How important is Makaton as part of your family day out?
Claire, Brooklyn and Bella share their day at Alton Towers – March 2022
Planning a day out for the family can be very daunting at times even for families who don’t have to factor in a child with additional needs.
Most families just take into account what will make everyone happy and if you have children of different ages this can be very difficult even at the best of times.
Thing I have to think about even before I've left the house include things like Parking. Will there be disabled bays? Even trying to navigate through a car park safely can be stressful, with bags, a disability pushchair, excited children to control. So parking as close as you can from moving vehicles just to keep your children safe is a big factor especially if they have no understanding of danger. Also trying to find a venue with plenty of accessible toilets can also be the deciding factor whether you go or not. There needs to be plenty of room, just the right lighting, changing facilities and appropriate hand dryers. The majority of places don't even think about this, but I can tell you from experience my daughter could be desperate for the toilet but if she hears the new powerful loud hand dryers before we've even stepped into it she cannot even enter the room. Her hands clasp over her ears like she's in pain and she cries. Then I have to think about food. What's available, hot/cold, whether we can eat inside or have to sit outside. Will it have loud music playing, will I be able to manoeuvre around the tables, will the queue be too long when ordering. I've had to walk out of many a place before today as so many triggers have caused a meltdown. So, with all this to plan in the trip all I have to do is find an inclusive venue to entertain ALL the family that ticks all the right boxes.
Well, I found it Alton Towers! Not only does it entertain from very young ages but through to emerging dare devil's and those crazy thrill seekers! I can finally relax here and go at our own pace, because it is that diverse you can pick and choose exactly what you want your day to look like and let's face it any parent/carer with children /adults with additional needs to be able to retreat at some point in the day. But what makes Alton Towers even more special is that the staff can communicate with my daughter. Something that I have never considered planning into the day before as nowhere else has offered this to us before! Unbelievable isn't it!
My daughter is a Makaton user and uses sign to communicate. Bella was born with Down Syndrome and has global development delay. People will ask me what's she saying? As they struggle to understand her. And I have to usually answer for her. So, to watch her have a conversation with the staff is amazing and well for Bella it's everything. You can see how happy she is. Alton Towers have just opened up doors and made a good day even better with the help from Makaton Tutor Amanda Glennon. With just a few basic signs they were able to ask her how she was, was she having a good day, did she like Peter Rabbit and sign back. I am so grateful to them for acknowledging and accepting we are all different and for them learning how to sign. You see it's not about my daughter fitting in society, its about society understanding we are all unique and educating yourself firstly so you can support others.
Brooklyn, Bellas sister has been using Makaton for about 6 years now. Both the girls love to sing and sign. So, to walk around Alton Towers and be greeted in sign and have symbols you can follow it just feels very inclusive. All the family can interact with entertainers, shop staff, guest services. I think they can all use Makaton so it just brings down that barrier of them and you because they can continue to talk with the use of Makaton to support the conversation. Simply the icing on the cake.
Kate McBirnie, head of guest excellence at Alton Towers Resort said: "We want our teams to be able to engage and communicate on all levels. Equipping frontline teams with these skills will help guests feel more included in experiences at the park, particularly young guests visiting CBeebies Land and the CBeebies Hotel”
Makaton Ambassador Amanda Glennon said, “Alton Towers Resort continues to understand the importance of using Makaton in communication and they continues to strive to make their attractions as accessible and inclusive as possible. The entertainments team are front and centre of communication with guests and this training helps them understand Makaton and really get confident with their enhanced communication skills.”