Meet the baby learning sign language to communicate with autistic uncle

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VIDEO shows a Scots tot using sign language at just seven months old – so she can communicate with her autistic uncle.

Mum-of-three Fiona Rafferty was delighted when her youngest daughter Abigail Rafferty used sign language to ask for a drink on Sunday.

An adorable video captured the moment proud Fiona, 32, sat beside Abigail as she used sign language to signal what she wanted.

Fiona, a nurse from Falkirk, can be seen encouraging Abigail to use the hand gesture to ask for a drink. 

After some brief encouragement, Abigail moves her right arm and hand towards her mouth and mimics the movement showcased by her mum. 

Fiona then obliges to Abigail’s incredible request and hands over her plastic cup to let her enjoy a drink. 

All of Fiona’s family have learned some level of sign language to help communicate with her brother Eric Boyle, who cannot speak because of his autism. 

Eric, who has a rare chromosome condition alongside his severe autism, was taught Makaton, a form of communication that combines sign and speech, to communicate growing up.

Fiona now encourages everyone to learn some Makaton, saying it can make a huge difference to the lives of those who have no choice but to use it.

Fiona's brother Eric - who uses Makaton to communicate as a result of his severe autism- with his niece Abigail.
Fiona’s brother Eric Boyle with his niece Abigail Rafferty.                                                                         (C) Fiona Rafferty

Fiona shared the heartwarming video to Facebook on Sunday, writing: “My wee girl, seven months old, singing ‘drink’.

“She’s not deaf but my brother doesn’t speak due to autism and uses Makaton. 

“As a family we know basic Makaton to communicate with my big bro, as such I feel it’s so important that my kids learn it too, not only to communicate with their uncle, it’s also very handy in loud places. 

“I’ve worked with people who are deaf and the signs I know have helped a lot.

“Everyone should learn a wee bit, you never know when you’re going to need it.”

The post has now collected over 3,400 likes and hundreds of comments from impressed viewers.

Elaine Bailey said: “Omg how bloody adorable. Also you’re one amazing mum for teaching her such fantastic life skills and to be able to communicate with her uncle.

“Just bloody wonderful.”

Sadia Rasool wrote: “Aww such a cute, clever little angel. Fabulous idea, I wish basic sign language was taught in school. 

“It’s another great way to communicate when voices cannot be heard in a loud environment.”

Duchess Humphreys commented: “That’s amazing.”

“I think it should be taught in schools as part of the curriculum.

“My daughter’s nursery taught some basic signs which was lovely.”

And Gillian Docherty replied: “Aww this is amazing, what a clever girl.

“My son has Down’s Syndrome and uses Makaton a lot and it’s brilliant. Such a fantastic skill to teach her.” 

Fiona with her husband Kevin, and their three children Abigail, Christina and Matthew
L-R Mum Fiona holding daughter Abigail, Christina, 2, Matthew, 4, and dad Kevin.                                    (C) Fiona Rafferty

Speaking today, Fiona said: “My big brother, Eric, has a rare chromosome condition and severe autism and due to this is unable to talk. 

“He uses Makaton to communicate and he was taught when he started school. I was just a baby when my brother started school so I learned Makaton whilst I was growing up with him. 

“When I had my first son Matthew, we taught him Makaton. We started off with basic signs such as ‘eat’, ‘drink, ‘more’, ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. 

“He was signing these by eight months old. It was so successful, we taught my oldest daughter, Christina who is two and now as the video shows my youngest, Abigail is attempting her first sign.

“Teaching babies gives them an earlier understanding of language and allows them to communicate their wants and needs well before they can speak.

“I was so excited that she was picking it up and it’s amazing to think that although she’s just a baby she understood what I was saying and is able to communicate back. 

“It’s just amazing.

“I also taught my husband Kevin when we first started going out so that he was able to understand and communicate with my brother. 

“My sister, parents, auntie, and uncle also all sign.”