M Is For Makaton & Mummy!

Signing in Makaton has led to several TV and radio appearances for NHS Forth Valley’s Linda Macleod, and more media exposure could be in the pipeline. But as NHS Forth Valley’s Makaton Co-ordinator explained to Staff News, her success is due to a personal journey which began with the birth of her daughter.

Linda Macleod’s appearances on BBC 2 Timeline and the Kaye Adams programme on BBC Radio Scotland were sparked through the story of a deaf six year old boy’s response to actor Rob Delaney using Makaton to tell a bedtime story on CBeebies Tom McCartney from Larbert, who has complex medical needs, waved his arms and stood up in his chair in excitement as he watched the programme, enthralled to see a story told in his own language – Makaton.

Linda, who takes referrals from speech and language therapists, had been working with Tom’s parents and grandparents to help them find new ways of communicating with Tom.

Tom’s reaction to Rob Delaney signing went viral and had more than three million viewings on Twitter alone. His Mum Laura McCartney said Tom’s reaction left her in tears, a sentiment shared by Linda who’s own experience with Makaton opened up a whole new world for her severely disabled daughter.  She explained: “At the age of two my daughter couldn’t communicate but whilst attending my local speech and therapy service they told me about Makaton. I went on an NHS course, came home and started to sign the word Mummy. Before then my daughter could only make different noises to express her wishes but after a few weeks of me signing Mummy she started to sign the word herself and that’s when I fell in love with Makaton.”

Linda has now been a Makaton tutor for more than 20 years working initially for Stirling Council and then as a Makaton Co-ordinator for NHS Forth Valley. She also runs Makaton workshops where entire families come along and success happens when they all start using Makaton to communicate.

She says the BBC has embraced Makaton and laughs when she remembers her husband’s reaction to her appearance on the BBC 2 Timeline programme. “The programme went out live and he came home, had to make his own dinner and then sit down to eat watching me on the telly!”

Linda has now been approached by Visit Falkirk to possibly sign in Makaton for a bid they are submitting to Visit Scotland to encourage more visitors to tourist attractions like the  Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.

Reflecting on her work she said: “I love what I do. I love my job. If you see someone with a child who has learned to sign I love you or Mummy, you can tell it means the world to them an it’s wonderful to be part of that.”

Makaton is a simplified version of British Sign Language and the name Makaton comes from the names of the Speech and Language Therapists who developed it in the 1970s – Margaret Walker, Kathy Johnston and Tony Cornforth. It has now been adapted for use in more than 40 countries across the world. It is particularly useful for children and adults with a learning disability, those on the autistic spectrum or with a speech delay and some children where English is their second language. Signing for the word More is particularly popular – more biscuits, more chocolate!