Can young people with severe communication difficulties use sign to engage in discussion and narrative? We'll show you how they do it here

About this Event



This event is all about learning from young people with severe learning difficulties who have problems communicating in speech. We will explore the many creative ways that we have seen them using gestures and Key Word Sign (eg.Makaton, Signalong and Làmh). Teachers and Speech and Language Therapists often focus on individual sign learning , but careful observation shows that our students are capable of so much more than this. We will demonstrate how they tell stories in conversation, holding the floor and asserting themselves, and actively engaging in discussion. Supporting these skills means abandoning our preconceptions about their capabilities and being open to learning from and with them as co-producers of dialogue. Led by SLT Charlotte Parkhouse and teacher Gareth Smith (Communicapers and Nicola Grove the originator of Storysharing® ( We are drawing on original research first presented in the groundbreaking 2019 publication Manual Sign Acquisition in Children with Developmental Disabilities, now available in paperback and individual chapter purchase at




We have started a youtube channel which can be found  here. On the channel you can find lots of videos aimed at motivating communication and creating opportunities for families to play. The videos above are some of what we do but there will be many more over on our channel so click on the Youtube logo below and enjoy :-)

If you would like us to make a video about something specific, for example to help with a bedtime routine, then don't hesitate to leave a comment on a video or email us at







Our Work in Schools

Fundamentally we are educators, creating learning environments in which pupils are captivated and thrive. We nurture a context for learning which enables pupils to feel confident enough to take risks with communication. Specialising in working with pupils with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities we collaborate closely with schools to offer a bespoke offer, perfect for their unique settings.

With a combined experience of over 30 years in the field of Severe, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties and Complex Autism, we have a robust understanding of a broad range of interventions, assessment frameworks and curricula approaches. This knowledge, alongside our expertise in cognitive development, forms the foundation of our synthesised practice which we bring to our workshops in schools.

Additionally, we offer training events including accredited Makaton courses, tailor made signing courses to meet a specific need or situation, engaging learners (either as a CPD session or as an active learning session with pupils present) and assessing success with Routes For Learning, Engagement Profiles, Sounds of Intent, P Scales or creating an assessment tool that meets your needs.

Charlotte is a registered Speech and Language Therapist and Regional Makaton Tutor and Gareth is an experienced Special Education teacher, middle leader, musician and accredited Arts Award provider at Discover and Explore level.



Our Work with community groups

We operate a social enterprise model whereby we work with the community, charities and local groups to positively benefit the Complex Needs community. The work we carry out with groups helps us to work directly with families and with organisations having a direct impact on the lives of people with Complex Needs.

Our work with charities such as the incredible More Than Words has included running regular free at point of use communication and play sessions with families of children who use Makaton as part of their communication profile, signing advent calendar videos and Makachat sessions for dedicated family support and conversation around Makaton use.

We are currently looking for opportunites to work with more organisations who support adults with Learning Difficulties. If you are interested in working with us please contact us at

'I thought the training was great as was Charlotte. She is so enthusiastic and passionate about it and such great fun! I couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by. Well worth going.'

'It was one of the best training sessions I've experienced on the subject, mainly due to the enthusiasm of the tutor who was highly motivating.  I'm sure that we can put our learning to good use in the future.'

Makaton taster session for a South London PreSchool

About us