Your stories

How Makaton is used in the community at home, at school, at work, and out and about.

Melodysigns
29/03/2021

Melodysigns

Melody dancing on a multicoloured disco floor
Ellie and Melodysigns looking on ‘The Bright Side Of Life’

I was 9 years old when a new foster child joined our family. Ellie couldn’t speak, she used hand gestures to communicate. Apparently, she was using Makaton, but I didn’t understand what that meant.

I thought she was making up actions to get her message across. If she wanted a drink, she’d mime drinking from a cup. When she showed us pictures in her book, she’d trace cat whiskers on her face, or cow horns on her head. She’d even stick her tongue out and pant for the dog!

I didn’t realise there was a whole community out there, a website, and workshops to learn more.

We’d introduce Ellie’s signs to other foster children so they could communicate with her, some even found it helpful for themselves. We had Dave Benson-Philips’ Makaton Nursery Rhymes on VHS and saw Mr Tumble on TV, but I thought that was simply people doing actions to songs, just like we’d do at school.

Ten years later, Mum found a Makaton Foundation Workshop, where we learnt so much. I hadn’t realised how important Makaton was. This wasn’t just a few gestures to get a point across, this was an entire programme designed to help people to communicate, to understand, to learn and to make their lives, and the lives of those around them, so much easier.

‘I Can Boogie’ with MakatonFor about a year, I signed along to Disney and pop songs that my foster siblings listened to. They loved watching and joining in, so I eventually made videos and uploaded them onto YouTube to share with their friends.

I started receiving messages from people saying they enjoyed my videos, where could they find out more about Makaton? I realised there were people who lived nearby, and all over the country, who would benefit from Makaton but didn’t know about it. My Melodysigns videos were helping them discover it.

My Melodysigns hobby was also helping me for personal reasons, too. I’ve spent years struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Epilepsy and more, things that make getting out of bed in the morning very difficult. Making these Makaton videos was building my motivation, concentration and stamina.

Signing Makaton as a ‘Barbie Girl’

After several videos, I was contacted by The Makaton Charity. I had also been making Sign of the-Week, and videos explaining what signs I used in the songs. I was told that these were technically teaching videos, and that I shouldn’t be sharing these as I wasn’t a Makaton Tutor. The music videos were fine, they were for entertainment and part of my Makaton journey, but I’d have to remove the others.

I was very upset with myself. Had I been breaking rules? Had I been teaching people incorrectly? What else could I do with Makaton, with my videos, if I wasn’t a Tutor? There was only one thing for it… I would become a Tutor.

As a musician, I need to know my ‘Scales And Arpeggios’

Years passed, I continued making videos, but there were no more Makaton courses nearby. I couldn’t travel far, my illnesses made sure of that. My hope of becoming a Makaton Tutor was fading. Then, COVID lockdown began.

Everyone relied on online lessons and meetings. I looked on the Makaton website, and there was a Follow-Up Workshop available online. I signed up immediately, learnt even more about Makaton, then signed up for Online Makaton Tutor Training.

Once I’m a Tutor, I’d like to make Sign of the Week videos again, this time knowing I can teach. It’ll be great to know that my music videos can be educational as well as entertaining. I’d love to expand into signing stories and poems, and to write songs of my own, including one that teaches all the pronouns! I’d also like to support other foster carers. When a new child joins your family, one who communicates in a different way, it can feel daunting. I’d like to be there to help carers take that first step, and to support them on their Makaton journey.

Author

Melodysigns

29th March 2021

At home

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

Makaton Membership Review
29/03/2021

Makaton Membership Review

Tiffanie and Alfie

I am Tiffanie, a primary school teacher and mum to Alfie, who has Down's syndrome.

I began our Makaton journey when Alfie was 10 months old, with ‘more’ and ‘finished’. I carried on learning a sign or two a week from Mr Tumble on TV, Something Special magazine, and Singing Hands DVDs. I found it was really important to actively watch these with Alfie and engage with him: doing hand-over-hand signing and enjoying singing together. He is still a huge Suzanne and Tracy fan and regularly takes part in Singing Hands' Z,oom sessions.

Alfie started primary school knowing over 300 Makaton signs, which then supported his developing speech as it still wasn’t clear to all listeners. He has continued to use Makaton to learn new vocabulary, and if he is tired he will sign rather than talk.

When Alfie was 5, we took part in the 50 Mums Makaton signed car pool karaoke of 1000 years, and have also taken part in filming signed stories for World Book Day, in collaboration with The Makaton Charity, Family Fund, Singing Hands and Wouldn’t Change A Thing.

I completed Levels 1–4 of the Makaton training within the last year, starting October 2019 and finishing Level 4 in November 2020.

My local tutor Dawn was fantastic and it was great to learn alongside other parents and professionals either together in a village hall or via Zoom in more recent times.

I recently signed up as a Makaton Member. I have been really impressed with how easy it is to search for a word, and to quickly find a symbol, sign diagram and video of the word I need. The fact that I can open on any device and am not limited to one under a restricted licence is brilliant. I can look up a sign on any devices we have to hand at the time.

I have been able to add a quick hyperlink icon to the Makaton hub on the home screen of my phone so I can access the site immediately wherever I am. This is a huge help when Alfie is needing a new sign on days out and for filling spur of the moment gaps in my signing vocabulary.

There is just such a huge wealth of resources to use and I am excited to explore them all and share them with Alfie.

Thanks Makaton Charity for developing such a fabulous resource.

 

Makaton Membership gives you access to Makaton symbols, signs and videos, MakaChat support, access to exclusive member events and much more. Click here to find out more abut what membership can offer you!
Author

Tiffanie Smith

29th March 2021

At home

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

My online training experience
05/03/2021

My online training experience

My experience of an online Makaton Level 1 Workshop, run by Sheila Crossley T Signing Helper with Makaton Level 1 Workshop manual

I decided to book on the Level 1 course to get a proper certificate. I chose this particular course with this tutor so I could grow my knowledge of signs, starting from the very beginning.

It was my first online course, but I already knew some Makaton from school, so I'm not a complete beginner. I was a little bit nervous about joining the Zoom meeting for the very first time because I wasn't sure how it would go but the tutor welcomed me and made me feel at ease.

My biggest fear when joining the course was that I wasn't sure if I was going to pass it, but I did and have the certificate to prove it. The first signs that I learned were the letters of the alphabet and then we went on to learn loads of different signs including family members, some food names, question words, places and objects in the home.

It was easy to follow along with the tutor, the session went by quickly, at just about the right pace. To anyone thinking of joining the course I would say, definitely do it. It is really really worth it. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Interested in attending Makaton training? Click here to find a workshop
Author

T Signing Helper

5th March 2021

At home

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

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

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

Makaton with Lucinda, Founders Membership
11/11/2020

Makaton with Lucinda, Founders Membership

Nikki and Lucinda Hi, I'm Nikki! I have 3 children, and I use Makaton with my youngest, Lucinda. I am also training to be a Makaton Tutor! So I use the Makaton Hub as a parent, and now also as a trainee!

I am really enjoying my new Founders Membership on the Hub!  It is so useful to have all the signs and symbols just at my fingertips  and I love that I can log on from my phone when I am out and about if I need to quickly check a sign - so handy! It is good to have all the signs and symbols in one place too, without needing to look in different manuals etc. I am approaching Tutor training, so having everything all together in once place to revise from is really helpful.

As a member I have access to all the Core Vocabulary sign videos, lline drawings and symbols. I find the videos especially are so helpful for checking accuracy against. With the new Founders Membership I also now can explore many more signs and symbols in the new Living and Learning folder. Here are some of bits I have found interesting in there so far...

There is a section with useful signs in relation to school - ART, DRAMA etc. This would be helpful for schools themselves and for making timetables etc, but also useful for me at home to open up conversations about school with Lucinda.

There is a section with lots of geographical signs and symbols too, things like HILL, LAKE, BEACH, PUDDLE etc, which will be fab to learn ready for trips out, or talking about our local area etc. I am thinking about making Lucinda a photo album of our local area as she has been learning about this at school - so now I can add Makaton symbols to it and can teach her the signs too.

There is a folder called Tme and Seasons, and within this are some lovely signs & symbols for things like WINTER, SUNSET, SHADOW etc. Lucinda is fascinated by her shadow!

Lucinda and Zack have fun with symbolsI really like the folder with all the weather vocabulary in it, I am hoping to make Lucinda a weather chart using the symbols so she can change it each day when she looks out the window! Out comes the laminator!

Other useful vocabulary that I have spotted are words like DANGER, LOUD, NOISE, etc and I know these will all come in handy! I even found a sign and a symbol for YUK! Lucinda has a habit of refusing whatever I make for dinner, pushes it away saying "Eeeew!" then promptly pulls her plate back and gobbles up the lot! No need for the sign for YUK, however it is there should you want it!

The Hub gives you access to lots of other resources to download too, some recipes, fab games. Lucinda loves the board games, and I am going to download her some of the matching games next and I think she would like the animal bingo especially! We have also downloaded some of the books so we can add Makaton when we share books together at home.

There is a section on the Hub called MakaChat , a community space where you can ask any questions, share ideas etc. I haven't used this much yet myself but I am sure I will do as I move forward with my Makaton journey!

CHRISTMAS OFFER: Founders Membership £60 until 31st December 2020. This includes access to and download of the Core Vocabulary plus an additional 700 signs and symbols from the Living and Learning resource, absolutely FREE! (Makaton will honour the additional 700 signs and symbols year on year, for as long as you renew your membership.)

Author

Nikki H

11th November 2020

At home

Eleanor's story
02/11/2020

Eleanor's Story

Eleanor signs HelloOur daughter Eleanor was born in April 2018 and shortly after her birth she was diagnosed with Down's syndrome. I feel like our journey with Makaton started instantly from that point, but in fact she was probably 5 or 6 days old.

Eleanor spent the first few weeks of her life on the Special Care baby unit. A few weeks before she was born, there had been a video that went viral of lots of mums using Makaton with their children. We hadn’t known anything about it, but there was an incredibly kind neonatal nurse who suggested we Google it. All the children featured had DS and it was so heart-warming to see. My husband and I sat in hospital with tears in our eyes. From there we set ourselves the challenge of learning Makaton and that’s when I stumbled on the Makaton website, with so much information and tons of resources. I wanted to absorb as much as I could to help Eleanor have the best possible start.

In the beginning, I tried learning too many signs, all at once. I started a weekly class where we learnt around 10 signs a week. In reality, it wasn’t possible. Having not long given birth for the first time and how challenging that was in itself, coupled with the added shock of Eleanor’s diagnosis, the goal I’d set myself was too great. So, I took a step back and decided to stick to one sign at a time. That’s what I needed, from that point it was as if everything started to become a lot clearer, being able to break signing down into manageable chunks helped us a lot.

Eleanor and Helen We used the same theory when it came to Eleanor learning signs and tried to focus on one at a time, rather than overwhelming her.

We started with ‘thank you’ and it really didn’t take her long at all. When Eleanor was about 9 months old, she mastered ‘thank you’ in around 3 weeks. We continued for a couple of weeks with just that one sign and then moved on. From there, it started to become clear to us that she was able to take on more and more signs until we got to the point where she could learn a sign a day.

In the last few months, we have noticed a shift in the way Eleanor uses signing, she has gone from being able to sign around 50/70 different items from flash cards, to actively asking for them in everyday life. She will now tell us regularly when she needs the toilet or which food she wants - more often than not it is a banana, her favourite snack!

In the last few weeks, Eleanor’s Speech and Language Therapist has tasked us with putting two signs together, so that is something that we’re currently working towards.

Her speech is coming along really well too, and we have started to notice that just like her signing, she is now almost at the stage of learning a word or sound a day. One thing that having Eleanor has taught me, is that everyone learns in their own way and in their own time. Nobody should be pressured, and every individual will get there; it might just take you a little longer.

Author

Helen M

2nd November 2020

At home

DJ Jay spreads joy during lockdown
01/11/2020

DJ Jay spreads joy during lockdown

DJ JayWhen lockdown struck, Jake who is 17, felt it was important to provide a fun inclusive environment for young people with Learning Disability, Autism and /or Communication difficulties whose worlds had become restrictive due to self-isolating at home.

As Jake’s diary of event bookings was cancelled, he decided to use the time and technology to run events on Facebook live, making them open to more people. The events ran every Saturday and Sunday and incorporated music, fun, dance, and Makaton! They were enjoyed by many people and families who looked forward to joining each weekend, making song requests, adding comments to the stream, and feeling safe in an environment where they could be included.

This was impressive for a young man who left school less than a year ago, but Jake’s caring inclusion story starts before then. Jake has always shared an incredibly special bond with his cousin Alice from the first time they met. Whenever the two families would meet Jake would always be found at Alice’s side entertaining her, chatting to her, and helping her navigate her way through whatever was happening.

Alice who has a learning disability and uses Makaton to communicate needs that extra understanding to access everyday things you and I take for granted. On a family holiday several years ago Alice and Jake went along to the on-site entertainment where the host kept looking right through Alice as if she weren’t there. Alice did not understand why she was not being given the chance to go up on stage or win a prize and she got upset. Eventually Jake took matters into his own hands and gave the host a prize to take to Alice – Alice was delighted.

Jake, who was at this time already running his own local DJ business decided that he never wanted any children to feel like this at his events. He wanted everyone to feel included and so he completed formal Makaton training to support this.

Jake and AliceJake immediately saw the benefit Makaton would bring to other entertainers and so he helped design a special taster Workshop for Party Entertainers, where he gave a presentation on how Makaton had helped him become a better, more inclusive entertainer. It inspired them all!

Following this Jake received his Makaton Friendly status – the first DJ/Entertainer in the UK to do this. Jake and Alice were invited to attend Positive Choices - an annual conference for student nurses supporting people with learning disabilities. Jake ran workshops demonstrating how he uses Makaton, the message being if he can learn Makaton to support entertainment surely they too can learn Makaton to support people like Alice when in their care, when patients are at their most anxious and vulnerable. Together Alice and Jake have inspired many people. Last year Jake was nominated and selected as a BBC Teen Awards finalist, he was invited to Kensington Palace where he met The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Taking feedback from his early lockdown sessions Jake has now developed a series of online events for the whole family to attend. With support from NHS England Transforming Care funding a number of families have been able to sign up to a series on 4 sessions where DJ Jay is the host for activities, song, dance and Makaton, improving wellbeing and support to the whole family. Jake is an inspiration to those he meets and continues to rise to the challenges placed in the way of people like Alice, although to him he is not doing anything special he is just being Jake.

Author

Amanda Glennon

1st November 2020

Out and about

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

Baking with Alfie
08/09/2020

Baking with Alfie

Alfie with logoMy name is Alfie. I’m 6 years old and I just love baking. I am blessed with an extra chromosome. I was born 6 weeks early, I clearly couldn’t wait to get out into the world and start baking! I have a severe speech and language delay, but I find making baking videos really helps my speech, language and also my Maths as I can practise in a fun, no pressure environment.

Alfie rolling pastryCan you believe I actually used to be afraid of the noise the stand mixer made?! I know you wouldn’t believe it now, would you? Just goes to show you that in life you should always push yourself outside your comfort zones as you never know what you’re a capable of achieving until you do.

I’m now in Year 2 at my mainstream Infant school, having just returned back to my proper school after 6 months of Mummy school. I love swimming, water, books, music, dancing and generally just being outside. Food-wise I love all foods, but particularly chocolate, crisps, ice cream, blueberries & obviously cake! I love going on long walks and regularly walk 2 miles + each day. I hope you enjoy my baking and it inspires you to get your #BakeOn #BakingWithAlfie

Alfie and MummyThe mum behind the baker...

Hi, I'm Sarah, proud Mummy to Alfie, who has been blessed with an extra chromosome!

My Makaton journey started 6 years ago when Alfie was born. I first started with a Makaton Signing for Babies course at my local children’s centre and then graduated onto Dave Benson Phillips, Singing Hands (Tracy and Suzanne are absolute goddesses in our house!), and Mr Tumble.

I then decided I wanted to increase my Makaton knowledge, so I could help Alfie find his voice and gain his independence. So, I then did my Level 1 & 2 Makaton training, and I have recently just completed my Level 3 training. I now can’t wait to start my Level 4 training later this year, as I’ve decided I’d really like to progress to become a Makaton Tutor.

Alfie and birthday cakeDuring lockdown, I started #BakingWithAlfie across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, where we use Makaton. Not only does it help Alfie with his speech development, but it also increases awareness of Makaton across a wider audience, in an underused setting. Alfie has a severe speech and language delay and we use his baking as a way to introduce SALT and Maths work in a non-pressured environment, and we also happen to get some tasty bakes out of it too! I'm hoping to set this up as a business moving forward - fingers crossed!

Please follow us via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Author

Sarah C

8th September 2020

At home

Totemigo and Harry
20/08/2020

Totemigo and Harry

Harry with his Totemigo

Harry with his Totemigo We started signing with our son Harry, who has Down's syndrome, from when he was about 9 months old. Seeing the difference Makaton made to him and how he was able to communicate with us before he could talk, made me want to continue the courses and become a Makaton Tutor.

Harry is now verbal, but we still use Makaton to aid his learning and to ensure that he has a way of communicating with others if they are finding his speech unclear and difficult to understand. Harry loves to use Makaton with singing and the school choir have started using Makaton, which is lovely to see how he can now be fully included in their performances.

The past few months have been quite challenging, having to home-school Harry and constantly think of new activities to hold his attention. Then Makaton launched the Totemigo, which I had been eager to use since I had been shown it on our Tutor Study Day back in November. I immediately joined the Totemigo website and started to make symbol strips. These are really easy to create, thanks to the template that is provided online and you can also download ones that other people have already made.

Harry has previously used colourful semantics in his speech and language therapy sessions, so I thought that this would be a good place to start with him. Due to the tactile nature of the Totemigo, Harry was instantly drawn to it and was desperate to try it out, even before he knew how to use it.

We have used the Totemigo to create sentences and Harry is now starting to recognize different word types such as nouns, verbs and adjectives. When using the Totemigo, Harry chooses the different symbols himself and then reads the sentence aloud. If he finds it doesn’t make sense, he then goes back to correct himself. He then signs the sentence and records it in his book.

He enjoys having the symbols in front of him to check he has remembered the sentence correctly. This has given him a far better understanding of how to construct sentences and can even now replace given words with synonyms, which he loves to do. Harry has loved using the Totemigo and we are planning to create mixed-up fairytale strips, so that he can make up some amusing stories containing a range of different characters and settings.

 
 

I can see that this is a really useful tool for schools and speech therapists. In fact, after speaking to Harry’s class teacher and 1:1 about the Totemigo, they are already planning to order some to help support many of the children’s learning needs. It is also extremely robust, so won’t get broken easily, as due to its bright colours and pleasing shape, every child will undoubtedly be desperate to use it. We look forward to using it more.

Totemigo is a multi-purpose tactile tool which uses Makaton symbols to help you communicate and learn in a variety of fun ways. You can use Totemigo for making choices, sentences, matching and much more.

Totemigo is available to purchase from our shop for £59.

Author

Jemma S

20th August 2020

At home

Going To Hospital Book
18/08/2020

Going To Hospital Book

Amanda Glennon and friends

Amanda Glennon and friends

Hi, my name is Angie Emrys-Jones and I am co-author of the Looking Up book series for Cornwall Down's Syndrome Support Group (CDSSG), of which my 13 year old son is a member.

We have been creating accessible books at CDSSG since 2014 when the very first book, ‘Looking Up’, was created for brand new parents coming to terms with the news that their little one is chromosomally enhanced. Our subsequent books followed the same pictorial style: ‘Tea at Grandmas’ for grandparents, an update of the original ‘Looking Up’ book, and also our most famous publication, ‘Going To School’, which inspired the very wonderful LD Nurse that is Jane Rees to approach me about creating something similar for the hospital setting.

The Learning Disability and Autism Liaison TeamJane Rees leads the Learning Disability and Autism Liaison Team at our local hospital and is passionate about making Hospital visits for patients with learning disability and autism less stressful for them and their families. Jane has been a practicing Learning Disability Nurse for over 26 years supporting and advocating for individuals with a LD or autism, making sure they receive equality of care.

After our initial chat, the lightbulb switched on and we both instantly knew that ‘Going To Hospital’ would be born and be a massive success for so many families across the country.

So, what is it?

Going To Hospital is an accessible publication for patients with learning disability or autism and aims to help children & young people with additional needs to know what they might expect to see when visiting hospital for an appointment or when being admitted for a procedure.

Front cover of Going to Hospital bookThis is done by filling the book with real life pictures of our children and young people in the hospital environment having blood test and scans etc and supporting the images with Makaton symbols throughout, with an index at the back of signs and symbols to promote communication during the clinical episode and beyond.

The book can be used to build communication and relationships between the child and health professionals, to help the child feel empowered and in control of their health decisions. Knowing the plan and what is going to happen to them at each stage has proven to enhance their experience and hopefully a more positive one with the use of this book.

In Cornwall, all patients in the county are eligible for a free hard copy from the Royal Cornwall Hospital LD Nursing team. But what if I don’t live in Cornwall? Don’t panic, the book is also be available in digital format hosted on the RCHT website and other outlets so that those with anxiety, autism etc no matter where they live will have an avenue to view the images from their device at home in preparation of a visit to hospital.

Download 'Going to Hospital' as a PDF file

Our good friend and Looking Up Books Makaton Collaborator Amanda Glennon from Inclusive Teaching Matters has produced a pdf download of all signs and symbols used in the book in the form of Healthcare Prompt Cards. These are free to download from the Makaton Library. It is intended that wards use the health cards in the download to provide now & next boards with a timeline of treatment – medicine / operation / sleep / wake up / eat / drink / toilet / home etc - thereby creating a visual timetable for patients who need more support to embed their understanding and manage expectations of procedures or admissions etc.

Healthcare Prompt CardsThe project has the support of Mencap as this runs in line with their national Treat Me Well campaign, the Downs Syndrome Research Foundation and also Paula McGowan’s high profile #OliversCampaign following the preventable death of her son Oliver in 2016 due to poor care and inappropriate treatment.

Oliver’s story, and others like his, are one of the main drivers for this project, we want to make sure the voices of our young people are heard in the clinical setting and that they are communicated with appropriately and are in control of their care as much as possible.

Jane and I are beyond thrilled at the feedback we have had from families and are so excited to work with other trusts to make the book transferable and more relevant to other hospitals.

Author

Angie Emrys-Jones

18th August 2020

Out and about

Condover College Ltd - Mr Blue Sky
16/06/2020

Condover College Ltd

SLT TeamCondover College Ltd is a small independent specialist college and residential care provider in the heart of Shropshire. Founded in 2004 by Steve McGill, a father who insisted the only very best care for his son, Matthew. Steve’s goal was to find a college that catered for his son’s disabilities and he struggled so he decided to start a college himself.

Today 16 years later, we continue Steve’s legacy of providing the best care and opportunities for learners aged 18+ who have moderate to severe learning disabilities, profound and multiple learning difficulties and additional complex needs.

Oli in the woodsWe provide Education, The Opportunities Programme, Care and Support including Accommodation and Short Breaks. Condover College has expanded and grows progressively every year, starting from just one residential home to now 13 residential homes nested in communities in and around Shrewsbury.

At CCL we use Makaton every day and we truly believe that it makes a huge difference to the lives of the people that we support. By making the world a more inclusive place, Makaton is helping everyone who lives with a communication difficulty to understand and be understood.

Emma hiking With this is mind, CCL wanted to fundraise for The Makaton Charity, to support them to be able to continue to provide the wonderful service that they offer. We had organised a Mini Makahike to take place at the beginning of May but this sadly could not take place due to the current COVID-19 situation. All was not lost… we decided to twist it up and collectively travel the equivalent distance of Snowdon as part of our daily exercise. And of course, no decent Mini Makahike is complete with a song so we all managed to practice the signs for ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and create a fun video compilation of our efforts.

Using platforms like FaceTime and Skype to communicate and teach the Makaton signs to learners and staff was a great method  to use in lockdown. Creating the video has lifted the spirits of everyone and put a smile on lots of faces! Our fundraising target was £100 and at the time of writing, we have reached £231. From everyone at CCL, we would like to thank everyone who has donated and to all staff and students who took part in the video.

Author

Condover College Ltd

16th June 2020

At school

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

Flamingo Chicks
16/06/2020

Flamingo Chicks

How Makaton helped us communicate our classes during Covid-19
New virtual classes 100,000 views and national TV coverage thanks to pioneering inclusivity online

Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive community bringing children together through dance. Early on in this pandemic we realised just how much of a challenge lockdown would be – as both CEO of Flamingo Chicks and mum to  a child with Cerebral Palsy – I too was having first-hand experience. 

We knew we had to find a way to continue supporting our families when our usual face-to-face classes weren’t possible.  Parents told us two big challenges were getting their children to exercise and also home-schooling.

Whilst there is an overwhelming amount of materials online, there is little that’s accessible for disabled children, particularly in terms of exercise.  And even less that is communicated in a way that they can access and understand.

Being out of routine and missing the familiarity of support from school and the raft of healthcare professionals is so unsettling - many families reported it felt like their world had been turned upside down. We wanted to recreate our content to provide that familiarity, a way for our children to express themselves and a moment of calm for parents/carers.

We partnered with science charity Lightyear Foundation to offer a unique blend of movement and science – supporting families both in terms of their child’s physical and mental wellbeing, but also keeping up their school work, with each session linked to the national curriculum.  And importantly, we recruited Makaton Tutor Nicola Pike from Better Communication Bristol as it was really important to us that our communication methods were accessible and also familiar to the children we work with, lots of whom we see regularly in special schools. Enter Makaton! Nic appears in all of our online classes, signing alongside our teachers. We know she’s a big hit with our viewers! Subtitles are also available on all of our videos.

Each week we release a new ‘virtual class’ with it's own theme, from Space to Le Corsaire (pirates) and Madame Butterfly to the Human Body.  Each has a STEM sub-theme and a spin-off science experiment from Dr Sarah Bearchall. Sarah is not only an experienced Science Presenter, she also specialises in working in SEN, and includes Makaton in her videos too.

As well as helping with home schooling, we know how much our children value story-telling and delving into their imaginations. We have produced a collection of children’s stories, written by our truly incredible volunteers, based around the theme of inclusion. Read by celebrities such as Ben Shephard, the extra sparkle is definitely the Makaton, again signed by Nic. The clear concepts that Nic signs really pull the stories together and enables everyone to engage with them.

Dance and movement provides a way for disabled children to not only develop their physical skills, such as balance and co-ordination, but to also express themselves in different ways, increasing their confidence, and enabling them to reach their full potential. Dance also develops key skills such as teamwork, communication skills, and problem solving whilst immersing children in a creative environment where they can feel free to be themselves.

Translating our inclusive and highly interactive classes into filmed sessions has certainly had it’s challenges. From green screens and lights in our living rooms, to matching up the Makaton with the class footage (ensuring the speech and signing are in unison) - all whilst working in isolation! However, our teachers found that Makaton was a really useful tool in keeping the content of the classes concise and clear. A key learning was to try and simplify the language of the sessions, to aid children's understanding. Knowing that the footage was being sent to Nic to sign really helped our teachers, as Nic would then pull out the key concepts, instructions and words from their speech to sign. This in turn helped the teachers realise the key message of their dialogue, and reduce their language as much as possible, to concentrate the content.

We are now on session 7 of our weekly virtual classes and the response has been phenomenal.  We’re up to 100,000 views across our platforms and we’ve been covered by a host of national TV programmes including Good Morning Britain, This Morning, Sky News and Channel 4.  We’ve had a sea of emails, messages and social posts from families as well as health, social care and education professionals saying how valued these new resources are.  We know they are being used in homes across the UK but also in settings like children’s hospices and hospitals and SEN schools looking after key workers’ and vulnerable children.  The thread through all the responses is the sense that disabled children and their families don’t feel alone – they feel connected again and part of something.

Feedback from families regularly includes the delight in Makaton being used so heavily, and some of the videos we’ve received show children excitedly pointing to Nic signing on the screen.  We hope that our classes will provide people with truly meaningful experiences that brighten their day and provide joy in the moment. We also hope they empower our young people - building confidence in their abilities and helping them learn new skills, whilst also celebrating who they are and creating a community of people that feel included, recognised and able to fulfil their potential.

 

Update: Flamingo Chicks have won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Author

Katie Sparkes

16th June 2020

Out and about

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

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