Just about every action in our lives involves some form of communication, it’s one of our most basic and important skills. From making simple requests like asking for something to eat or drink, or letting people know how we feel and what we want to do next, to more complicated interactions like those we have with our friends and family.
If someone is unable to verbalise or is limited in the way they communicate, Makaton can help. It is a language which uses gestures and symbols, sometimes along with speech. It can enable people who might otherwise find communicating difficult and frustrating to share their world with other people. Makaton is a flexible way to express yourself and you can personalise the way you use it to suit your own needs.
ubu works with a number of people who communicate using Makaton. Jessica has been working with her team of ubu enablers who support her to live with greater independence. She wanted to help them learn how to communicate with her using this alternative language. “Sometimes I find it difficult to listen to people and understand what they are asking me to do” says Jessica. “I learnt Makaton when I was really young at my Sunday school church group and I really enjoyed the freedom it gave me to express myself.”
“I often use Makaton gestures when I’m trying to tell people things, to let them know what I need and the choices I’d like to make. It can help them to understand me better.” But Jessica realised that there was a very basic problem…”Many of the people who work with me didn’t understand what I was signing. So with help from a speech and language therapist I organised a morning session to help them and my mum learn some of the basic Makaton gestures I like to use.”
Jessica, her mum and her ubu enabling team met up at a local meeting room. It was bright and calming with lots of comfy seating. “My speech therapist, Liz asked the support team to not speak to each other but use gestures in pairs. They were each asked to draw a picture from what the other staff member was gesturing. I found this very funny as my staff were pulling hilarious faces at each other!”
When they had finished their exercises, Liz asked the people taking part in the session to talk about how they felt after using this different way to communicate with each other. Jessica noticed that… “Many of the people said that they felt confused and frustrated and this is often exactly how I feel. I’m glad knowing that the people supporting me have now had a real experience of why I sometimes feel upset when they don’t understand what I’m trying to say.”
The session continued and Jessica helped people to learn more Makaton signs and gestures for the things she likes and the things she needs in her daily life. “One of my favourite things in the world is to be asked if I’d like a cup of tea, so of course this was one of the first Makaton gestures I showed my enablers how to sign!”
Taking charge of showing those around her how to communicate more effectively using Makaton, has made a huge difference to Jessica’s life. “I feel so much happier at home now when people are asking me things. I have also been able to show the enablers who work with me how amazing I am at remembering things! I’m feeling much more confident now that I am better understood by the people around me. I think everyone should be able to say what they want, express themselves and be ‘heard’.