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Increasing social interaction through Makaton

When she joined Treehouse School in 2018, Talia* found it difficult to communicate her wants and needs, which lead to behaviours that challenge, as she became frustrated and tried to avoid school work-related activities. She found it difficult to follow teachers’ instructions and attend and engage in lessons or activities – and sometimes needed to take time out of class to support and keep herself safe. She also found it difficult getting to know new staff. 

The trans-disciplinary team at TreeHouse School worked together with Talia and her parents to develop strategies to help her with her overall school experience. They began with a few simple steps, such as taking regular breaks, providing a varied and motivating timetable for Talia, and also giving her additional tasks to help her manage her own behaviour. 

Talia spent more time building rapport and trust with new teachers and expanding her teaching team, as well as time spent exploring fun and engaging activities, learning through play and sensory experiences.  

In order to support Talia with communication, she has learned to increase her use of Makaton, paired with verbal language and visuals with support from a speech and language therapist. Makaton is a language comprising of signs and symbols that helps autistic people who are minimally verbal or who have trouble expressing themselves verbally. 

By the summer term of 2020-21 Talia was much happier in school. She’s spending more time in class and contentedly sits at her table engaging in work-related learning activities for longer periods of time and with a number of different teachers.  

Talia’s end-of-term two reports showed her good progress across many of her targets, particularly her use of Makaton and how her vocabulary has expanded. Talia will continue to work with staff at Treehouse School to expand and develop her Makaton vocabulary, developing her ability to communicate functionally and independently, to ensure her needs are met. She will continue to participate in a variety of fun and engaging activities within the pre-formal curriculum, increasing the amount of time spent engaged in teacher- led activities, but also exploring activities in order to provide Talia with the strategies and tools to regulate herself when she is upset. 

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* name has been changed to protect identity.