The power of Makaton 

Honor Brownie PromiseAt the age of 9, Honor Godfree has just achieved her Brownie Gold Award, the highest attainment in Brownies, and one of the interest badges that she completed for the Skills For My Future theme is her Languages badge. The badge has three tasks for the Brownie to complete: using four or more phrases to be understood; learning about where the language comes from, who uses it, etc.; share your skills.

Honor was very eager to use her Makaton knowledge in this badge, with a clear understanding that Makaton isn’t a language like BSL but rather a language programme with symbols, signs and spoken words. The phrases she chose to share for part 1 of the badge included “my name is Honor”, reminding me that she stopped her hand at the end of the non-dominant hand for H “otherwise it means clean”!

Honor started her Makaton journey when she was just three. After qualifying as a tutor, I had started a Makaton sing and sign group at her mother’s childminding business and Honor was among the first cohort of preschoolers who made funny frog faces, learned colours through the Gruffalo song, and animals through Room on the Broom. Since then, Home From Home has become a Makaton Friendly company, with Makaton embedded in its practice.

For the second part of the badge challenge, Honor talked about the use of symbols around the childminding area, including drawn by hand in large scale on toy storage boxes, to enable the little ones to make choices. She also loves watching how the babies and toddlers start to use their signs to communicate, often before spoken language.

For the past 4 years, Honor has attended a weekly Makaton choir with other children, both preschool and school-age, firstly at a local care home, then during covid on zoom, and now back as a fully intergenerational group in a retirement village. She supports younger children with their signing, and does a really good job of sharing the joys of Makaton with our new friends amongst the older adults.

For the “share your skills” part of the badge, she took the lead in performing We Don’t Talk About Bruno, encouraging all the other children to take part and reminding them of the words/signs as needed, for the village residents, none of whom had ever heard of Encanto, didn’t have a clue what the song was about (!), but who absolutely loved the performance.

Honor’s favourite signed song is You’ll Be In My Heart, and she particularly loves the video by Singing Hands at Great Ormond Street Hospital. As a 26-week preemie, Honor spent the first few months of her life in a children’s hospital and experienced a lot of hospital appointments as a toddler and an emergency operation when she was 5. Family friends from her NICU months have had a very different story and the magical mix of the words of You’ll Be In My Heart with the signing from everyone in the GOSH family, from parents, to consultants, to nurses, to porters, really exemplifies, for Honor, the power of Makaton to connect us all and build relationships through better communication.