total communication approach. As a speech pathologist our role was to continually train all staff members of different facilities (teachers, support workers, occupational therapists, the list only gets longer). Obviously, the expectation was that we would and did continually use signs throughout our own practice.
The unique benefits I witnessed where Makaton was being used
It was incredible to see Makaton in action. It truly opened communication access for a variety of clients. Following the Makaton principles/theory there was added engagement and attempts at communication. The easy signs allowed for people who might have difficulties with motor movements to still productively use the signs and successfully communicate.
In the school you could see the continual learning of new language as the signs would support the student’s receptive language. When a new sign was introduced, students would imitate it in real-time and then try to implement it instantly. With Makaton being constantly used throughout the day, in every activity I felt the students were being exposed to extra language. Signing provides additional language opportunities for students to see the sign, hear the word, attempt the sign, and say the word. Children appeared to be more engaged and attentive in learning because multi modalities were being used to communicate. If they missed a verbal instruction, they might have seen the sign or looked at the symbol and still successfully participated in the class. Makaton provided struggling students with a variety of speaking communication tools and was a way to confidently communicate with others.
The Makaton Language Program
The Makaton Language Program is fun and interactive and is extremely practical allowing time to think about which signs are most needed for your practice. There is time to practice with support and feedback. In addition, the course encompasses how to use signs and their importance which assists with daily implementation in practice. Following the program, I was quickly able to implement the signs effortlessly during conversation and instruction with students. I was also able to communicate the system to parents and other educators.
Makaton is coming to North America!
Bringing Makaton to North America is an exciting opportunity for clinicians to incorporate a total communication approach in the clinic. It is beneficial to be able to provide families with an all-inclusive package including the signs matched with the symbols. This is an exciting opportunity for families for a complete/comprehensive resource. With the course being online it is accessible to all! Who does not like learning in their pyjamas at home? Makaton online training in North America will make Makaton so accessible for so many clinicians, families, and organizations, and I’m sure this branch of the worldwide Makaton family will flourish and thrive!