Sign of the times as Canterbury strives to be first Makaton-friendly city in the world

Contributed by editor on May 14, 2019 - 07:30 AM

Hoping to make Canterbury the world's first Makaton friendly city


Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) is one of several organisations involved in a drive to make Canterbury the first Makaton-friendly city in the world.

Canterbury is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Romsey, which became the first Makaton-friendly town in the world in February 2018. Canterbury wants to become the first Makaton-friendly city, by May 2020. To achieve this 40 Canterbury organisations need to sign up.

An initial meeting was held at St Nicholas School in Canterbury, which is leading the project. The meeting included representatives from The Makaton Charity, Kent Police, Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Kent and Kent Autistic Trust. KCHFT speech and language therapists from the children’s therapies and learning disability teams also attended, as did the city’s mayor.

Makaton uses signs and symbols to help people communicate and it is used by more than 100,000 children and adults. It is used by people with communication difficulties and the people who share their lives, such as parents and other family members, friends, carers and education and health professionals.

Matt Dodwell, Head of KCHFT’s Learning Disabilities Service, said: “We’ve been using Makaton in our service for many years. Now, we are looking to train more staff in how to use it. Our training will start with colleagues who work in the Learning Disabilities Service and we hope to roll it out from there, not just in Canterbury but across our trust.”

Anna Weinel, Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist with the South Kent Coast and Thanet Learning Disability Team, said: “Difficulty communicating is a frustrating and isolating experience. When children and adults with communication difficulties need our services, we want to be able to effectively communicate so that we can provide the best support we can. I am proud that KCHFT has given support to this exciting initiative.”

Other organisations based in Canterbury are being encouraged to register with the scheme. They pay a small fee and then attend a Makaton taster session where they are taught a basic vocabulary of 20 signs and symbols and an additional 10 signs that are relevant to their organisation, which could be a shop, a café, school, library or college. Organisations will be given a Makaton-friendly pack and a place on the national Makaton-friendly map on the charity’s website. This map will help families and carers of people with communication difficulties to find Makaton-friendly places and organisations.

An official launch is due to take place mid-June where St Nicholas School and Canterbury Christchurch University are to be awarded with their Makaton friendly status awards, the first two organisations to have successfully joined the scheme.

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