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Makaton symbol for Over

Sign of the Week

2nd - 8th August 2021

Learn a new word every week and be inspired to get signing.

This week's sign is...

Over

You can download the symbol and line drawing of the sign for Over from the Makaton Library:

 

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For further details see: How do I download the Sign of the Week?

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Signs of the Week

Head2Head Sensory Theatre (Part 2)
28/07/2021

Head2Head Sensory Theatre (part 2)

Two young actors on stage
Head2Head logo

At Head2Head Sensory Theatre, we create multi-sensory, interactive and accessible theatre for young people with special and additional needs, from curriculum-based installations, to our take on well-known stories and traditional family pantomimes. 

All our shows use Makaton signing, not just for songs but to support dialogue too.  We are very proud to hold Makaton Friendly status. 

Sadly we are still unable to tour our latest holiday production, Piccolo Pinocchio, due to Covid-19, but I’m pleased to say we have filmed the show instead.  In addition, we were joined by Lauren, a young actor with SEND who worked alongside us in her first professional role.  More about Lauren later.

The last 6 months

So what have we been up to since my last blog?  Just to remind you, without being able to perform live, we needed to produce digital work. 

It began with filming our family holiday show in Easter 2020, Come Trot to Camelot, and then moving on to Zoom shows – the first of which was delivered from my front room! 

In November, we filmed our pantomime, Cinderella, which was accompanied by pre-film Zoom workshops during December to both schools and families.  In these workshops we practised signed songs, sensory moments in the panto and the final disco dance number. 

Needless to say, live events via technology brought many interesting challenges. One day, I delivered panto workshops to a school where they had no cameras or mics: all I could see on my laptop was my own face and 7 empty screens on mute!  A little disconcerting, but they talked with me via the ‘chat’ facility and I was assured they not only learned the Makaton signs I was demonstrating, but they also joined in with everything and had a fantastic time.  It was good to know they hadn’t just nipped out for a quick cup of tea!

Green is the new screen!

When we went into lock-down again in January, I needed to write another Zoom show super-quick that could be delivered by an actor from their own home to our families’ homes.  However, I felt that a step-up in technology was required.  Green-screen!  I had never worked with this medium before and there were several frustrated returns to the drawing board! 

Once I had the technology sorted, Blackbeard’s Revenge was ready to roll.  Our pirating adventure was made all the more fun with the addition of young actor-volunteers with SEND making an appearance.  The Zoom show had two characters and Frankie was played by one of our actor-volunteers.  Over the run of the show, we had three Frankies join us: Daniel, Dean and Harry.  

Harry

Harry with his friend who helped out 
in the Awesome Pawsome Pal song!

“I enjoy the story and my big role. The script was funny jokes.  It was nice have an audience each show. The finale make the children smile.  Each show make me proud of my day.”  Harry Phillips (Actor-Volunteer)

All three actor-volunteers were awesome too!  It was great to see them using Makaton signing and encouraging the participants to join in.  They were fantastic Makaton role models!

Piccolo Pinocchio

And so to our current show – Piccolo Pinocchio. As lockdown had eased and we were able to get together to film, we decided to look for a young actor with SEND to play a professional role.  Working in conjunction with the Orpheus Centre based in Godstone, Surrey, we Zoom-auditioned loads of young actors for the role of J Crick the Cricket.  They were all so brilliant, so it was hard to make a choice!  However, we were delighted to offer the role to Lauren.

Lauren

Lauren as J Crick the Cricket

All our rehearsals with Lauren were via Zoom or by film: she learned the closing dance number purely by watching a filmed demonstration – brilliant!  Lauren was already proficient at Makaton and she introduced even more signing to her character than we had anticipated.  During her day filming on set, we had to work at quite a pace to get everything covered and Lauren took it all in her stride.  And the hard work put into the dance rehearsals certainly paid off.

Actor dancing

“I enjoyed the carnival dance because it was so much fun to do and also because I did it with the other actors.”  Lauren Masser (Actor)

Lauren was a real star!  And I’m pleased to say we have another star in our film Piccolo Pinocchio, albeit just their voice!  We were very fortunate to have been provided with the vocal skills of Phil “Mister Maker” Gallagher in the role of the whale.

Phil GallagherWhale

You can see from above that our artist, Arin Smethurst, has given a little bit of Mister Maker hair-flair to the character of the whale!

"I am so pleased and proud to be a small part of Piccolo Pinocchio.  It is a pleasure to support Head2Head Sensory Theatre and I wish all the team, cast and creatives my very best wishes.  I can't wait to see the finished film!" Phil Gallagher (from "Mister Maker")

And there’s more

As introduced with the pantomime, we also have live Zoom workshops for schools and families to accompany Piccolo Pinocchio.

“Classes really got into the spirit and were cheering at the end. Thank you so much!” 
Heltwate School, Peterborough

And, of course, there’s an accompanying advance pack.  Here we give a list of bits and bobs to gather together or make (like pizza dough!) beforehand for a truly multi-sensory and interactive experience. There are also Widgit symbols for the storyline and song lyrics, as well as some arts/crafts and games activities.  There’s even a role to be played at home – the Indigo Elf!  They have their own magic move – the Indigo Flow!  Once you have made your purchase via our website, you will also have access to the Piccolo Pinocchio playlist on our YouTube channel.  Amongst the videos, you can learn the Indigo Flow and Carnival dance from Erica, who plays Pinocchio.

If you’re looking for something to do during the summer holidays, then Piccolo Pinocchio could be the film for you.  Please visit our What’s On page to find out more https://www.h2hsensorytheatre.com/whats-on-2021

Awesome August

And I’m delighted to say that we will be performing live again with a little show!  Beachcombers & Mudlarking is going out as part of our ‘Awesome August’ season.  Please check out our What’s On page as above for information on venues.  Beachcombers & Mudlarking is an adaptation of that very first Zoom show delivered from my front room, so this is a rather lovely and fitting way to return to the work we so love to do.  Hope to see you there!

If you are new to Head2Head Sensory Theatre, then please follow us on social media – Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @h2htheatre – to see what we’re up to.

Author

Sara Cole

Artistic Director
Head2Head Sensory Theatre

28th July 2021

At work

Access to healthcare is for all
25/06/2021

Access to healthcare is for all

Nikki H

NikkiHi, I am Nikki, and I am a Paramedic in an NHS Trust in the UK.

Working in pre-hospital emergency care, I meet a variety of service users, many of whom experience communication and/or learning difficulties or disabilities. In medical practice, the first and most important rule of patient care is INFORMED CONSENT.  This means that before any treatment or assessment takes place, the clinician must explain what will happen, verify understanding and seek consent from the service user. With persons who do not have English as a first language, the Ambulance Service have an on-call interpretation line.

What struck me was that in the ambulance service there is no provision for communicating with people with learning and/or communication difficulties – a whole demographic being unable to speak for themselves whilst having full capacity to make their own decisions.

I formalised my Makaton qualifications by completing all 4 levels throughout the summer/autumn of 2020. In discussion with attendees on the various courses, and of course, my amazing tutor and Makaton Ambassador, Nic Pike, it quickly became apparent that this lack of communication provision in pre-hospital care was being experienced across the country.

I wrote directly to the CEO of my Ambulance Service Trust, highlighting this huge gap in our service. I was delighted when he immediately replied to me in full support of my idea and put me in touch with the Equality and Diversity lead for the Trust. I put together a full business proposal for the implementation of Makaton across the Trust and secured funding to realise this dream. 

My trust sponsored me to undertake my Makaton Tutor Training course in May of this year and I am currently awaiting the outcome to find out if I have successfully passed all elements of the course. Once I am successfully qualified as a Tutor, I will be tasked with providing training to all frontline emergency staff to enable them to provide a fully inclusive service to ALL demographics.

The Makaton language program is unlimited and impartial – I have successfully used Makaton signs and symbols to communicate with people who are deaf, elderly persons who are hard of hearing, patients with dementia and patients recovering from Strokes – Makaton can be used in all kinds of environments.

There is one supported accommodation that I go to where the only form of communication used is Makaton. The first time I visited and communicated directly to the service user, the staff were stunned that I could use Makaton – they had become so used to being the “voice” and for the service user becoming frustrated at not being able to communicate their needs to the ambulance staff.

Having an ambulance crew turn up is unnerving as it is, without the added anxiety of not being able to understand or communicate. In addition, there is a dedicated unit in my locality where BSL is used – when I visit, I explain that I can use Makaton, and as Makaton is derived from BSL I am then able to communicate with the BSL users directly. In the ambulance itself, there is a whiteboard where I can draw Makaton symbols to show a “now and next” format for what will happen – used in conjunction with signing and the Healthcare cards I keep on a lanyard, I have found that the service users appear calmer and at ease with the situation due to these simple but effective communication aids.

These are just a few examples of the many times that I have implemented Makaton signs and symbols in the pre-hospital environment – there are so many more! It is such a powerful and versatile communication program.

With communication, dignity and respect being the foundations of pre-hospital care, it seems to me that the utilization of the Makaton communication program in pre-hospital care will enable so many people to speak for themselves where they have previously not had a voice. My Makaton journey has been and continues to be so rewarding. I am excited for myself, for my Trust and for the service users who will benefit from this addition to pre-hospital care!

Author

Nikki H

Paramedic, NHS UK

25th June 2021

At work

Just the way I am
29/06/2021

Just the way I am

Mr Tumble toy on Xander's desk

Xander's desk, with Mr Tumble toy and photo of Singing HandsI was born prematurely with a birth defect effecting my ability to learn to talk and I was also diagnosed with autism delaying my speech further. Makaton was my first language and it still is.

Before the age of 7 the only way I communicated was through photos, symbols, and signing. I had no verbal voice, but I did have a voice. Often it just went unheard.

Some people struggled to hear me as they were so used to using their ears, and with me they needed to listen with their eyes.

I have many childhood memories around communication from walking round a zoo needing the toilet but every time I tried to drag an adult that way they told me to “wait”, that didn’t end so well for me.

Or an earache with no way to tell anyone apart from to bang my head on the wall in the hope someone would look at it. 24 hours later when I got a runny nose I was taken to the doctors and my ear drum had burst, I had no way to express my pain.

Watching the other kids come home from school and get asked what they did that day, I got asked too but because my voice had no sound with it, other kids would shout and their attention to what I was showing them or signing quickly went, I learnt only those who are loudest get heard. Things like this did not encourage me to try.

Makaton symbol for Dog, next to a real dogOr I’d try and line up symbols to show what I needed or wanted, not always very accurately, and people would watch, guess once, and then say “have another go, I’ll be back”, yet they never came. I don’t know if it was time or confusion or frustration that they felt, but I know I felt left, given up on at times like that.

When I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted for a Christmas or birthday and I would sign “time”: they thought I was asking how long till that birthday or Christmas. I wasn’t, I was asking for their time. I needed extra time to communicate and sometimes I didn’t get that. Sometimes people didn’t even notice I had something to say. And I wanted that time back. I wanted to tell them about something, anything. I just wanted that conversation/connection all the other kids got.

But, when people did learn my way of communicating, or even just tried to give it a go and spent the time with me, they started to call me cheeky and clever rather than not calling me anything. They saw me!

When I learnt to argue and negotiate, I felt amazing. I may not have ever won the “ice cream now, dinner later” debate, but it still felt so good to be able to try!

As I aged, and after a few medical procedures, I was able to start vocalising sounds and words, but I still heavily relied on Makaton. My speech was not clear or consistent, but my Makaton was.

With my Makaton I had confidence, without it I got lost in the world.

Even when my speech progressed to a level where some would say I didn’t need symbols or signs, I really did. Nothing made this more clear than college. I started off so well, passing parts of my course but then I was faced with people telling me I would do better in the “real world” if I stopped doing “silly things” with my hands. They would constantly say “use your words”. What they didn’t see was signs and especially symbols helped me plan my day, organise my thoughts. I still needed Makaton. As a result I started to fail and I never finished college.

If I could go back in time and say five things to those who were around me as a kid I would pick the following;

  1. Listen with your eyes not just your ears.
  2. Make time. Our communication will take longer, but it’s still important.
  3. Let me use what helps me, don’t take my communication tools.
  4. Try, just try and learn my communication method, even just a few bits.
  5. Don’t give up on me, all that teaches me is to give up on myself.

Today, as an adult in my 30s, whenever someone says “do you want tea or coffee” I feel my little finger extend and my hand make the C shape: it helps me choose. I don’t drink either, but I still need those feelings and movements in my hands to vocalise that.

My home has symbol check lists for things I may forget. Reminders. Planners and random symbols of the important words or things I might need – like medication, toilet and cider!

Symbol check lists: breakfast, going out, bedtime

I have epilepsy and after a seizure, or when I am anxious or even excited, any strong emotion really, my voice doesn’t do so well on its own, but my Makaton shines. When I let it. So, it is still a massive part of my life and I love it. I just wish others loved it, embraced it, or even tried it: my life would be easier if they did.

Don’t get me wrong, some people do, my friends especially, but out in the community after a seizure, for example, I still feel like I’m in a world where I can’t ask for help or say I am OK, because people wouldn’t understand. It’s not just an anxiety, it’s a fact. I once got approached by the police as someone believed I was on drugs or under the influence of alcohol as I was uncoordinated and couldn’t speak properly. I tried signing as I had no symbols with me, but I was told to lower my hands. It was scary. Of course they apologised once they knew the truth but that didn’t stop me feeling like I’d failed, or feeling scared or frustrated. I don’t like going out on my own as much as I should, even now I avoid it when I can. Awareness is better these days, I shouldn’t have the worries I do, but history stays with us for a while.

When I was an adult, I started working in adult social care, a voluntary work placement to gain living and work skills. I saw adults given drinks, not offered them. I saw adults be given their clothes in the morning with no choice. I saw a menu only staff had input in, and I asked why? I was met with blank faces or people telling me “they can’t chose”. Every day they would wait for breakfast when physically they could have been involved. I didn’t like it. I held bottles of drink for them and let them touch or look or point, I had that time, being a volunteer. And they did! They looked, they pointed, they touched and smiled. They had an opinion.

I remembered all those memories from being a kid and overlooked so strongly. I needed to be part of the solution because unlike those carers, I knew what it was like to not have a voice, and I didn’t want to just sit and watch that go on.

From that day I wanted to work in adult social care so people, individuals, could have a voice, an opinion and a choice.

I went to work for another company and I was put on Makaton training. I sat, I watched, I knew the signs (all be it a bit sloppy and a few bad habits), but I sat there and thought to myself “this is what I want to do. It’s why I’m here. This is my purpose.”

I asked the tutor how I could do this, she explained. Years passed, geography and my own epilepsy meant I couldn’t do it, but then lockdown came and I could! I could try and reach my dream.

I redid all my courses, and I applied. I got in.

I worked so hard each and every day. There was language I didn’t understand because I never learnt it at school, so I worked my way through GCSE revision books learning about pronouns, verbs etc late into the night.

And I got my dream! I am now a Makaton Tutor! I cried for pretty much a whole day when I found out I had passed! I was, and still am a Makaton user but now I am also a Makaton Tutor!

I still can’t quite believe it. For over 30 years, Makaton has been a huge part of my life, and at times I have hidden my need for it because of others. But now, now I can use it to help others.

I want to raise awareness. I want to tell people Makaton saved me, no honestly it did. I could ask for help when I needed it, when I really needed it and having a voice of any kind is the best gift you can give someone. I was lucky and now if I can be part of the solution and help others, that is what I want to do. Everyone deserves a voice and deserves to be heard.

It’s only because of the awesome people around me that I have had the confidence to share my story. A big thank you to “H” for always being there and never giving up. And to “N” for supporting me and for giving me that confidence and push I needed, to both of them for always telling me, I am fine just the way I am.

Author

Zander Green

21st June 2021

At home

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