Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I first came across the Makaton signing system when my daughter went to infant school here in the U.K. - her first five years were spent in Greece. It is a very simple means of signing and very easy to learn as each sign is very descriptive of the word - pretending to eat for food, holding an imaginary mug to your lips for drink etc.

It is a fantastic way to help your child learn to speak and understand language. Children with Down's Syndrome tend to be late speakers, some of them have extreme difficulty with speech all their lives - my daughter for one. The speech can be delayed or what is known as disordered, where the child has trouble forming the words, putting them in order or thinking of the correct word in the first place. Makaton gives them a tool of communication which is invaluable - it opens hundreds of doors. If your child can sign 'toilet' before having an accident, think of the leaps ahead in potty-training! If they can specify what they would like to eat rather than it descend into a guessing game, how much easier would that make things?

There are various courses you can go on to learn Makaton, but a lot of the time you may only need a basic vocabulary just to give your child's speech a kick start. Please do not expect the school to teach it all and you do not follow through with it at home - that is the same as your child learning French exclusively at school and then going home to a household that only speaks English. It has to be embraced by both sides - after all, it is going to make life so much easier for your child, why not make the effort?

Makaton also involves simple literal written signs, which also gets a meaning across without the need to read. Very handy! I know of some children who have a little book of commonly used signs in order for them to be able to show their carers what it is they want/need.

To explain it all far better than I can, check out the website. I can however recommend it as a valuable tool in your child's development. It is never too soon to start - I have seen a very small baby with Down's signing away to her mum and getting her meaning across very successfully.

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