At work

Youngest MSB Trainers
29/03/2021

Youngest MSB Trainers

A close-up selfie of Jake and Ellie
Ellie with Makaton bag and MSB polo shirt

We would like to introduce our youngest Makaton Signing for Babies (MSB) Trainers in the UK!

Ellie and Jake both attended a Makaton Signing for Babies Train The Trainer course in October last year. Ellie and Jake are 18 years old, and both have a long history and lots of experience of using Makaton.

When Ellie was four years old she had a classmate with Down’s syndrome who used Makaton. They became friends and their friendship still continues today.

Ellie volunteers for the charity Barnardos and is looking forward to getting started to deliver Makaton Signing for Babies to the families and colleagues she works with, once it is safe to do so again.

Jake wearing MSB polo

When Jake was 4 years old, his cousin Alice was born with Down's syndrome. His family started to use Makaton together. Jake and Alice formed a special bond and remain close. Up until lockdown they have had fun making videos for their YouTube channel AJ Reports.

Jake has already delivered around half a dozen Makaton Signing for Babies courses to families online through the Community Interest Charity he’s connected to.

Both Ellie and Jake have attended lots of different Makaton training Workshops over the years as young adults. Ellie also uses her Makaton knowledge and skills to make her college productions as inclusive as possible whilst Jake uses his as an entertainer and performer. They both work and volunteer to broaden their experiences.

Are you interested in becoming a Makaton Signing for Babies Trainer?

Author

Kerry C

Makaton Ambassador Tutor
29th March 2021

At work

Staffordshire University Collaboration with Makaton Tutors
05/03/2021

Staffordshire University Collaboration with Makaton Tutors

Staffordshire students on an online workshop

Above: Students during Level 1 Online Workshops 
Left: Amanda Tayler, Course leader, BA (hons) Early Childhood Studies (FT), Staffordshire University.
 

Amanda Tayler:
In early 2020 we engaged with Makaton Tutor Amanda Glennon from Inclusive Teaching Matters to deliver Makaton to our students on Campus. This was so beneficial we wanted to offer to this to students in 2021, however with a lockdown in place we had to be a little bit creative and decided to move to online training. During February, Amanda and a team of Makaton tutors delivered a mammoth month of online level 1 Makaton training for our Education and Early Childhood Studies students at Staffordshire University. And what a month!

The students have been overwhelmingly positive about their training, commending everything from the smooth organisation of the sessions, the tutors knowledge and teaching strategies used. As we were in lockdown, many of our students had their own children with them who also took part in some of the sessions, parents have stated that their children very much enjoyed it too and have been practicing it since.

This training forms an important part of how we build future educators here at Staffs, irrespective of which part of the education sector they choose to work in. Having a toolkit of extra skills such as Makaton prepares our students for working life and helps to ensure that they can meet the needs of the individuals they will be supporting and teaching. Our students move in diverse directions after they graduate, they study for masters degrees, they become primary school teachers, others are early years practitioners whilst some are teaching assistants. Many of our students choose to work with children and/or adults with specific learning differences and needs as well as communication needs and using Makaton will be fundamental in making a difference to the lives of those individuals, but wherever they are aiming to work and study they have all stated that knowing how and when to use Makaton will enhance their practice.

We look forward to further Makaton training from Amanda and the team in the coming years.

The Makaton Tutor team hope that sharing this positive story encourages other Universities to look at opportunities to provide Makaton Training as part of their core course content.


The Makaton Tutors who collaborated to provide this training included Amanda Glennon, Kerry Cawley, Kirsty Stanger, Jemma Sagar and Corrine Lloyd (Top – Bottom Left to Right)

All Tutors involved thought it was lovely to be a part of something that could potentially have such a large reach.  Students from this course are likely to go on to work in a variety of different settings, hopefully embedding Makaton into their practice and inspiring others to do the same. We were all grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this collaboration, as training of this scale is likely to be of great benefit to the Makaton Community and it was such a great opportunity for the students to have this supported by the University.

 

Amanda Glennon: Makaton Ambassador & IT Matters CIC – When Staffs contacted me again this year the challenge was training such a high number of students online. I reached out for support from four other Makaton tutors – all with their own experiences in Early Years and was delighted we could work together to deliver this mammoth month of training.

 

Corrine Lloyd: Makaton Tutor - It was great to hear between module 1 and 2 that participants had already implemented Makaton in their home and place of work, with one participant telling me how her 2-year-old had started using a handful of signs spontaneously.  This same participant was keen to continue her Makaton journey as she realises its benefits and hopes to use Makaton within her dream job as a Play Therapist.

 

Kerry Cawley: Makaton Ambassador- One of the participants said that she had used Makaton effectively in her role as a carer for an elderly person in between attending the sessions for the Workshop. The person was often difficult to put to bed and was deaf. No other members of staff knew how to sign. The person attending the Level 1 used the sign bed to indicate that it was time for her to go to bed - and she went to bed without any problem at that time

 

Jemma Sagar: Makaton Tutor - I have loved being a part of the team delivering to the students. I have done a degree in Early Years myself and know how useful Makaton will be to the students in their future careers

 

Kirsty Stanger: Makaton Tutor - From one of the students: Just wanted to give you a little feedback. I had my first session yesterday with Kirsty. Well, it was just amazing! The amount we learned is phenomenal and I’m really looking forward to the second session. We were given a 30 day free trial for the Makaton website. It’s an amazing opportunity and we’re really lucky as students to be offered such an amazing course for free so thank you for organising that for us.

 

It is going to improve communication in so many ways in SEN and in mainstream schooling.

Author

Amanda Tayler & Makaton Tutors

Staffordshire University

5th March 2021

At work

Happy MOMents
05/03/2021

Happy MOMents

Happy MOMents' Makaton Journey

From a Makaton Taster Session with Kerry Cawley in December 2019 (for 20 volunteers and as many children!) to 16 of our volunteers being trained up to Level 2 Makaton in October 2020 in between lockdowns, Makaton has been transformative to our transition as an organisation during lockdown.

Happy MOMents is a network of families that provide support, services and fun for the whole family in Batley and Dewsbury in Yorkshire.

Pre-Covid, we hosted stay & play sessions, baby massage classes, informative coffee mornings, courses and postnatal fitness classes to over 100 women and children each week. We discovered Makaton just before Covid and managed to get our Makaton Level 1 Workshop started before the first lockdown.  The rest was put on hold until October when it was safe to meet for face-to-face training again as we preferred to see our lovely tutor Kerry in person!

Makaton has been a fantastic language development tool for our organisation as we now present two online story-time sessions a week to our families in which we sign at least 2 key words from the story and sign our rhyme time too.  The children love signing along and we have seen their confidence grow (and ours!) over the last few months with signing.  We teach ‘finger gym’ to them too, so Makaton is a lovely developmental bridge between dexterity and language development for them.

We show the children the Makaton symbols and signs in each session and once we are back to face-to-face sessions, these will be displayed in the room and used as a learning tool too

One of our sessions is a faith-based story-time and we have adapted some of the signs around Faith words with Kerry’s help.  We begin with signing ‘Bismillah’ (In the Name of Allah) at the start of each session and end with ‘Allah Hafiz’ ‘Allah Be with you’.  Alhamdulillah (all praise is for Allah) is my favourite sign and the children love this too! Adapting the signs is tricky as Arabic not only writes right to left but often the meaning is in backwards order too so we always double check any ‘new’ signs to make sure they don’t confuse anyone.

Aysha, our baby massage instructor, uses many of the signs from Makaton Signing for Babies which we completed together during lockdown too. The new moms love that they are learning a ‘code’ with their babies that they can both understand!

Thanks to Kerry for helping to develop these faith-based signs which have given many children comfort during these uncertain times.

www.happymoments.org.uk

Author

Sumayya M

Coordinator
Happy MOMents

5th March 2021

At work

Signing With Singing Hands
05/02/2021

Signing With Singing Hands

Drawing of a young girl signing

Makaton signing with Singing HandsAt Out of the Ark Music we believe that singing can and should be inclusive. With that in mind, we have worked closely with Singing Hands to produce Makaton-signing videos for five of our popular songs, you can view them here!

We asked our friends at Singing Hands, Suzanne Miell-Ingram and Tracy Upton (who were recently awarded with MBEs!), to explain a little bit about what Makaton signing is, and why it is useful to use alongside songs.

What is Makaton?

Makaton is a language programme that uses a combination of speech, signs and symbols to communicate. Makaton signing helps convey meaning because it gives extra visual clues when speaking. Many of the signs are iconic i.e. they look like what they represent, and the signs are the same across the UK.

How does Makaton help?

Makaton supports memory and understanding by providing additional visual information alongside speech. By reinforcing these main concepts in a message, it helps support language and literacy development. It can help pre-verbal or non-verbal children or those with SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Needs) and other learning needs in specialist settings, but it can also be enjoyed by all children in a mainstream setting as a way to promote inclusion. Increasingly, Makaton is being used to support children with English as an additional language, to learn English

Who are Singing Hands?

Singing Hands was established by Suzanne Miell-Ingram and Tracy Upton back in 2003. They are both parents of young adults with additional needs so have over 20 years’ personal and professional experience of Makaton. Suzanne and Tracy have produced six DVDs in association with The Makaton Charity – from nursery rhymes through to pop songs, Christmas carols and festive songs. They have appeared on CBeebies’ Something Special, with Mr Tumble, and they are Makaton tutors and patrons of The Makaton Charity.

Why is Makaton good with songs?

Using Makaton with songs transforms singing into a multisensory learning experience, as the signs turn the lyrics into a visual performance, not just an auditory one. It is a hugely enjoyable way to include children who need to use signing for communication as the whole class, year group or school can join in too. Using Makaton with singing is a child-centred way to use and learn language, and makes learning fun. In addition to all this, using Makaton with singing includes key performance skills such as rhythm, placement, timing, awareness of the song structure and delivery of the signs to engage an audience. Adding the gestures to the song makes it a whole-brain activity too! Importantly, during COVID-19, many mainstream schools who are no longer able to include singing as part of the curriculum, are finding that learning to sign songs is a great way to still enjoy music-making together. Why not give it a go?

Why did we choose these five Out of the Ark songs to sign?

These five songs with Makaton signing are a great starting point for your Makaton singing/signing journey. Each of the songs has an achievable tempo for signing, an uplifting, catchy tune and plenty of repetition to allow you to practise the new signs. Hello, Hello and Goodbye are a perfect way to introduce signing into your setting at the start and end of your day, whether you are teaching in person or remotely.

To find out more about Singing Hands please visit www.singinghands.co.uk

Watch the Makaton signing videos we created with Singing Hands

Author

Out of the Ark Music

5th February 2021

At work

Restart a Heart Day
07/01/2021

Restart a Heart Day

Kerry and Felix with Yorkshire Ambulance Service

Kerry and Felix with Yorkshire Ambulance ServiceYorkshire Ambulance Service started Restart a Heart Day (16th October) in 2014, with the aim of improving outcomes from cardiac arrest in the county by teaching people cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The campaign is delivered entirely by volunteers from the service and partners who give up their time to go in to school to teach.

Since 2014 the campaign has grown significantly, with all UK ambulance services agreeing to take part in 2016, along with the first international partnership with Ambulance Victoria in Australia. In 2018 the campaign gathered such momentum that it was adopted by the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) and became World Restart a Heart Day.

Nationally across the UK in 2019, nearly 300,000 people were taught CPR in one day.

Since its inception in Yorkshire in 2014, over 151,000 students have been taught CPR across the county. Yorkshire Ambulance Service has always tried to make the training as inclusive as possible by visiting pupil referral units and special educational needs schools, in addition to the mainstream schools.

CPR demonstrationThe coronavirus pandemic has made Yorkshire Ambulance Service re-evaluate the training delivery method which was previously all face-to-face. It allowed us to create some new resources that we had wanted to do for some time, including material that reached people with communication difficulties.

Fortunately, having worked with Liz Herrieven as part of the Restart a Heart campaign she was able to put me in touch with Amanda Glennon. After a discussion about the campaign, and how we could work together Amanda agreed to help us create some wonderful new Makaton resources. In the first instance some resuscitation key words were identified and Amanda set about creating some prompt cards of signs and symbols for these words (free to download from the Makaton Library). We were also put in contact with Kerry Cawley, a Makaton instructor local to our headquarters.

Kerry and her son Felix kindly worked with my colleague, Dave Jones, to instruct him how to use Makaton signing for a CPR training video. The result is great and I’m sure it will be a really useful resource for students with communication difficulties. I know that from conversations with Dave he thoroughly enjoyed learning Makaton and is now planning to build on that initial experience and take some lessons.


I would like to thank The Makaton Charity, Amanda and Kerry for helping to make CPR training more accessible. This is hopefully the start of a partnership with Yorkshire Ambulance Service to create some fantastic, accessible educational materials for a number of curriculum areas.
Author

Jason Carlyon

Senior Engagement Lead (Community)
Yorkshire Ambulance Service

5th November 2020

At work

Head2Head Sensory Theatre
07/01/2021

Head2Head Sensory Theatre

Young man dressed as a wizard
Head2Head logo

At Head2Head Sensory Theatre, we create multi-sensory, interactive and accessible theatre for young people with SEND; from curriculum-based installations, to our own 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 have found Makaton invaluable in communicating with our audience and we were very proud to receive Makaton Friendly status in 2019.  Needless to say, Covid-19 has sadly put a stop to live performances for the moment, yet opened up an exciting virtual world instead.

Last March, we were remotely rehearsing our family holiday show, Come Trot to Camelot: singing and Makaton signing over Zoom is hilariously tricky!  With full lockdown, and not wishing to disappoint our families, especially given the little accessible theatre provision for children with SEND anyway, I did a quick re-write of the show. This was then filmed in our family back garden with just me and my daughter performing, and my husband roped in as cameraman. The neighbours must have wondered what we were up to with a castle drawbridge on our decking! 

Even virtually, we maintained Head2Head’s multi-sensory and interactive style by supplying an advance pack with all the bits and bobs needed for joining in with the video.  We encouraged viewers to joust, become Will-o’-the-Wisps, collect jewels, mend the round table, be knighted, dance around a maypole and, of course, Makaton sign.

Young man dressed as a wizard Come Trot to Camelot had a great reception as you will see from Merlin the Magician, at home.

“What a fabulous way to spend the morning. My son, who has special needs, beamed from start to finish and made a fabulous Merlin.”

This was particularly gratifying as I always write a character into our family holiday shows for a young actor with SEND to perform alongside us. Merlin was to have been this character so to see that the virtual transition worked for this young man was fantastic.

So what next? Zoom shows!  

Over the summer, we produced three separate multi-sensory shows, again all Makaton signed and with accompanying advance packs to help families prepare.  For instance, in Beachcombers & Mudlarking there was mucking about in cereal-sand and chocolate-mud; in Toad’s Totally Awesome Adventure discovering slimy pondweed; and in Hatter’s Hectic Tea Dance buttering yummy scones.

“The session you ran was superb in many ways; it was fun, it really held attention, it was organised both in terms of helping us prepare for the session and also in delivering the session, and above all it was inclusive at all levels.   A great success and a refreshing change that was really appreciated at this time.”

These Zoom events came under the umbrella Snacks & Chats, as following the show we had a catch-up with the families. We were aware that many had been shielding for lengthy periods due to their children’s vulnerability. Being conscious of mental wellbeing, it was lovely to offer a space for the families to check-in with each other and share experiences.

And we wouldn’t be Head2Head unless we produced a pantomime - Cinderella! This video was not only accompanied by an advance pack but also Zoom sessions with a panto character running a fun workshop for schools and families to prepare for their pantomime.  Here the children rehearsed their own panto characters, learned Makaton signing for the ‘Gungy Gunky Giggles’ song, and joined in with a bit of disco dancing too!  

Owen watching Cinderella “Listening to Owen laughing out loud while watching Head2Head Sensory Theatre’s interactive pantomime ‘Cinderella’, while surrounded with homemade props, is just magical.”

And we finished off the year with some 0-4 year-old Seasonal Sensory Singsong Zoom sessions exploring everything Christmassy!

What next? 

Well, we have a Zoom sleuthing mystery Stevie Solvesit and the Case of the Stolen Car coming up on 9th, 10th, 16th & 17th January.  And we’re very excited to announce that one of our super actor-volunteers with SEND is going to be joining us online to play Stevie’s sidekick, Bertie Bravesit.  Do get in touch to book a place: www.h2hsensorytheatre.com/shop/

Although live, multi-sensory, and immersive work is what Head2Head Sensory Theatre is all about, we’ve evolved!  And we continue to evolve digitally, looking into green-screens and GoPro cameras to help our signature style jump through your screens. The silver-lining in these difficult times is that we shall continue to film our productions, even after we have returned to live performances.  These videos can reach a far wider audience than from touring alone so even more children with SEND will have the chance to enjoy the world of stories, make-believe and fun.

Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @h2htheatre

Author

Sara Cole

Artistic Director
Head2Head Sensory Theatre

7th January 2021

At work

Makaton opens doors
16/09/2020

Makaton opens doors

Going on a bear hunt book and teddy

I'm Angharad and I'm a Dance Artist based in North Wales. I'm sure you are wondering what a dance artist does? Well, it is a really rewarding and wonderful job. I get to travel across the country, sometimes the world, sharing dance through performing, teaching and choreographing.

I often work within settings where I felt I was lacking in my communication skills with the children and adults I work with. So, during lockdown I seized the opportunity to further develop my skills and attended Makaton Level 1 and Level 2 training with Makaton Tutor Corrine Lloyd.

These last few weeks I have had the absolute pleasure to work at the Theatr Clwyd summer hubs in partnership with Flintshire social services. I’ve been facilitating with a group of wonderful children with varying needs and abilities. 

During our fun-filled days I've been able to put my Makaton training into practice. From the minute the children come into the room Makaton allows us to communicate and allows us to begin to form a relationship. As I begin to sign as I speak, I can see their faces light up as they recognise that I speak Makaton, and we begin to sow those seeds of trust between us. Makaton has allowed us a way to communicate and to establish a relationship built on understanding, something that has been invaluable during this time of relaxation of lockdown, as we are all emerging from months of being within our family bubbles. 

Being able to access the Makaton resources for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been fabulous. It is a favourite story of mine to use with children, we have great fun swaying through grass and lavender, splashing with material, and moving through a snowstorm of bubbles. To be able to integrate Makaton signs and symbols easily within the sessions has helped us to find our way together. The story is known to many of the children, which allows us to introduce new experiences of dance within the familiarity of the story, which in turn gives the children confidence to come with us on a movement adventure.

I am grateful to Makaton for opening the doors to effective communication and allowing us to have a great time together this summer, despite all the uncertainty about what the future holds. So much laughter and smiles have been had which have arisen out of the trust built through communication with Makaton.

Author

Angharad H

16th September 2020

At work

Joy Grimsby - Makaton for NHS Staff
16/06/2020

Joy Grimsby - Makaton for NHS Staff

My name is Joy, I am a Makaton Tutor and Higher Level Teaching Assistant in Castle Batch Primary School, which is part of The Priory Learning Trust in Weston-super-Mare.  I just cannot believe the incredible things are happening to me at the moment involving Makaton and the NHS during lockdown!

This journey started 35 years ago when I was 22 years old and driving double decked busses for a living. A little girl with Down syndrome called Donna got onto my bus and gestured something to me. Her mum, an old school friend, said “she’s signing to you she’s learning Makaton at her school”.  That was my first ever Makaton sign. Donna had signed ‘cake’ her mum had just bought a cake from the shop. From that day on I started to pick up the occasional signs from Donna, who was a regular on my bus, teaching me new signs whenever we met. By the late 90’s I had started a family and so changed my job to accommodate my new lifestyle. This job was driving mini-busses for the local council supplying home to school transport for an SEN school. This is the job that changed my life! Having daily contact with children who had a range of difficulties and abilities, children with Down’s syndrome, children with autism, children with physical disabilities and children with global delay all using Makaton in some way. I became passionate about helping in any way I could including supplying respite at a local children’s respite centre.

Moving forward I retrained and was fortunate to get a position in Castle Batch Primary supporting a boy with autism on a 1:1 basis, this led me into the Speech and Language at the same school where I upped my retraining  and became a Higher Level Teaching Assistant. In 2010 I started my official Makaton Training delivered by the Springboard Opportunity Group and with the support of Castle Batch and Springboard completed my Tutor training.

Present day in lockdown at home. My friend, who is The Clinical Director of nursing, has been very busy preparing and recruiting staff for the new Nightingale Hospital Bristol. However she was very concerned about the feedback from other Nightingale Hospitals saying they found it very difficult to communicate with each other whilst wearing PPE so asked me to provide her with a few Makaton signs to help, of course I said yes and jumped at the chance to help. The Nightingale team decided on the words they needed, I put the signs and symbols into a poster and recorded a little video of how to make the signs for them to share during their own training. Little did I know what impact this would have! These few signs have become a local news story, I have been on local radio and local news broadcasts talking about Makaton, the Press association has shown interest and I have received hundreds of acknowledgments on social media! I am doing a webinar about Makaton to the NHS (possibly an audience of 200) which may also lead to more staff being trained up to use Makaton throughout Hospitals and care homes throughout the country.

Author

Joy Grimsby

16th June 2020

At work

Totemigo – bringing Makaton symbols to life
16/06/2020

Totemigo – bringing Makaton symbols to life!

Alice using Totemigo

As a parent and Makaton Tutor I have seen first hand the advantages that Makaton Symbols can bring as part of a multimodal approach for reading, writing , and developing memory skills.

I have found that they can sometimes printed card type resources can appear uninspiring to learners, and so when was asked to trial Totemigo by Makaton I was excited!

The totemigo is a robust, colourful ‘tool /toy’ which welcomes exploration and limited motor skills. The reels  attach together by internal magnets – it has a ‘rubic cube’ feel and I have found it kinaesthetic and undestructable (so far)!

Don’t be fooled by the colourful early years appearance – Totemigo uses are easily differeniated across ages and abilities and I see many uses across High School, Colleges and Adults to express feelings and choices. For example it could be used by people who have recently had a stroke and lost the ablilty to verbalise  to express their needs.

Each of the reels can be rotated vertically offering a choice of symbols and/or images and text. The vertical strips are produced online, printed, laminated and cut into strips to lead into one or more reels – depending how many you want to use. In the above pictures there are 4 and 3 reels used. The user can then build options by twisting the catridges and lining up the symbols up across the reels.

When you purchase your Totemigo you will receive the device itself (4 blank reels)  in a handy storage tube, an A4  folder to keep created activities in an activation code to enable your for your account on the Totemigo website.

Once you create your account you are able to view activities other people have shared and create and edit your own.

Using the online tool is relatively easy. When you choose to ‘+’ an image you will be able to switch on the Makaton tab and access all the Makaton Core Vocabulary symbols.

This is how it looks on screen. You can search by typing the start of the word and the symbols will be displayed to choose from. A click on the symbol adds it to your Vertical Strip.  Once you start creating an activity you can save, share and print , ready to laminate and load into your Totemigo. Previous activity strips can be stored in the folder for future use.

I have found many uses and thought I would share a few ideas here:

1. Simply Sentence building using only Core Vobabulary. You are able to colour the backgrounds, this means you can support a Colourful Semantics approach to the level your user needs

2. More personalised Sentences using pictures alongside the symbols by loading images

3. Symbol support for topic work like the 3 pigs, dear zoo by loading pictures and /or non core symbols.

Alice using Totemigo Whatever you are supporting as a Makaton Tutor I can recommend using the Totemigo, especically when talking about and illustrating the use of symbols – it really brings them to life.

My daughter Alice took the Totemigo into school to support some literacy work. Here is what her teacher said:

“Totemigo is an excellent tool which I found really helpful for children in a school setting. I used this at first for a sequencing activity within a communication activity. The pupils found it easy to use and the visuals created a great support and reference point. This would be a tool that I would use widely across my classroom for various activities and with a variety of children.”  Alicia Dooley – Dorin Park School

If you are interested in purchasing a Totemigo and have any questions please feel free to contact me . The after sales and technology support you will receive from Antonin and the team is also first class.

Highly recommended!

 

Totemigo is availble to purchase for £59 from the online shop.

Author

Amanda Glennon

16th June 2020

At work

Totemigo Trial
16/06/2020

Totemigo Trial

About 18 months ago I received delivery of an education tool called Totemigo. I had been asked to trial it for The Makaton Charity and had no idea what to expect. As a newly retired learning support teacher in Further Education and SEN teacher in Special Schools, and as a Makaton Regional Tutor I was interested to see the latest way of combining communication learning and Makaton symbols.

I run a community Makaton club (Makachat) for Makaton users who live semi independently and thought I would ask them to trial Totemigo. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that it is an old school object, in several sections which clip together magnetically with a satisfying clunk. I wanted to handle it immediately, and so did members of my Makachat group when we met. To use it requires turning each section so that you see a row of symbols that make up the syntactically correct sentence, and you can use smaller or greater numbers of sections as you build competence. My three testers were able to bring different experience to the challenge.

Totemigo Colourful SemanticsYou can use Totemigo with a stimulus picture on the first section, or you can find your stimulus elsewhere in a real-life situation, video etc. I populated the Totemigo with topics we suggested by the group, with a stimulus of a film clip linked to the topics we had been developing in the group already; signs and symbols to do with socialising in the community. I populated the Totemigo with concepts we were working on, and assigned a part of speech to each section, following the Colourful Semantics themes, i.e.

•    Who (Subject) – Orange.
•    What doing (Verb) – Yellow.
•    What (Object) – Green.
•    Where – Blue.

Oliver, William and Christopher are key members of the group. What I loved about the trial was that each one of them subverted my carefully planned activity and made it their own. Oliver, looking at the photo I had screened as a sentence stimulus, wanted to find a concept I hadn’t managed to include, ‘pub’ (you can now add concepts outside the core vocabulary). Oliver grasped the potential of the Totemigo immediately. He silently scanned and turned the Totemigo sections, seemingly oblivious to prompts.  Only once he’d made his decision about his sentence did he look up and was then happy to speak and sign to explain it. He remained grumpy that not all the concepts he wanted were there and was keen for me to give feedback about that.

 

In contrast William took the Totemigo, and found it difficult to rotate the sections, so we took it apart and he looked at the pieces individually. He discarded one of the sections and worked hard for a while to put it together. What he came up with was, quite unexpectedly, a rule for his mum about not using your phone in the cinema! He had chosen the symbol of ‘woman’ for ‘mum’ and the format allowed us to compare those two concepts afterwards to remind him of the difference.

 

Finally, Christopher had a go. He was less intuitive about the meaning of the symbols and it was more challenging for him to manipulate the pieces, so I gave him the sections separately. He had watched the others and picked up the way in which the other two had clicked the sections together and was pleased with those satisfying clunks. He could see that there was meaning in each section and once completed was happy to have a go at reading it back, with some support. I could see that it held his attention, allowed him to identify what he knew already and would be a good way of introducing new concepts to put together.

All three of the testing group used speech when reading back and signed when they had their hands free. They all used more concepts in the sentences they had made, and so were able to communicate in a more sophisticated way. They all reached for the Totemigo immediately and were motivated to use it. Finally, it gave them the time to process, to assimilate the information available and to use it in a way that allowed them to initiate, in their own time.

Well done everyone!

Totemigo is availble to purchase for £59

Author

Helen Hayhoe

16th June 2020

At work

Makaton changes lives
27/08/2019

Makaton changes lives

Katie and Gracie

Katie and GracieMy beautiful daughter Gracie is four and a half years old, she has complex needs, including global development delay, and is non-verbal. Gracie has a small number of single words and therefore uses Makaton as her main way of communicating.

As an experienced early years practitioner I had heard of Makaton and like many other mums we loved to watch Mr Tumble. I started to pick up some signs and wondered if this was a way forward as Gracie seemed to take notice in the children signing, independently copying the 'friends' sign.

Gracie riding a horseDuring a conversation with Gracie's speech therapist, she suggested that I could attend a Makaton Beginners' Workshop, and in the meantime we introduced 10 signs including 'more', 'eat', 'drink' and 'home'.

I began to follow Makaton videos on YouTube and we stumbled across the inspirational Singing Hands, who we are determined we will see live one day! Gracie has always had a love of music and their songs allowed us to enjoy singing together, while learning a host of new signs to add to our growing Makaton vocabulary.

Gracie has embraced signing and alongside picture cards she uses a total communication approach, enabling her to express her needs and ensuring that we are able to fulfill her requests... biscuit is still the most used sign and one everyone understands!

Amber signing pleaseI have always been passionate about supporting children with additional needs and around the time that I attended the Makaton training I was offered a position as a SEN lead in a local nursery that encouraged me to develop the SENCO role. This is when I met Amber a two year old who had very little expressive language, which was impacting upon her development and causing her huge frustration. With Amber's Mums support and enthusiastic practitioners on board, I began to introduce a handful of signs and Amber instantly began to respond to these, copying them with accuracy and beginning to use them herself to make requests.

Amber had been awaiting a speech and language assessment, which as anyone knows is a long wait, and as the weeks rolled by Amber began to use two and three signs together, often only being shown a sign a couple of times. Amber had been able to acknowledge the birth of her sister by signing 'baby sister Ruby' and the most poignant and longed for 'love you Mummy'.

Amber and RubyAmber's language has literally appeared before our eyes and she is now at the point where she is using 3-5 word sentences, understanding and using positional language and the pronoun "I". To cut a long story short her speech therapy is now on permanent hold!

Amber's story is truly exceptional and will not be a reflection of everyone's journey, it certainly isn't my daughter's. However Makaton has given Gracie her voice, enabling her to build confidence to communicate and her bank of spoken words is expanding.

I have become somewhat of a champion for Makaton as it is used within our setting on a daily basis, and several other parents have signed up to courses as a result, understanding that it is an aid to communication and never a replacement for language. Surely all we want as parents and practitioners is for our children to be understood and their voices heard... being non-verbal certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to say!

Makaton really does change lives and these two incredible girls are proof of that.

Author

Katie S

27th August 2019

At work

43 years of Makaton
27/08/2019

43 years of Makaton

Ann Cardinal

43 years of Makaton. Time to reflect...

I had the great fortune of attending the very first Makaton workshop at Botleys Park Hospital in 1976, very shortly after my arrival in the UK from Sweden. This was run by its inspiring creator Margaret Walker (who took the project forward) and  to whom I owe so much. Having struggled to teach some of the Paget Gorman Signs to an adult with a learning disability living in a large hospital outside Norwich it became obvious that Makaton would be the solution to improving his communication as well as that of so many others.

Work opportunities for this client group were seen as essential even in those early days. One deaf lady had a job in the kitchen of a department store. Staff welcomed the opportunity to learn some signs.

After moving to Folkestone a few years later, my first speech and language therapy post involved preverbal communication with children who had profound and complex needs. Basic Makaton was essential. I also worked in an SLT clinic where children with significant language delay benefitted greatly from sign support. However, in those days there was a fair bit of scepticism from some parents (“we want our child to speak, not sign”).

I recall two particular sets of parents of babies with Down’s Syndrome. One couple embraced Makaton, attended evening workshops that I set up and used signs consistently with their son. The other parents rejected signing outright and discharged their son from SLT. Fast forward about 30 years to my retirement years, these two by now young men both attended a Sing and Sign session that I ran, accompanied by my husband at the keyboard. The young man who had been immersed in Makaton was now an articulate and confident person who no longer used signs.  He wanted to be in the group because of the singing and the drum kit! The other young man had very limited understanding and poor speech. (Clearly other factors may have played their part in this difference!)

From my Norwich days I had wanted to return to working with Adults (LD) again. In the early 1980s there was no SLT service in South Kent for these people. I secured some sessions in a local day centre and from there the referrals started coming in from across the district. Having no car I got around on a bike and train for a bit, but I finally bought a car. This opened up opportunities for running evening Makaton workshops across our health district. These were initially “Open House” sessions run on seven evenings with up to 50 people attending.

In 1988 I trained as a Regional Tutor. The team of SLTs working in ALD expanded, as did the number of tutors. It was a dynamic team keen to work on training across services and enhance communication skills amongst health and social services colleagues. One of the last Makaton projects I was involved in before my retirement from SLT was the development of the Makaton Health Communication Pack in collaboration with Makaton, following GP training across East Kent.

So 45 years later...

  • Gone are the days of extensive hand written letters by Margaret Walker.
  • We have a culture where signing is lauded and applauded.
  • It is my time to say goodbye.

Thank you Makaton for enriching my life!

Author

Ann Cardinal

27th August 2019

At work

Communication for all service users
26/06/2018

Communication for all service users

Back in April 2017, I attended a conference called positive choices in Hull, with a group of my learning disability nursing students, lecturers and qualified nurses from Edge Hill University. This is a conference that takes place annually and brings together learning disability nursing students from across the U.K.

The aim of the conference is to keep students up to date with the latest happenings in our field of practice, as well as raising the profile of learning disability nursing and celebrating the achievements of the people we support.

It was here that I first met Amanda Glennon, a Makaton Tutor, who taught us some basic Makaton signs that would be useful in practice and she also told us about her daughter Alice.

Alice is a fun, loving, energetic young girl who communicates via Makaton. Alice has had numerous medical appointments with various healthcare professionals over the years, and Amanda informed us that not one healthcare professional had been able to communicate with Alice through signing.

It was this story, along with the #GetTheNationSigning and #HelloMyNameIs campaigns that inspired myself and my colleague,  Eve Hesketh, to make a change. We wanted to teach student nurses from other fields of practice the importance of adapting your communication skills when communicating with a person with a learning disability and how we should always include them in conversations regarding their health and wellbeing.

The two of us making 300 sets of 8 symbols. It took weeks!!

We started this project by providing the September 2017 cohort of student nurses at Edge Hill University with a communication workshop. This cohort includes student nurses from all four fields of nursing. 

This workshop involved explaining why adapting our communication skills as professionals is so important as well as demonstrating how to introduce yourself in Makaton by signing ‘hello my name is...’.

At the end of the workshop we provided each student with a communication aid that included a set of 8 cards with a Makaton symbol on one side and the corresponding Makaton sign on the other.

The students were able to take these communication aids on their first nursing placements and when we conducted an evaluation with the cohort about the project we received positive feedback. The students gave examples of when they had used the aids in practice and how they had enhanced the service user’s experiences.

Comments we received from the students included:

  • "..used them in placement at a hospital when it was tea time and I used the eat and drink sign. The patient also communicated when they needed the toilet" Student nurse (child)
  • "the patient I used them with had Huntington’s disease and was unable to communicate verbally" Student nurse (adult)

These comments highlight that Makaton can be used with a variety of service users, with varying needs.

This project has been expanded and recreated with student paramedics, as well as being implemented in the first year of the nursing curriculum at Edge Hill University. Our aim is to expand this project further and deliver it to other student health professionals as well as introducing them in local NHS trusts.

It is important that awareness of adapting communication skills in order to meet the individual needs of people you work with is increased within the health service and how much of an impact this can make to people lives.

Not just settling for teaching as many healthcare professionals to sign #hellomynameis as possible, we recently had the chance to meet Holly and Phil from This Morning. After explaining the reasoning behind the project they were both more than willing to take part...

We are on a mission to help spread the word. Watch this space!

The Makaton Healthcare Cards are available as a free download from the Makaton Library.

 

UPDATE 1st May 2019
Eve, Emily and their colleague Alice Waddington have won the award for Student Innovation in Practice in the Student Nursing Times Awards 2019.

“We are over the moon to have won this award and want to thank Makaton, Amanda, Alice and everyone at Edge Hill University for all their support. By winning this award we are hoping that we have gained a bigger platform to enable greater communication for all, across the NHS. We are extremely proud that this has already begun, with Alice’s paediatrician pledging to learn some signs for her next appointment.”

Author

Emily Kavanagh

26th June 2018

At work