Posted by: njs44 | January 8, 2010

Makaton

My post this day is later than usual as I have been attending a course in Makaton. Makaton is a systematic multi-modal approach for the teaching and support of communication, language and literacy skills (definition paraphrased from the course handout). Makaton uses signs, many of which are derived from BSL, and also symbols which are cleverly devised to be like the object they represent. Symbols for abstract concepts are carefully designed to assist in understanding the rules of grammar, although such understanding might only be fully accessible to higher functioning users. Makaton is also always used with speech and can be used at several levels of complexity. You can use simple Makaton signs for straightforward concepts like eating and drinking and naming objects like biscuit and cake. You can sign simple sentences by using key words, so, for example, the English sentence ‘the lady is eating an apple’ could be reduced to the three signs ‘lady’ ‘eating’ and ‘apple’, leaving out the extra words. You can even sign full English grammar, as there are signs for all the words that are spoken, but this is overkill unless you are trying to teach literacy such as with children who are learning to read and write.

Makaton is used by people with learning difficulties of any degree, ranging from mile and moderate to severe and profound. It is also used by people with autistic spectrum disorders and those with various impairments that make speech difficult. Because the signs are always accompanied by speech, however, with some people the use of Makaton can improve their spoken language as well, since the signs can reinforce the concepts thereby aiding understanding and communication all round.

There’s a lot more to Makaton than meets the eye. For more information, see http://www.makaton.org/

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