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Makaton, BSL, AAC - what long term options for children who are non verbal?

(15 Posts)
hazeyjane Thu 14-Nov-13 11:04:46

I spoke to the woman who runs the special learning unit that we are hoping to send ds to next year. I asked her about use of makaton in the unit, and she said that they did use it but it is not a 'long term communication option' and the hope was that once in the school environment, language would start.

I know that makaton is supposed to be used in conjunction with speech, and that it is used in early years, when it is hoped that language will develop, but I also know of several older children and young adults who are non verbal and still use makaton.

Ds's (he is 3.4) previous SALT and the advisory teacher who observed him at preschool both said they felt that makaton wouldn't be enough for him, as he has a great desire to communicate, but has yet to verbalise anything or even start to babble.

He was issued with a GoTalk communication device, which has just been a source of frustration for both of us (to the point where ds ripped up all my lovingly made GoTalk sheets!) His new SALT has mentioned ipad apps that could be introduced in the future, and the head of the slu said that an ipad could be used in the unit as a communication device.

We have just found out that ds possibly has hearing loss and may need hearing aides, so would BSL be an option? How workable is BSL if there is also delayed understanding and delayed fine motor?

I am just wondering, because we have a TAC meeting tomorrow, at which all the reports are supposed to be put forward for statementing, and speech and language is going to be an important part of this (of course the SALT can't come to the meeting - grrr) and I would like to have some understanding of what sort of things we should be considering for the future.


theDudesmummy Thu 14-Nov-13 11:13:11

This is something of great interest to us too. We have been working on Makaton/BSL for over a year but DS is not very good at it and you have to know him to understand the signs most of the time. Our ABA consultant is starting to think that longer term AAC/a communication device may be the way to go, and I have started to think about this although not reached any conclusion yet. I would like to find a SALT who is very clued up on AAC, so if anyone knows anyone...? (In London preferably)

blueeyedmonster Thu 14-Nov-13 12:07:16

Makaton is the easiest to learn (AFAIK) but speech is always encouraged alongside. I have known of pupils who are 10 and still use makaton. Actually 19 when they left our FE centre. It CAN be used but usually in conjunction with something else. What is her struggling with in particular with the go talk? Is it too many options? I'm just wondering if PECS might be an option to work along with makaton/bsl if you chose to try that.

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Thu 14-Nov-13 12:10:53

we originally started with bsl rather than makaton because dd3 would be going to an HI base for school but I don't think it would have made much difference in the early days which one we had used as the signs are the same/similar but now she's 7 I think bsl is best for her, makaton wouldn't be enough now. It has been a very long road to get to this stage though, we didn't reliably get her initiating signing until she was 3/4 and then it was only single signs and it has been very slow going acquiring new signs, putting 2 signs together up until about the last year. We now get 4 sign sentences, admittedly the first was a wailed 'I want my ipad' but still grin Her spoken language has improved in line with the signing but her speech production is still very poor and hard to understand even when you know her well.

dd3 has very poor fine motor skills and body awareness so any sign which is out of her field of vision she struggles with placement but she gets her point across with sign much better than speech alone. She also understands better if whoever is communicating with her uses sign and speech so for her developmental delay it definitely helps.

As far as statementing goes if ds does have a hearing loss then you would want to see specified time with a teacher of the deaf and the allowance for technology such as radio aids/soundfield systems as and when needed. You may have a SALT that specialises in HI locally but we didn't find ours much use, the dysphagia specialist she has now is much more beneficial. If you do decide bsl is worth a go the standard for a communication support worker to work with deaf children is a minimum of level 2 bsl.

ouryve Thu 14-Nov-13 12:45:13

One of the SSs near us uses BSL with all pupils, regardless of disability. Even those who are verbal learn it, so they can communicate with children there who aren't.

blueeyedmonster Thu 14-Nov-13 13:04:04

Oh and forgot to say all the pupils at ds school (ms) learn makaton!

me55monster Thu 14-Nov-13 13:31:01

My DD is 5 and I would describe her as pre-verbal in the sense that she's started vocalising a lot and mimicking words and sounds but is still not able to make herself understood that way. She uses a combination of Makaton and a communication book with icons to get her message across. Like your DS she has a great desire to communicate and we manage (sort of) through a combination of all of the above plus gesture and body language etc.

I can't really offer much beyond that shared experience other than that I would also highly recommend this organisation They truly are experts in this field and whilst their assessments are extremely expensive they do offer free hour appointments on their information days. Might be worth a call to talk to one of their SALTs?

Good luck

hazeyjane Thu 14-Nov-13 20:34:56

Thankyou so much.

The link to the AAC website is very interesting, I'd like to try and get to their open day.

I am thinking that maybe it wouldn't be so ridiculous to start trying to teach ds BSL (and learn it myself!) At the moment he is very receptive to learning signing, and maybe this would be the way to do, rather than Makaton. It is just not something I had considered before.

I think the trouble with the GoTalk (which is a GoTalk 9) is the lack of immediacy, so it is ok for a set game, song or simple activity, but lacks any spontanaeity, and if ds can't get his point across he gets frustrated. I can see that an AAC app on the iPad may work better because of the versatility of it, but at the moment I think ds would struggle with using the iPad as a method of communication, because he would be to tempted to switch it watching a Pingu video or playing a game!

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 14-Nov-13 20:52:35

Have you looked into PECS?

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Thu 14-Nov-13 22:26:18

this is quite good to start with and easy to understand smile

hazeyjane Thu 14-Nov-13 22:33:55

We have, but I think the drawbacks of pecs is similar to the drawbacks of the GoTalk, in that ds is limited by the cards that are available, if you see what I mean.

So far signing has been the most effective communication tool for ds, it's just realising the limits that Makaton has, makes me wonder whether we should be looking at a different set of signs.

hazeyjane Thu 14-Nov-13 22:38:10

Ooh, thankyou, ninja, funnily enough I was looking at the early years version of that book on amazon earlier, because it is available on for kindle at half price at the moment!

hazeyjane Fri 15-Nov-13 11:16:50

I ordered the early years version of that book last night, Ninja. It is really good. Strange to see how many of the signs are the same as Makaton. There are some that will be really useful for ds, and it is very clearly done.

TheNinjaGooseIsOnAMission Fri 15-Nov-13 12:53:55

I do like the Cath Smith stuff, very easy to understand smile

hazeyjane Fri 15-Nov-13 14:47:53

Just had ds's TAC meeting, and the advisory teacher had written in her report that she thought BSL would a better method of communication for ds, and had spoken to a teacher of the deaf about the possibility of input. She is going to email me details of courses.

Thankyou for your

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