Being a teenager is never easy and neither is being the parent of a teenager. But for Luc Lederle, 16, and his parents Carl and Non it is harder. Luc has autism and is non-verbal.
Not being able to communicate, to say what he wants or how he is feeling can cause frustration, said Non. But Makaton, a type of sign language that incorporates some language, has helped Luc and his family, who live in Colwyn Bay.
Non, who started learning Makaton when Luc was nine, studied it to such a high level during lockdowns that she is now a fully qualified tutor. She said it has helped her and Luc communicate to such an extent he can even make jokes now, tell her how proud he is when he achieves something and what he wants to eat or drink.
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(Image: Non Lederle)
“Luc is 16 and the teenage years are difficult enough to experience and express what you are feeling. We use Makaton so Luc can tell us if he’s feeling happy, sad or scared,” said Non.
“Luc will come out with the odd word but is non-verbal. We use Makaton, which is not a sign language because it also encourages speech. We started using Makaton with Luc when he was about eight.
“Luc is very complex and getting a point across is extremely hard. It’s like when you are on holiday in a country where you don’t speak the language. There’s complete frustration not being able to communicate and it’s frustrating for him.
“We have given him signs where if he’s hungry he can say what he wants. If he signs for noodles or pasta then I know he wants a real dinner, proper food. If he signs for crisps or a biscuit I know he wants a snack. He can also pick up on signs and tell us that he wants a drink.”
Makaton is different to British Sign Language in that although it uses some BSL signs only key words are signed and people always speak at the same time, said Non. That has helped Luc pick up some small words, although only very few.
Non said Makaton has also helped her and husband Carl, a podiatrist, to get to know their middle son. They also have sons Josef, 18, and Osian, 10, who do not have autism.
“Being able to communicate with Luc through Makaton has opened up his personality. It has given him a chance to say how he is feeling in a basic conversation and he knows he is understood. It is a scary world if you can’t express …….