We are increasingly using Makaton signing and symbols throughout our playgroup sessions. Many people associate Makaton as a type of sign language meant for people with hearing difficulties. Makaton, however, was actually designed primarily to help hearing people who have learning or communication difficulties. Makaton has also been shown to be very effective in encouraging the development of speech and language in children who have delayed speech or who have English as a second language. Unlike sign languages such as BSL (British Sign Language) Makaton is always used in addition to, rather than as a replacement for, speech. The consequent connection between signs and words is recognised to encourage the development of speech and language skills. So, while some parents worry that learning signs may inhibit or delay speech it actually does the opposite and encourages it.
Moreover, if you have ever had the experience of being unable to communicate meaningfully or effectively, you will understand the negative emotions that can develop. When children have a means to communicate it allows them to connect to other people and can reduce the negative emotions like frustration which are real barriers to effective learning.
At playgroup we aim to develop a small core vocabulary of signs and symbols which we will use throughout our sessions. The Makaton Charity issues a Sign of the Week which we would hope to learn and therefore build our repertoire. Our children are great fans of Mr Tumble and his approach to makaton signing is one which we would hope to emulate.