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.
For 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.
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.
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.