How useful is Makaton?

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    Note: SFTAH transferred this from old data base when site was updated, thus date and name lost, all dates 2006 & 2007 changed during changeover to odd dates.I work with families who have a child with ASD and have often been asked whether it is useful to use Makaton with their children.Any form of communication is, obviously a good thing, but i think Makaton can have a very limited use.I think it is a very abstract concept and involves a lot of thought processes on the part of the person with ASD.firstly they have to know which sign to use, then remember how to make the sign, make sure someone has picked up on it and finally know what to do if that person doesn't react to the sign in the expected way. On a day when the young person's anxiety or distress is high this may be too much for them to do.It relies on someone picking up on the sign - I have known of a young boy signing beautifully for toilet in an empty room as he hadn't learnt that he needed to gain someone's attention first.It doesn't promote spontaneous communitation as it relies on the receiver of the information understanding the sign - if not this can be really frustrating for the young person and can discourage them from signing again.It also relies on the young person's ability to reproduce the sign the consistantly. Again on a 'bad day' the young person may only be able to make a token gesture of a sign.I think the use of visual information is a much more positive way to promote communication -  TEACCH, PEC's etc.- The visual information is always the same and looks 'like what it is'.- It doesn't rely on other people knowing the system and therefore promotes spontaneous communication in the community- Someone tapping his elbow to the lady in the cafe may not mean much to her but a photo or line drawing of a biscuit would.- It can take into account the level of functioning of the young person on a given day.- As it is something physical - photo, card etc it encourages the young person to find out an adult to physically give the information to.I am sure that Makaton works really well with children with other disabilites and I know some Speech and language therapists do promote the use of Makaton for children with ASD. I don't want to sound too negative about it, although i am aware i probably have, and I certainly don't want to put families off, but I really think it is worth considering whether it is appropriate for your child and will increase their ability to communicate or just add to their anxieties.Food of thought?Jayne



    Hi Jayne,
    Would agree that TEACCH/PECS have more use in ‘our’ environment than Makaton but as an advocate of Total Communication, Makaton may work, in a supplementary role, for some. Our son loves watching my brothers and their family sign and one of their sons, who is both deaf and autistic, has a wide vocabulary of signs (SSE and BSL, not Makaton). Currently our son enjoys copying signs although he does not ‘request’ using them but, hopefully, he may move on with it. Initially all he wanted to do with his TEACCH/PECS symbols was ‘match’ them as ‘matching’ was such a large part of his school activitys.
    The main problem we found was that whilst ‘pictures’ are universal, you can only sign to others who can sign. Carol mentioned that we visited a school where one child was a prolific makaton user. I had tea with him and his teacher and it was a wonderful tool for him and he could use it, and respond ‘spontaneously’ rather than search for symbols. However, she pointed out that she was the only ‘fluent’ teacher in the school which is a good indication of its limitations.



    Hi All,

    I am British and I work in a Thai school in Thailand. I don’t get paid very much and I have no other funds. I used to work with children with special needs in the U.K. I have found out that there are quite a lot of children with special needs here in my school. I can’t find any sign language (signs) or Makaton signs that are free on the internet. I used to have all this stuff at home in the UK but I haven’t got anything here. Can anyone help me out please.


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