Drawing back the curtains

Chris G & Dave H
29th June 2015

Teenage boy using a mitre saw


How Makaton has transformed John Laing Training

John Laing Training (JLT) develop and deliver a range of training programmes to suit a variety of learners, businesses and industries, from apprenticeships to H&S courses. On the face of it you wouldn’t think we have much use for Makaton.

However, appearances can be deceptive, something that anyone who has worked with young people with learning difficulties will know...

Our school construction training programmes have been developed to allow us to deliver sessions using tools and techniques in different ways. For instance, with Special Educational Needs school groups it’s important to improve motor skills and promote understanding of some basic tasks and techniques. We work in a sympathetic way and understand the difficulties that young people with SEN have, both physically and mentally. I believe delivering training in this way can also help learners’ confidence and self-esteem.

Why Makaton? Well, key to the above is communication, something most of us take for granted. When we were first asked to develop a programme of construction based activities by a school in Essex, we had to consider how the students might cope with the demands of the tools etc. Lesson one - for us - was never underestimate what individuals can achieve. Notwithstanding their individual limitations, the students showed an enthusiasm and capacity to learn, no different to other learners we have worked with.

Following a successful ‘taster’ day we were asked to run a regular programme with the school. Over the last 3 years this has continued with training being delivered to many of the school’s students, who have completed various tasks and projects, ranging from individual to larger group tasks making photo frames, sensory boards, bespoke planters and benches for the school.

We - and I personally – are now engaged on a daily basis by several other schools in and around London where due to the nature of some students difficulties communication has become even more key. Makaton was already being used in some of these schools and by Teachers and Teaching Assistants, which led to JLT staff taking the two day beginners course.

The benefits were immediate for me; students readily responded to its use, some even seemingly making verbal responses whereas before this hadn’t been the case. It may be overdramatic to say that it’s opened another window on the world for me, but it’s certainly drawn back the curtains and also boosted my confidence around the students.

At this stage I still get some signing wrong and I need to know more, but practice makes perfect and I will improve. I know however that it has helped my relationships and communication with the students, ultimately also showing I think, to them, that we care.

At work

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