I Love Makaton

by Donna Lynch, Regional Manager, DSA Northern Ireland

Makaton-training NI

Can we ever really understand what it must feel like to not be able to communicate?  Having grown up in a family with two siblings who had language difficulties (both siblings having Down’s syndrome), we as a family were more patient when they were trying to communicate.

We used gestures, body language and images when we got stuck, like “show me”. We found this worked really well as my two siblings drew images with their fingers or used all forms of their body language to their full potential. Often when communication was achieved I would think “Oh yes I get it, that was so clever how you tried to show me what you wanted”.  My siblings never failed to surprise me with their ingenuous ways of trying to be understood.

Having worked with and for people with learning disabilities all my life (I’ve worked at the DSA for the last 18 years),  I am always humbled at how much people want to participate in the world around them even though they may have many communication obstacles. From children to adults most people are enthusiastic about engaging with the world and want the opportunity and help to do so.

I love Makaton, it is an easy sign language used in conjunction with language to help develop speech.  In Northern Ireland we have had ten Makaton workshops for parents and professionals this year.

Why do I think Makaton fits perfectly with someone who has Down’s syndrome? A person with Down’s syndrome is often a strong visual learner, they model behaviour, they learn from hands on activities, they learn through repetition, they can remember auditory sequences, they enjoy praise, they need longer to process (symbols are excellent for this). When we want to teach, we must use the strengths of people with Down’s syndrome as they learn to read, write and develop language.

I have seen first-hand the advantages of Makaton to individuals and families. I have seen how communication for the individual has become a rewarding experience and one they want to keep trying. I have seen how parents have to be committed and persevere when using Makaton.

Makaton is life changing; it can remove obstacles for individuals and families.  I have seen the results:  that one human being can have a richer relationship with another because they are understood.

Makaton-training NI 2

In Northern Ireland we run Makaton workshops for stages 1, 2, 3 & 4. The training is open to all.

Full details & to register see: 


Find out more about our Helpline and training offer.