Makaton Australia, a training program coordinated by the University of Newcastle to assist people with severe communication difficulties, has been recognised with a national award.
Based at the University's Special Education Centre, Makaton Australia received the 2007 Speech Pathology Australia Community Contribution Award in Sydney this week.
Through a network of volunteers across the country, Makaton Australia provides training in the use of sign language for people of all ages with severe communication difficulties, including intellectual disability. Techniques include teaching people to use key word signing to communicate or support their speech.
Associate Professor Bob Conway, Director of the University's Special Education Centre and National Chairperson of Makaton Australia, said the communication approach is based on key word sign and gesture.
"The gestures are based on Auslan, the sign language of the Australian deaf community, and the choice of the key words is based on the original Makaton vocabulary developed in the United Kingdom," said Associate Professor Conway.
"Since 2000, Makaton Australia has developed a national training model, as well as a wide range of teaching resources for disability and education services as well as parent support programs.
"The success of Makaton Australia is the result of a national network of professionals who volunteer their time to provide training and advice.
"This recognition by Speech Pathology Australia is a great tribute to the dedication and work of all these volunteers who support the use of Makaton across Australia."
Associate Professor Conway said the award was a great acknowledgment of the University of Newcastle's commitment to providing support for those in the community with special needs.