North-east Santas will learn how to communicate in a form of sign language as part of a new initiative.
Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership is giving festive helpers the chance to learn Makaton – a language commonly used by children who have speech and language difficulties.
The programme was launched yesterday at Orchard Brae School and featured a performance from the school’s Makaton choir.
Pamela Cornwallis, senior tutor for the Makaton charity, said: “Makaton is a form of language that uses signs and picture symbols alongside speech to help people with communication problems understand what we’re saying and to give them a way of expressing their view.
“It’s really important that we are all using the same system.
“We’re not using something different or specialist, so it’s something that we’re looking to promote and extend to the wider community.”
The workshop is aimed at Santas, elves and anyone else involved in Christmas grotto activities.
They will learn some basic signs for interaction as well as festive vocabulary.
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Lisa Bergstrand, a speech and language therapist, said: “It really breaks the language down for children and makes it simpler and easy to copy.
“Communication is a key human need – without it is very difficult to be involved in not only school but also the wider community.
“When these children and lots of others like them turn up to visit Santa, they can actually interact in a way that really means something to them and it makes Christmas inclusive for everybody.”
The Orchard Brae Makaton choir is run by music therapist Emmeline McCracken, who started the group when the school opened two years ago.
It began with just 10 members but has grown to include more than 70 pupils.
She said: “For any child with learning difficulties or additional support needs music is a universal language.
“It has really helped the pupils to use language and Makaton signs through the repetition of familiar songs.
“We have singers and signers in the choir and now everybody is trying a bit of both, which is fantastic.
She added: “Some of the pupils here wouldn’t normally give a direct answer to any questions but they are just beaming today, and it’s important that they feel recognised.”
The Orchard Brae Makaton choir will perform at the Evening Express Carol Concert as well as the Associated School Group Concert.
The Makaton taster session will be held on Wednesday, November 6 from 4.30 to 6pm at the Aberdeen Health and Care Village.
Anyone interested should contact Sarah Thornborrow at email@example.com