At work

Grant Wetherall – Tutor for 26 years
07/11/2022

Grant Wetherall – Tutor for 26 Years 

GrantMy quest to become a Regional Tutor for Makaton began in 1994 when I was a student social worker in London investigating an abuse case in a care home. I quickly discovered that all the residents could sign, and I couldn’t. Makaton was such a powerful communication tool for the professionals and residents who could sign. Its use was invaluable as part of the investigation to bring charges against the abusers (Longcare Scandal, Buckinghamshire). I then went on to qualify in 1996 under Margaret Walker MBE (founder of Makaton), and Jean Parratt senior adviser.

Since qualifying in 1996, I have gone on to teach more than 3,000 participants.

Highlights:

  • Setting up the very first Makaton Champion Scheme in Northern Ireland
  • Awarding five Makaton Friendly Awards
  • Cross Community training for West & East Belfast (Ledley Hall Youth Club)
  • Demonstrating the Makaton Programme to the following courts: London High Court, Belfast High Court, Belfast Laganside Court, and Londonderry Crown Court
  • Published articles in Community Care magazine (communicating with disabled people).
  • Training a wide variety of companies, charities and health Trusts. Selections below:
  • London Boroughs of Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Lambeth and Richmond upon Thames
  • In Northern Ireland the following Trusts: Southern Health and Social Care, Northern Health and Social Care, South Eastern Health and Social Care
  • Sure Start, Contact-a-family, Praxis Care, Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI), Mencap (in London and Northern Ireland), the Scout Association (HQ London), United Response, Bayis Sheli (Orthodox Jewish Community Residential Home in North London)
  • A number of schools including Irish speaking schools in Belfast
  •  Setting up a Peer Tutor in Belfast
  • Finally, and for a bit of fun, teaching/signing a few of the Spice Girls’ songs in Richmond Park, Surrey with Margaret Walker MBE, and Norma Wingfield (senior tutor/advisor) for a disability awareness weekend in 1999. (Holy Park).

A word of encouragement from Stephen Hall CEO of The Makaton Charity:

Grant, firstly, many thanks and congratulations for such sterling service. We couldn’t achieve what we do without the passion, enthusiasm, and hard work that you put in. So, a big thank you.

Grant Wetherall

Makaton Regional (Licensed) Tutor - Established 1996









If you'd like to find out more about training to be a Makaton Tutor please visit our Become a Makaton Tutor page for more information on how to get started on your journey.

Author

Grant Wetherall

7th November 2022

At work

Odie’s Odd Odyssey
01/09/2022

Odie’s Odd Odyssey 

Lotus Lovers and Beatrice  Odie’s Odd Odyssey is Head2Head Sensory Theatre’s latest Makaton-signed, multi-sensory and interactive film, and is available on YouTube for FREE! Just click here to view on YouTube 

Join Odie as part of the ship's crew on their treacherous journey home to Ithaca. Head2Head Sensory Theatre's story is based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Alongside Odie and his friends, you will be entranced by the lotus flowers, escape from Cyclops, enjoy a little bit of luxury, be turned into a pig and much much more!

When you click on the YouTube link for Odie’s Odd Odyssey, you will see the description contains a further link to an accompanying film guide explaining how the multi-sensory and interactive moments work. There are also links to a YouTube playlist, with craft-activities and dance moves to complement the film, and a resource pack which can be found on the Head2Head Sensory Theatre website. The pack suggests a list of bits and bobs to gather together beforehand for a truly multi-sensory and interactive experience. There are things to make too, like a piggy nose, and these are demonstrated by the actors as part of the Odie’s Odd Odyssey YouTube playlist. In addition, the pack contains the storyline and song lyrics (also in widgets), as well as other games and activities

EmilyAnd we are delighted to introduce Emily Monk who is playing the role of Athena.

Emily auditioned for us as part of our professional placement scheme. This is her first paid role! We were also fortunate to have the voice skills of Annabel Inskip and Joss Perring as Muse 1 and Muse 2. Annabel and Joss, along with Archie Smith (in charge of sound during filming), are part of our Work Experience Programme run in conjunction with the Orpheus Centre. You can also see Archie introducing the craft and dance activities on the YouTube Playlist. We even have our patron, the disability campaigner Samantha Renke, voicing a god!

We hope you enjoy watching and joining in with Odie’s Odd Odyssey.  And please remember to hit subscribe on our YouTube channel!

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & TikTok @h2htheatre

www.h2hsensorytheatre.com

Previous blogs from Head2Head Sensory Theatre

Head2Head Sensory Theatre
Head2Head Sensory Theatre (Part 2)

Author

Sara Cole

Artistic Director
Head2Head Sensory Theatre

1st Sptember 2022

At work

The making of Makaton Insights
31/08/2022

The making of Makaton Insights

Makaton Tutor Jess McQueen was involved in creating the Makaton Insights campaign and shares the journey to launching the campaign, the benefits and plans for the coming year. You can find the daily Makaton Insights on social media and within the Makaton Library (additional exclusive Insights are available for members)

Jess McQueenFirstly, I am proud to have been a part of creating the Makaton Insights for 2022 in collaboration with Zanna Finnerty, Alex Jordan and Nic Pike. The idea of the insights campaign was developed through thinking of ways to engage Makaton Users in activities that would not only strength their skills but broaden their knowledge and vocabulary.

From playing around with different interactive activities and games, the names were chosen to fit with the names of the week – you can never go wrong with a bit of alliteration! The themes for 2022 are ‘Topic Tuesday’, ‘Which Wednesday’, ‘Thesaurus Thursday’, ‘Fun Friday’, ‘Makaton Moments’ and ‘Scavenger Sunday’.

The Insights are a fun, engaging and interactive way to develop Makaton skills as well as broadening the knowledge, awareness and understanding of the Language Programme. They are designed to involve everyone – family, friends, schools, nurseries, colleges, workplaces, community groups etc. regardless of if they are a Makaton User or not.

With the success of the 2022 insights and the positive feedback we have had, new insights are currently being designed for 2023. They will be presented in a range of activities that will continue to widen skills and knowledge, as well as develop symbol recognition and alphabet skills. Without the involvement of the community, the insights would not be successful. So I, alongside The Makaton Charity, thank you all so much for your enthusiasm to take part in the insights.

Jess McQueen (Makaton Tutor)

Click here for more information on Makaton Insights 

Author

Jess M

31st August 2022

At work

Diary of a Makaton Ambassador
22/08/2022

The Diary of a Makaton Ambassador

Amica writing on a flip chartTutors encounter so many Makaton users and their families/ professionals around them, at different stages in their lives. As such, we often wonder how those people are getting on. Are they still using Makaton? Are they still supported with their communication?

Well, this year, Makaton Ambassadors Sarah Laszlo and Amica Davies got to find out! (For privacy reasons we are calling the young person Ben.)

In the early 2000s, Sarah Laszlo was delivering some Makaton training for parents and carers in Shropshire in an Early Years setting. There were some parents that really stood out; they absorbed everything and were super keen to get started with Makaton to ensure they could communicate with their child who had significant communication needs. Little did Sarah know that years later their child would be a student at Derwen College where she worked as a teacher, Makaton Tutor and Learner Voice Lead. Derwen College is a National Specialist College which has been considered a centre of excellence for Makaton, so this was ideal for Ben.

Sarah LaszloBen’s parents recognised Sarah straight away and she remembered them. This gave Ben a link and he often sought Sarah out to share a joke or to talk about football, always using Makaton to augment his speech. His confidence really grew in an environment where everyone was using Makaton.

Ben has now left Derwen. His parents and family are still passionate about using Makaton but earlier this year felt that they really needed a refresher. However, as fulltime carers for their son, they were not in a position to be able to leave him to go on a course. In usual circumstances, Makaton training is for parents, carers, professionals etc that support a Makaton user rather than for the person themselves. However, when Ben’s parents approached Course Beetle, the organisation running the Level 1 and 2 workshops, they explained their situation and asked them to consider Ben accessing the course with them. They felt he would manage the theory side of the workshop. After lots of communication at all levels and considerable consideration, Course Beetle agreed that Ben could come along. They ensured there were clear boundaries and that everyone had a full understanding of the situation.

In May 2022, Ben and his parents accessed Makaton training, this time with me, Amica, as the lead tutor. When they learned that I also used to work at Derwen with Sarah, they were so pleased and shared Ben’s journey with Makaton. They remembered Sarah Laszlo and Julie Hawkins, the Speech and Language Therapist and Makaton Senior Tutor from Derwen too.

Ben was an absolute pleasure to have on the course and really in his element; he was beaming with pride each time he produced his signed sentences. In fact, so proud he took a bow after each one! His parents were thrilled as Ben, in usual circumstance, has social anxiety. But there, with everyone speaking ‘his language’ he was confident and communicative.

In our training we frequently talk about the importance of continued use of Makaton and how it is essential that there is a shared communication system to increase the opportunities to communicate. Ben was a real life example of this! Thank you, Ben, we have loved working with you on your Makaton journey and hope to see you and your family again as you continue that journey!

Author
Amica Davies

22nd August 2022

At work

Makaton Ambassador - A day in the life
27/06/2022

Makaton Ambassador - A day in the life

KerryIt is just over two years since the first cohort of Makaton Ambassadors were asked to become Ambassadors.

As Ambassadors we all undertake different tasks around different skills sets or areas of interest and knowledge. We have regular meetings online with senior management along with the Senior Tutors to discuss and update different matters. Being a Makaton Ambassador is a voluntary role and we all do our best to fit this around other family and work commitments.

There are many different duties and projects to work on as Ambassadors. Some of these over the past years have included:

  • Updating the Safeguarding Workshop and the Safeguarding Train the Trainer course for Tutors to attend
  • Supporting and mentoring the second cohort of Trainee Ambassadors
  • Supporting the wider Makaton Tutor, Trainer and community network through emails, telephone calls and monitoring MakaChat on the Hub
  • Trialling and developing different software programmes and providing feedback
  • Updating resources available to Trainers and Tutors regarding Makaton Signing for Babies and Families. Introducing a Makaton Trainer MakaChat area, network, study days and logo polo shirts
  • Supporting the Makaton Charity virtually and face to face with events such as study days and fundraising events
  • Sharing ideas of how to fill any gaps there may be in available resources and Makaton signs and symbols (and developing and producing the resources)
  • As a team we share ideas on how to raise the profiles of different schemes or areas of training and practise our signing and symbol knowledge together

There are so many different ways to support and move The Makaton Charity forward as a team and a community. The main barrier I have found is that there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in! It is really exciting to see how The Makaton Charity is shaping and developing to become a sustainable service for the future whilst responding to the needs of our Makaton community and their environments. I for one am very proud to be part of that team to shape things.

Author

Kerry C

27th June 2022

At work

Makaton scavenger hunt
27/06/2022

Makaton Scavenger Hunt

 Staff from South Staffordshire College at the scavenger hunt

South Staffordshire College staffFor South Staffordshire College’s end of term Staff Wellbeing Celebration and Awards Event the college’s Teaching and Learning Team and resident Makaton experts Alison Fawdrey & Carol Barr came together to work on a project which would raise the awareness of Augmented Reality and Makaton to all the college’s academic, business and support staff.

The team developed an Augmented Reality (AR) scavenger hunt where staff followed a series of Augmented Reality Checkpoint posters located across the college’s Rodbaston campus. Staff triggered the digital content and tried to complete the hidden questions and activities from the Augmented Reality posters. On the way staff learnt about the college campus and what it has to offer to both staff and learners, learn some Makaton signs, whilst having a great time.

South Staffordshire College playing drumsThe staff wellbeing event was held at the colleges Rodbaston campus on Friday 8th July 2022 and incorporated fun activities including live music, raffles, drum for fun, laughing yoga, encounters with animals and reptiles, a free BBQ and awards presented to staff by the college’s executive leadership team.

Steve Wileman Head Of Digital Learning said:

“The wellbeing day was a great success and the Augmented Reality activity allowed staff to discover parts of the campus they have never visited before. Instead of relying on written notes to navigate around the college campus, the Augmented Reality and Makaton content turned this into an interactive experience by introducing digital items into their journey. Makaton signing was one of the quiz elements for each of the AR web trail posters. Staff downloaded the free AR platform Zappar (or simply used the QR code from their smart phone camera ).

At each AR poster, staff pointed their phone at the AR/QR code poster, which triggered information , videos and quiz elements. Alison demonstrated relevant Makaton signs for staff to learn as they progressed around the campus and completed the AR Webtrail and quiz.”

QR CodeJanine Magee Head Of Teaching & Learning said:

“Makaton reached every staff member at the college who took part in the AR web trail. At lunch time when staff collect their free burgers they were encouraged to say “thank you” in Makaton when they received their food. Staff really enjoyed learning the Makaton signs and are now contacting Alison, Carol and the Teaching and Learning Service to embed both Makaton & Augmented Reality into their lessons.”

Based on staff feedback from the Wellbeing day the college’s Digital Technologist Jake Owen & Makaton experts have been developing more AR web trail activities and posters that incorporate Makaton signing for the colleges September learner inductions. An example can be seen below.

Scan to experience the QR/AR content yourself.

Author

Steve W

2nd September 2022

At work

Everyone has the right to communicate
14/02/2022

Everyone has the right to communicate

Karen Baxter
Karen thumbs up

I have a long history with Makaton, first encountering it as a student around 1984. Working as a primary and then SEN teacher, I used Makaton on a daily basis for the last 20 years of my teaching career.

Having seen the impact it had on the communication skills and confidence of young people, I promoted its use in my final role as the headteacher of a local special school. We also had a successful signing choir made up of pupils and staff from across the school, and even made it to the final of a local choir competition.

My training was outdated, so I completed Levels 1 to 4 in 2020, before taking part in Tutor training in May 2020. I have attended Makaton Signing for Babies, Makaton with Singing, and the Safeguarding Workshop, and I am hoping to become a Safeguarding Trainer this year.

All of the training has been of high quality, and focuses on such a wide range of needs through the breadth of the workshops. The Tutor training also enabled me to make positive contacts within the Makaton community, and through our very supportive Tutor trainee group.

I made the difficult decision to leave education in 2020 to gain a better work-life balance, and to pursue my interests in singing and Makaton. I am completing a course in song therapy, as well as having trained as a Makaton Tutor. I now deliver Makaton workshops, so far online, but hopefully these will become face-to-face soon.

It is exciting to be able to share my enthusiasm for Makaton with others. There are no other tutors in my area and I am very keen to raise the profile of Makaton locally.

To combine my two passions of singing and Makaton, I run online song and sign groups, and am planning to deliver face-to-face song and sign sessions soon. I also make videos for my Makaton Tutor YouTube channel and enjoy the challenge of translating songs into Makaton, and sharing these with others.

Makaton has made a huge difference to the lives of many young people I have worked with, and this was why I wanted to become a Tutor.

I have also found that Makaton has been a powerful tool for emotional support, especially during the pandemic. During the first Covid lockdown, my school used videos, often featuring Makaton signing, as one way of keeping in touch with our families. These had a strong effect on families and staff morale at a difficult time. As well as developing confidence and fluency through signing songs, in my song and sign groups we have been able to use Makaton as a way of keeping in touch during Covid restrictions. The combination of song and signing supports wellbeing, as we focus on songs with a positive message such as friendship and resilience.

Everyone has the right to be able to communicate. You can be part of this. Look on the Makaton Hub and contact your local Tutor.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Makaton Tutor, please visit How can I teach Makaton 

Author
Karen Baxter 

14th February 2022

At work

My Makaton mission
14/02/2022

My Makaton Mission

Leanne

I first began my Makaton Journey back in 2012, and now I am a Makaton Tutor and a Training Administrator for the Charity. What a journey it has been!

So, why Makaton? I have always been inspired by Makaton users, to know that I could be a small part of an ever-growing team, that supports over 100,000 children and adults to use Makaton as either their main method of communication, or to support speech, is a privilege.

After completing the Foundation and Enhancement workshops with a supportive Tutor, I took my newfound skills and motivation back with me to the education setting where I worked. There, I began implementing a whole school approach to using Makaton, with signs and symbols to promote inclusion and give consistency for the learners in their chosen form of communication.

After working in education for a number of years, and using Makaton in several different settings around the United Kingdom, to see the invaluable impact that the Makaton Language Programme has to break down extrinsic communication barriers for so many and give people a voice was so rewarding. As it is to witness the diversity of lives for those who use Makaton, including those with English as an Additional Language and those with poor literacy skills, transform.

In the classroom, the benefits of using Makaton were clear. Makaton can support all its users across different establishments, incorporating it into everyday life for children, young people, and adults, due to its flexible, multimodal approach, which can be adapted to suit all learning styles in a fun and interactive way. These positive and life changing experiences for others motivated me to become a Makaton Tutor.

In 2020, during lockdown, through the online training platform I retrained and completed Level 1-4 Makaton workshops, to ensure that once I started on my Tutor training journey that my knowledge of the Makaton Language programme was the best it could be.

As a Tutor, I thoroughly enjoy meeting and working with people, from all backgrounds, who have many different reasons for wanting to learn Makaton, The Makaton Charity, and other Tutors. From supporting people on the first step of their Makaton journey, then continuous support to guide them through the levels, and some who leave training and progress on to become Tutors. For me, representing the Charity and being a Makaton Tutor is such a privilege.

To be able to support Makaton users and other passionate individuals with their training, and hearing inspiring stories from past participants, made me want to immerse myself further in supporting The Makaton Charity, which led me to become a training administrator. A common factor that I have seen across the Makaton family is that everyone works so hard and strives to uphold the core values to improve the lives of those who use Makaton by enabling everyone to successfully communicate in a way that is appropriate and effective for them. Being a part of the Makaton family makes me proud every day.

Leanne's top tip

A great way of incorporating Makaton symbols for some users into a pre-planned teaching activity, is to draw the symbol that you are focusing on into sand or shaving foam. This is a fun way to engage with symbols, while signing the concept and developing fine motor skills.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Makaton Tutor, please visit How can I teach Makaton 

 

Author
Leanne Hipkiss           

14th February 2022

At work

Sam's Tutor Training Journey
14/02/2022

Sam's Tutor Training Journey 

Sam demonstrating the sign for time

Hello, my name is Sam, and I am a Makaton Tutor from London via Scotland. I am originally from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, but I live in London now. I recently got my licence as a Makaton Tutor, and wanted to share my journey to this point.

After I left school, quite a few years ago, I began my professional training in contemporary dance and classical ballet at the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, Dundee, and went on to complete my studies in Musical Theatre at TTC, Essex.

Since graduating I have been super lucky to have worked around the world performing: it’s my absolute passion. But, parallel to a performing career, I have worked as a consultant in development and producing roles in creative learning, education, and health and wellbeing.

In 2017, I switched gears a little and found the path I really wanted to go down. I found interest in learning and development for children and adults who have severe or complex needs, adverse childhood experiences and trauma. It was through this interest, while back in Scotland for a few years, that I got to really focus on working in this sector.

I started teaching some dance classes in additional support needs schools, just a few hours a week, which quickly turned into a full-time job. Five years later and now I work as a specialist consultant with various organisations. I have worked on creative programmes with local authorities working specifically in SEN/D settings to support students with their learning, and health and well-being. I also support staff with training and implementing the skills I have learned and developed over the years, into their practise, and helping to make the organisations more diverse and inclusive.

Sam performing

Makaton has been a real thread throughout all my work.

I was recently awarded funding from Aberdeen City Council Creative Learning and Creative Scotland to run a project called ‘Singing the Signs; A Community in Harmony’. Students worked through a programme using different ways of communication, such as sign language, song, spoken word, music, and dance.

The end goal is to achieve the ‘Makaton Friendly Award’ with my nominated participating school/host Skene Square Primary in the centre of Aberdeen. This award, on certification, will demonstrate that the young people have created a safe and welcoming environment for those who use Makaton as a communication aid. Participating young people will obtain a new awareness of communication, methodology of creating a fair community and enrich their youthful caring spirit while grasping a unique understanding of the world around them. Five members of the teaching team have completed the Level 1 Makaton Workshop and the rest of the staff have completed the Makaton Taster session.

Now it was time to think about Makaton Tutor Training…

This was something I had been working towards since I was first introduced to Makaton back in 2017. I completed my Level 1 and 2 back in 2018, but before I could sign up to the Tutor Training, I needed to complete my Level 3 and 4. But, I had some personal obstacles to overcome before I could think about this.

In the summer of 2020, I was in an accident and as a result I broke quite a lot of bones. My spine, both feet, ribs and both my wrists in two places. While I recovered in hospital, I was concerned that my future with Makaton would be over. The injuries in my wrists were so severe that I couldn’t use them for weeks. I had to learn how to write again, hold objects – it was tough. But after some time, I could see that I’d be able to get at least 70% function back.

Sam signing

I have lost rotation in my hands which makes some signing difficult, cheese is a hard sign for me, but I am so happy I can do most things now.

I would sit, as part of my rehabilitation mentally and physically, and listen to music and sign along. At first, it was terrible, I couldn’t do any of it, but I kept pushing. My song of choice was ‘Greatest Day’ by Take That. It was a song I had sung with students at Orchard Brae School in Aberdeen for many years, so it brought some happy memories into what was a rather miserable situation.

The benefit of doing this helped me to see a future and made the long days go past a little quicker. It was here that I really understood the joy that Makaton brings into people’s lives. Of course, I have loved adding Makaton into my practise, but it was a part of my job, something I needed to achieve my goals as a practitioner. I never looked at it from a participant’s point of view. Now, more than ever, I appreciate Makaton across the board – and fully relate to the love that participants show it.

I completed my Level 3 and 4 during my time in recovery. I signed up to do these workshops with Ambassador Tutor, Amanda Glennon. Since then, Amanda has been an absolute dream supporting me with my studies, writing my reference letter for my tutor training, and always being on hand to support me personally and professionally. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tutor training. It was all online and I was super lucky to have such a fantastic group of Tutor trainees on the call, alongside our tutors Tracy and Sarah, who took us through the whole programme.

I was a little nervous going into the training as I knew there was a lot to learn, but the week is carefully planned out and a great level of support is always provided. Of course, it was challenging and hard at times, but it was so worth it. I am excited to now be part of the Tutor network, and can’t wait to see where my career progresses with Makaton.

Check out Sam's social media: Instagram / Facebook / YouTube

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Makaton Tutor, please visit How can I teach Makaton 

Author
Sam Stephen 

14th February 2022

At work

Head2Head Sensory Theatre (Part 2)
13/09/2022

Head2Head Sensory Theatre (part 2)

Two young actors on stage
Head2Head logo

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

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

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

The last 6 months

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

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

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

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

Green is the new screen!

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

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

Harry

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

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

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

Piccolo Pinocchio

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

Lauren

Lauren as J Crick the Cricket

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

Actor dancing

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

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

Phil GallagherWhale

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

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

And there’s more

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

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

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

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

Awesome August

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

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

Author

Sara Cole

Artistic Director
Head2Head Sensory Theatre

28th July 2021

At work

Access to healthcare is for all
25/06/2021

Access to healthcare is for all

Nikki H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author

Nikki H

Paramedic, NHS UK

25th June 2021

At work

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
13/09/2022

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

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

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 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