Your stories

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

Kirsty's Makaton Journey
29/06/2022

Kirsty's Makaton Journey

Kirsty with Level 3 certificateMy name is Kirsty. I have a learning disability and autism. 

I wanted to learn Makaton to help me communicate with people who I go to day services who use it and people who live in the same supported living flats that I live in. At one of my day activities I’ve started to communicate with a Makaton user and last week they gave me a really big hug to show they were happy with me signing to them.

I did Level 1, 2 and 3 with Nic Pike who runs relaxed sessions for people who have additional needs. This was perfect for me because it was spread over 8 weeks and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. I am planning on doing Level 4 with her later this year. I also joined her weekly club and met other people with disabilities like myself. It was nice we could all get together online. I also attend Singing Hands choir once a month which regularly refreshes my mind signing and singing

It’s really important to me that I can learn Makaton and communicate with people who use it. I go to day services and clubs that Makaton users attend and I want to be able to say hello to them. Or ask them their name. It's really important to me that I can talk to everyone who goes not just the people who can talk.

I joined the Makaton website and had a free membership at first. Then I got a free trial after I had done my level one training. I really liked it because I could look up symbols and signs I forgot and see them. You can see the pictures of the symbols and the pictures and videos of the signs. The videos are really helpful. I like the symbols and I have downloaded them to make easy read recipes for me to use at home. It’s nice when my friends come round and we use them to cook together.

I downloaded the Rainbow Bunting and signs sheet for Pride month as I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and it was really fantastic Makaton made resources for this. I have downloaded other resources as well to learn new words like the one of the summer signs and the advent calendar at Christmas. There is lots and lots on there that helps me learn and is also fun.

Kirsty signing the letter PWith the cost of living and all my bills going up I was worried about being able to continue to do Level 4 and have my membership to the Makaton library. There are lots of things on there which help and I want to do my Level 4 this year. One of the staff from the company who supports me is a Makaton Tutor and she found me a link through Mencap to apply for funding to use for either my level four or membership so I can continue to learn, attend sessions and access the resources. They helped me complete the application and I found out this week my application was successful and I have been given a grant. I didn’t know I could get anything like a grant or help for things like this. I feel very lucky and I wanted to share my story.

I am really happy I can continue my Makaton journey and be able to communicate with people who use it. I’m excited to do my Level 4 and keep using the library to check signs and download symbols to make my recipe collection bigger and bigger. And I am excited to see what more things like the Pride resources Makaton make in the future for me to download.

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

Kirsty S

29th June 2022

At home

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 is for everyone
10/05/2022

Makaton is for everyone

Abigail

AbigailMy name is Abigail and am 27 years old. I was diagnosed with learning disabilities and other medical issues.

My Makaton journey started back in January 2022 when I started to become interested in learning Makaton. I have learnt over 100 or more signs so far, and I am doing absolutely incredibly at it! This has continued through watching Singing Hands DVDs too, which has been amazing: hopefully by the end of 2022 this continues throughout the coming months and years.

I can’t believe how well I am doing as an adult with disabilities. Makaton has become my absolute favourite thing do.

This journey is going to be incredible, Makaton is for everyone not just those with a speech delay. If you want to learn something new, try Makaton; it has made a difference in my life and especially the people around me.

Thank you

Love Abigail xxx

Author

Abigail

20th April 2022

At home

Makaton at Alton Towers
09/05/2022

Makaton at Alton Towers

Claire, Brooklyn and Bella at Alton Towers
Claire, Brooklyn and Bella at Alton Towers

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.

BellaWell, 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!

Brooklyn & Bella

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

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”

Amanda Glennon with Alton Towers staff

 

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.”



Makaton Friendly places have invested in their staff and premises to meet key criteria and improve accessibility for anyone living with learning or communication difficulties. Click here to visit our Makaton Friendly Map to find Makaton Friendly places near to you.
Author

Claire

13th April 2022

Out and about

Trusted Travel Buddies
09/05/2022

Trusted Travel Buddies

Anna at Trusted Travel Buddies completed Makaton training in 2021, having launched the company in 2019. Anna decided to learn Makaton to better enhance the communication of the adults she supports on their chosen holidays.

I first heard about Makaton when I was supporting an adult with learning disabilities who uses Makaton as her preferred method of communication. Shelly was the driving force for me to learn Makaton to better enhance our communication.

In 2021 I completed Levels 1-4 of Makaton. I found the training enjoyable. Special Thanks must go to Hannah Williams Makaton who truly excels at her profession as a Makaton Tutor. Her passion and enthusiasm shines through making the training upbeat and fun.

Trusted Travel Buddies offers bespoke tailormade holidays to adults with additional support needs. Launched in Dec 2019, despite the Pandemic we are delighted to have supported 24 adults away on their chosen holidays. Now that restrictions are hopefully beginning to ease, we are looking forward to a busy summer in 2022 supporting adults with learning disabilities to really live their finest lives.

Trusted Travel Buddies is delighted to be the first business in the Highlands to have been awarded Makaton Friendly Status. Hip hip horray! I would highly recommend adults and businesses to explore the joy of learning Makaton so they can allow Makaton Users to feel welcomed, respected and valued.

Find out more about Becoming a Makaton Friendly Partner

Author

Anna M

25th April 2022

Out and about

Pixie's Makaton journey
09/05/2022

Pixie's Makaton Journey

Pixie with her son

Pixie has been using Makaton since 2007, at first attending workshops and using resources on the website. She has then worked through the Makaton Workshops to become a Makaton Signing for Babies and Families Trainer and recently trained to become a Makaton Tutor. Pixie embraces Makaton into her family and work life, enthusiastically encouraging others to the benefits of using Makaton to support.

Pixie with her son

I first heard about Makaton in a training newsletter from my local council back in 2007. I then completed my first Makaton Workshop when I was working in a pre-school. The other courses I found using your fabulous website, until I met a wonderful tutor Marina Horrocks who really went “above and beyond” in her ongoing support with my training and Makaton use. Marina took me through everything from my Level 3 upwards and wrote my recommendation letter from Tutor Training. I literally couldn’t have got this far without her and will be forever grateful to her for all of her help and support.

On my Tutor Training it was a real pleasure being trained by Tracy Clark and Sarah Howard, and having such a supportive group of fellow trainees! Since then I’ve had the opportunity and felt really privileged to join Zanna Finnerty, Amanda Glennon and Kerry Crawley on Makaton Signing for Babies and Families Study Days, which has been so beneficial for my CPD. They were great fun and I would highly recommend them to other MSB (MSBF) trainers.

I am very eagerly awaiting the Train the Trainer Course for the revised Using Makaton with Singing to enable me to teach this one as a Tutor too. Singing is a huge part of our family and work life here and Singing Hands play a massive role in that – thank you Suzanne and Tracy! As well as being a Makaton Tutor we also use Makaton at home as a family and at work in my Makaton Friendly Early Years setting. My son was born prematurely and having me as a Mummy he was immediately welcomed into a world of Makaton all day, every day, even when the other children I was caring for went home. He first signed “please” at 6 months old when he wanted some pudding! And now at two, he is able to put several signs together and has a huge repertoire of signs. His understanding is phenomenal for his age and I credit this to Makaton signing, as it enabled him to grasp concepts and prepositional language much earlier.

Watching Singing HandsWe use signs in general conversation consistently all day. We have taught lots of signs to Daddy, and Grandma is working through her Makaton Signing for Babies and Families course. We also use signs and symbols at story times, singing times, to make choices (particularly at snack and mealtimes) as well as in games and activities. We attend the lovely Tracy’s Singing Hands class on a Wednesday which is just fantastic and my son loves watching their DVD’s and videos on YouTube, they are literal celebrities in our house!

My lovely husband is in the military and, unfortunately, spends a great deal of time away from us. However, Makaton has been an absolute Godsend during these times too. Sometimes, he his completely unreachable, but when he has Wi-Fi we are able to show him new signs and hold two way conversations. When he was younger, it meant my little one was able to use sign to communicate to Daddy, when he had no speech at all, and that was something truly magical to observe. It enabled them to maintain their wonderful relationship even though they were thousands of miles apart.

Makaton has a huge impact on early communication. With 18 years of Early Years experience and a degree in Children’s Learning, Development and Support myself, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be without it. It works absolute wonders in easing frustrations, gives children a voice from so early on and has had such a massive impact on my own child’s levels of understanding. I cannot recommend Makaton highly enough. I would love to get every Early Years setting using it daily and recognising it’s tremendous benefits on children’s early language and communication skills.

If you are thinking about attending Makaton Training I would say absolutely go for it, you will not be disappointed. You cannot put a price on giving someone a voice. Please do remember though that, just like speech, it takes time for users to establish and to persevere with it so don’t give up! Once your user finds their voice with Makaton it will all be worth it.

Author

Pixie N

20th April 2022

At home

My MakaHike experience
27/02/2022

My MakaHike Experience

In September 2021 I took part in The Makaton Charity’s MakaHike, Snowdon. This was an activity that was totally out of my comfort zone for so many reasons. Travelling from the Isle of Wight to Wales was a first in itself, regardless of the fact that I hadn’t met any of the participants before. 

In May 2021 I completed my Tutor Training and had passed a week before the Snowdon MakaHike. I had come across different Tutors and names from the ‘Makaton World’ throughout my journey, as well as friends that I had made during my Tutor Training course. To meet these people in ‘real life’ was a moment of success for me and a real ‘I have done this’ moment.

I remember the final car journey towards Snowdon on the morning of the hike and the realisation of how big mountains actually were – we have high hills on the IOW, but not real mountains! The adrenaline was pumping, and I was anxious and excited at the same time. Once I arrived, everyone was incredibly friendly, and I instantly felt safe and welcomed.

Everyone was an equal throughout the whole day, no one was made to feel different or unwelcomed. As we walked up Snowdon, we quickly got to know the people in our groups and hear all about their personal Makaton journey’s. It was very inspiring, and the love of Makaton shone out from us all.

When we arrived at the top feeling very wet, tired, and windswept there was an enormous feeling of family. A family who had conquered a big obstacle together for the same reason. Signing and singing the song together at the top of Mount Snowdon is one of my most precious moments and greatest achievements.

Completing this challenge has impacted the wider parts of my life – the 5 and 6 year olds that I teach at school were inspired and interested in my adventure. This opened up numerous opportunities for them such as writing, create maps, looking at mountains and learning the song with me!

This experience has made me realise that I can do anything I set my mind to, no matter how challenging it may be. It has given me confidence and made me now stand tall in situations that I would have felt inadequate in. It has given me opportunities to meet new friends and learn new skills. It has developed my love for Makaton even more (I didn’t think that was possible!), and it has given me an indescribable feeling that will last forever.

We hadn’t even got to the top when we were already talking about the next MakaHike. Travelling that far and climbing up a mountain with a group of people I did not know is something I would never have done. It has changed my life and I am so proud and thankful that I have been a part of this. Ben Nevis is going to be a hard challenge, but one I know that will be achieved by anyone who participates. With the right people around you and an open mind, anything is possible.

Would you like to take on the MakaHike 2022? Click here to find out more

Jess M
27th February 2022

Out and about

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

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

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

Bloom Baby Classes
23/01/2022

Bloom Baby Classes

Bloom logo

As baby, toddler and pre-school community groups return to their new normal, we are very excited to tell you that Bloom Baby Classes have made a commitment for their whole network to achieve Makaton Friendly Status!

Bloom Baby Classes run sensory classes for babies across the UK. Classes support parents by teaching baby play activities that can be replicated at home to support overall development. Now all class leaders make their language visual by using signs and symbols in their classes.

What was the motivation?

Jennifer Ellison, Makaton Tutor and Speech and Language Therapist, has seen how Makaton can open up communication for all children with a range of language needs. As a parent, she has seen Makaton build on language from an age far earlier than expected. Jennifer runs preschool language enrichment sessions with an aim to reach as many families as she can to unlock communication. Her ‘Little Talkers’ sessions consider the social model of disability and aim to help families to recognise the barriers that make life harder for people with communication difficulties.

By using Makaton with lots of families, she hopes that all children will continue to use signs and symbols alongside their speech as they become school-aged. Thus helping those children who rely on Makaton in their everyday talking. By removing these barriers, she aims to create equality and ultimately offer those who are experiencing communication difficulties more independence, choice and control.

How did it all start with Bloom Baby Classes?

During lockdown, Victoria Jennings (Founder of Bloom Baby Classes) set up a ‘Bloom Wellbeing’ parents group on Facebook. The aim of this group was to create a safe space for parents who were stuck at home to seek advice and share information to help support their developing babies. Victoria coordinated sessions from a range of professionals to share information with parents through motivating posts and videos.

Jennifer’s passion to offer Makaton to the wider community was noticed within the group, as she volunteered to run fun, weekly ‘Makaton Monday’ speech and language sessions for the Bloom Wellbeing families. From this, the Bloom love for Makaton took off, and a plan was put together to train all Bloom Baby Class network leaders in all of their locations across the UK!

What to look out for

Bloom class leaders are now using the Makaton Language Programme in many ways! You can look out for them signing:

  • Makaton sign of the week
  • Weekly focus topics
  • Greetings in class
  • Now/next instructions between sensory activities
  • Weekly songs linking to their topics

You can look out for symbol use within:

  • Identification of areas within class e.g. buggy park, shoe space, toilets etc
  • Class timeline of activities
  • Weekly topic board

For more information search for us on social media:

  • Little Talkers Baby/Toddler Signing Club – Jennifer Ellison
  • Bloom Baby Classes – Victoria Jennings
  • Or visit www.bloombabyclasses.com

Jennifer Ellison
23rd January 2022

Out and about

Tall Tails Theatre Company
14/01/2022

Tall Tails Theatre Company

A man standing in a prop hot air balloon
Tall Tails Theatre Logo

Richard and Abby Young founded Tall Tails Theatre Company in February 2019 in order to make theatre accessible for people in Somerset, the south-west, and for national festivals. They believe that everyone should be able to enjoy theatre and make their shows with that in mind. Tall Tails shows a supportive environment for audiences and artists where individual and collective creativity, imagination and participation are encouraged. 

Upon receiving funding from the Arts Council England Tall Tails Theatre started working with their tutor Sonia Sansom to embed Makaton in their shows. Alongside this training and support they benefited from learning about the needs of Makaton users and how it beautifully supports storytelling for all. 

Mr Popsy in a hot air balloon

Tall Tails achieved funding to make a Christmas film in 2020, “What a Superhero Wants For Christmas”. In addition to the temporary shutting of cultural venues and cancellation of many holiday events, the pandemic fast-tracked the nation into a digital world. This spelt an opportunity for Tall Tails Theatre to increase access to the arts by taking proper time and care to embed accessibility. As such, Tall Tails incorporated a wide range of access provision into What a Superhero Wants for Christmas in order to ensure the film could reach all families. It’s captioned, audio describe and Makaton is used by the characters, with disability-friendly, inclusive production, themes and language throughout.

Having brought "The Tale of the Charming Rat" to over 1000 people in 2021, Tall Tails Theatre Company are very excited to be touring “The Adventures of Madame Carol Sell and Mr Popsy” in 2022. Performing at events and venues such as,  Just So Festival, The Cockpit, Stanley Arts Centre, Wilderness Festival, The Black Cherry and The Art Bank. 




Follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Or visit  www.talltailstheatre.com to find out when they are performing near you!

Do you work in an organisation or have visited somewhere that you feel is Makaton Friendly? We have more information for organisations about Becoming a Makaton Friendly Partner. Alternatively, please contact us at help@makaton.org if you would like some more guidance  on how to help an organisation to become Makaton Friendly.

 

14th January 2022

Out and about

Nottingham Castle
13/01/2022

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle

Before The Makaton Charity relaunched their Makaton Friendly Scheme, Nottingham Castle identified that its visitors would benefit from the staff attending further training in Makaton, to support those with additional communication needs.

During the £31 million restoration project of the Castle, the Learning and Visitor Experience Manager contacted me. He advised me that at least one member of staff had been booked onto the Makaton Level 1 workshop and was now looking for an introduction/refresher/Taster for the rest of the team, in the rudiments and principles of Makaton and how it works to support learning for the very young and those with additional needs with their communication.

Naturally I was delighted to be asked to support this project, not just because I am passionate about ensuring communication is accessible for all, but also because I live in Nottingham, I know the Castle very well and I can offer that extra ongoing support. The Learning Manager and I were able to discuss, with two team leaders, the vocabulary that would best suit the learning experiences of their visitors. They wanted to provide a welcome to all of their visitors, by recognising the difficulty that some people might have in such settings. Makaton is such a visual multi modal language programme and has so many benefits, particularly in today’s current climate, with so many wearing face masks which restrict our ability to read lips and facial expressions.

The Makaton Taster workshop includes more than 34 high frequency, functional, everyday signs and symbols as standard, as well as some background, theory and principles of using Makaton. I was able to discuss with the Learning Manager and two team leaders, an extra set of vocabulary that would be specifically relevant to Nottingham Castle. This vocabulary would benefit visitors accessing the shop, castle exhibitions, galleries, activities, and other services offered within the grounds.

With recent Covid-19 restrictions having just been lifted, we were able to arrange safe face-to-face workshops for approximately 40 staff. These staff had roles in many areas, such as the Visitor Experience team, Team Leaders, Volunteers, Explainers and Meet and Greet.

I always strive to make my workshops fun and interactive, and this was no exception. The staff all embraced the elements of the Training session in a very positive manner. They asked appropriate questions, which showed that they were thinking how best to implement Makaton into their specific roles. Each participant had the opportunity to practice their Makaton by “reading” each other’s signing, translating signing sentences from me and making up their own sentences with a given selection of symbols.

After the workshops had finished that day, I had the privilege of being able to wander around the Castle and its grounds, as it hadn’t yet opened to the public. This was a fantastic and quite emotional experience for me. I could see first-hand how much hard work had gone into the renovation project. It was amazing. As I strolled around, I bumped into quite a few of the participants. They all impressed me by signing “hello” and all attempted to sign a full sentence to me, as we passed. I imagined how welcoming and inclusive this would feel as a Makaton user. I know that the confidence they have gained will mean that they will continue using Makaton and hopefully build on their training to become Makaton Friendly.

Since completing the training, I have had an email from staff at Nottingham Castle to say that they have had a lot of positive feedback from visitors who have experienced their use of Makaton.

See also: Nottingham Castle | Andrea Makaton Training

Do you work in an organisation or have visited somewhere that you feel is Makaton Friendly? We have more information for organisations about Becoming a Makaton Friendly Partner. Alternatively, please contact us at help@makaton.org if you would like some more guidance  on how to help an organisation to become Makaton Friendly.

 

Author

Andrea Patterson

13th January 2022

Out and about

Why I love Makaton Friendly Scheme
13/01/2022

Why I love the Makaton Friendly Scheme

DJ Jay with Makaton Friendly Silver certificate

In 2018, Aged 16 I became the only DJ in the UK to be Makaton Friendly. It was a proud moment, not just being recognised as an inclusive entertainer, but it also raised awareness of the need for entertainers like myself to step up and deliver an equal event experience.

Through my own close bond with my cousin Alice, a Makaton User I had a passion to make my own path and Makaton became a big part of that.

In the 3 years since then I have been blown away with the opportunities that followed this accreditation.

I have supported events for Charities all over the UK, made an appearance on CBBC Newsround and Something Special, and the highlight was meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace.

When the pandemic struck it had a devastating impact on the entertainment sector, and I was grateful that I was still able to reach children with learning disabilities/autism with virtual sessions via Zoom. I believe it made visual communication key to performances and this made sure I kept using and developing my use of Makaton.

When my Makaton Friendly license expired in 2020, I was keen to re-apply and found the scheme on hold due to Covid, with plans to relaunch in 2021. As soon as the new Makaton Friendly Scheme was launched, I began my application. I was pleased to find that as I have completed Makaton Level 2 training, I was able to apply for a Silver status.

My Silver status means that I have access to Makaton’s digital library as well as the Makaton Friendly Prompt Cards. Wherever I am I can search a concept on my phone and check the sign and symbol. This helps me include everyone live at the event, which is my number one objective.

DJ Jay's pin on the Makaton Friendly map

I love the Makaton Friendly Map, which provides a way for parents, carers, and Makaton users themselves to find organisations that use Makaton.

You can search by area postcode, say you are going on holiday somewhere and want to plan where to go. A nice new feature is to search by type so if you search DJ you will find currently DJ Jay is the only one in the UK on the map!

I love that Makaton Friendly supports not only Makaton users but also people like me raise awareness of my business and its use of inclusive communication.







Do you work in an organisation or have visited somewhere that you feel is Makaton Friendly? We have more information for organisations about Becoming a Makaton Friendly Partner. Alternatively, please contact us at help@makaton.org if you would like some more guidance  on how to help an organisation to become Makaton Friendly.

 

Author

Jake Glennon  

7th January 2022

Out and about

Strictly signing 2021
19/11/2021

Strictly signing 2021

Rose and Giovanni from Strictly Come Dancing 2021 signing Hello

Alice with her Makaton Symbol resourceSince 2017, at the age of 12, Alice has loved all things Strictly Come Dancing - the Glitter Ball, Musicals week, Blackpool and even Craig Revel Horwood!

There was a particular dance from that year that became a favourite – danced by celebrity Gemma Atkinson and professional dancer Aljaž Škorjanec, Alice still talks about it every day.

Back in 2018 I faced a problem, how to help Alice understand why Aljaž would have a new dance partner in the next series, and her beloved Gemma would not be in the show.  So, with Alice’s help I developed a ‘Match the Dance Partners’ Makaton Symbol Resource.

Making this resource each year has become our favourite activity!

As soon as the new celebrities are announced we make a resource with their Strictly announcement photo and a Makaton Symbols to show what they are famous for/what they do e.g. Actor, Olympian, TV presenter, Singer etc.

Alice enjoys getting to know the celebrities and guessing who they might be partnered. By the time launch night arrives, Alice is ready with glue stick in hand to permanently match the celebrities to their professional dance partners.

With permissions from The Makaton Charity, we started to share this resource on Alice’s #StrictlySigning webpage and were astounded that this year it was downloaded a record 683 times.

Alongside the downloads Alice began to receive messages about how fabulous the resource was, helping Strictly fans engage with the launch show and supporting memory and understanding after watching the show. We were thrilled that our resource was helping others, and it encouraged us to share of our Strictly resources.

Each week Alice and I make a new score sheet and update records of the previous weeks scores and elimination – these are all shared on Alice’s #StrictlySigning webpage. To see a simple idea support and benefit so many others is A-MAZ-ING!

What about the Signing?!

Of course, Alice’s Strictly engagement is not limited to Makaton Symbols but Makaton Signs too. Alice continues to campaign each year for more awareness of signing on mainstream TV, and this year’s response has been exceptional.

Alice makes video messages that we tweet to all the celebrities and professionals encouraging them to sign ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hello not Goodbye’ at the start of the show. Alice has seen support from Makaton Tutors and other inclusion heroes who have supported her bid. We are sure you have noticed the record number of thank yous signed each week: FAB-U-LOUS!

This year thanks to help from Alice’s friend Harry (whose Mum is Makaton Tutor Jemma Sagar), Amy Dowden and Tom Fletcher have signed Hello every week this series.

Of course this year has seen a rise awareness thanks the East Enders Actress Rose Ayling-Ellis who is deaf and a British Sign Language (BSL) user.

We believe that all signing awareness should be celebrated, respecting different ways in which we communicate is essential in an inclusive world. 

As living rooms across the UK fell silent for a few moments during week 7 of Strictly when Rose and Giovanni danced their couple choice’s. Mid performance the music stopped and they continued to dance in silence, you may have  reached for a tissue – moved by the moment and experience.

I glanced at Alice – absorbed by the dance – not even realising the music had stopped because to her the sudden loss of sound is nothing new or unexpected.

The judge Motsi said:

"In this case, I honestly feel like saying thank you. I think this was such a beautiful moment to include us in your world and for us to actually understand how important and how aware we all could be of each other genuinely everywhere. This was so special. Sometimes it's more than just marks and scores and dancing, sometimes it's just a moment."

We can all be better by having experienced that moment, respectful, kinder. More inclusive.

Alice and I can’t wait to see who will hold the Glitter Ball this year! #keepdancing #keepsigning

Visit https://inclusiveteachingmatters.com/strictlysigning/ to download the symbol resource.

Author

Amanda Glennon

19th November 2021

Out and about

Head2Head Sensory Theatre (Part 2)
28/07/2021

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

Just the way I am
12/10/2021

Just the way I am

Mr Tumble toy on Xander's desk

Xander's desk, with Mr Tumble toy and photo of Singing HandsI was born prematurely with a birth defect effecting my ability to learn to talk and I was also diagnosed with autism delaying my speech further. Makaton was my first language and it still is.

Before the age of 7 the only way I communicated was through photos, symbols, and signing. I had no verbal voice, but I did have a voice. Often it just went unheard.

Some people struggled to hear me as they were so used to using their ears, and with me they needed to listen with their eyes.

I have many childhood memories around communication from walking round a zoo needing the toilet but every time I tried to drag an adult that way they told me to “wait”, that didn’t end so well for me.

Or an earache with no way to tell anyone apart from to bang my head on the wall in the hope someone would look at it. 24 hours later when I got a runny nose I was taken to the doctors and my ear drum had burst, I had no way to express my pain.

Watching the other kids come home from school and get asked what they did that day, I got asked too but because my voice had no sound with it, other kids would shout and their attention to what I was showing them or signing quickly went, I learnt only those who are loudest get heard. Things like this did not encourage me to try.

Makaton symbol for Dog, next to a real dogOr I’d try and line up symbols to show what I needed or wanted, not always very accurately, and people would watch, guess once, and then say “have another go, I’ll be back”, yet they never came. I don’t know if it was time or confusion or frustration that they felt, but I know I felt left, given up on at times like that.

When I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted for a Christmas or birthday and I would sign “time”: they thought I was asking how long till that birthday or Christmas. I wasn’t, I was asking for their time. I needed extra time to communicate and sometimes I didn’t get that. Sometimes people didn’t even notice I had something to say. And I wanted that time back. I wanted to tell them about something, anything. I just wanted that conversation/connection all the other kids got.

But, when people did learn my way of communicating, or even just tried to give it a go and spent the time with me, they started to call me cheeky and clever rather than not calling me anything. They saw me!

When I learnt to argue and negotiate, I felt amazing. I may not have ever won the “ice cream now, dinner later” debate, but it still felt so good to be able to try!

As I aged, and after a few medical procedures, I was able to start vocalising sounds and words, but I still heavily relied on Makaton. My speech was not clear or consistent, but my Makaton was.

With my Makaton I had confidence, without it I got lost in the world.

Even when my speech progressed to a level where some would say I didn’t need symbols or signs, I really did. Nothing made this more clear than college. I started off so well, passing parts of my course but then I was faced with people telling me I would do better in the “real world” if I stopped doing “silly things” with my hands. They would constantly say “use your words”. What they didn’t see was signs and especially symbols helped me plan my day, organise my thoughts. I still needed Makaton. As a result I started to fail and I never finished college.

If I could go back in time and say five things to those who were around me as a kid I would pick the following;

  1. Listen with your eyes not just your ears.
  2. Make time. Our communication will take longer, but it’s still important.
  3. Let me use what helps me, don’t take my communication tools.
  4. Try, just try and learn my communication method, even just a few bits.
  5. Don’t give up on me, all that teaches me is to give up on myself.

Today, as an adult in my 30s, whenever someone says “do you want tea or coffee” I feel my little finger extend and my hand make the C shape: it helps me choose. I don’t drink either, but I still need those feelings and movements in my hands to vocalise that.

My home has symbol check lists for things I may forget. Reminders. Planners and random symbols of the important words or things I might need – like medication, toilet and cider!

Symbol check lists: breakfast, going out, bedtime

I have epilepsy and after a seizure, or when I am anxious or even excited, any strong emotion really, my voice doesn’t do so well on its own, but my Makaton shines. When I let it. So, it is still a massive part of my life and I love it. I just wish others loved it, embraced it, or even tried it: my life would be easier if they did.

Don’t get me wrong, some people do, my friends especially, but out in the community after a seizure, for example, I still feel like I’m in a world where I can’t ask for help or say I am OK, because people wouldn’t understand. It’s not just an anxiety, it’s a fact. I once got approached by the police as someone believed I was on drugs or under the influence of alcohol as I was uncoordinated and couldn’t speak properly. I tried signing as I had no symbols with me, but I was told to lower my hands. It was scary. Of course they apologised once they knew the truth but that didn’t stop me feeling like I’d failed, or feeling scared or frustrated. I don’t like going out on my own as much as I should, even now I avoid it when I can. Awareness is better these days, I shouldn’t have the worries I do, but history stays with us for a while.

When I was an adult, I started working in adult social care, a voluntary work placement to gain living and work skills. I saw adults given drinks, not offered them. I saw adults be given their clothes in the morning with no choice. I saw a menu only staff had input in, and I asked why? I was met with blank faces or people telling me “they can’t chose”. Every day they would wait for breakfast when physically they could have been involved. I didn’t like it. I held bottles of drink for them and let them touch or look or point, I had that time, being a volunteer. And they did! They looked, they pointed, they touched and smiled. They had an opinion.

I remembered all those memories from being a kid and overlooked so strongly. I needed to be part of the solution because unlike those carers, I knew what it was like to not have a voice, and I didn’t want to just sit and watch that go on.

From that day I wanted to work in adult social care so people, individuals, could have a voice, an opinion and a choice.

I went to work for another company and I was put on Makaton training. I sat, I watched, I knew the signs (all be it a bit sloppy and a few bad habits), but I sat there and thought to myself “this is what I want to do. It’s why I’m here. This is my purpose.”

I asked the tutor how I could do this, she explained. Years passed, geography and my own epilepsy meant I couldn’t do it, but then lockdown came and I could! I could try and reach my dream.

I redid all my courses, and I applied. I got in.

I worked so hard each and every day. There was language I didn’t understand because I never learnt it at school, so I worked my way through GCSE revision books learning about pronouns, verbs etc late into the night.

And I got my dream! I am now a Makaton Tutor! I cried for pretty much a whole day when I found out I had passed! I was, and still am a Makaton user but now I am also a Makaton Tutor!

I still can’t quite believe it. For over 30 years, Makaton has been a huge part of my life, and at times I have hidden my need for it because of others. But now, now I can use it to help others.

I want to raise awareness. I want to tell people Makaton saved me, no honestly it did. I could ask for help when I needed it, when I really needed it and having a voice of any kind is the best gift you can give someone. I was lucky and now if I can be part of the solution and help others, that is what I want to do. Everyone deserves a voice and deserves to be heard.

It’s only because of the awesome people around me that I have had the confidence to share my story. A big thank you to “H” for always being there and never giving up. And to “N” for supporting me and for giving me that confidence and push I needed, to both of them for always telling me, I am fine just the way I am.

Author

Xander Green

21st June 2021

At home

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

Your dental visit: a positive experience
18/06/2021

Your dental visit: a positive experience

Dentist using a very large set of dentures to explain a procedure to a patient

Hello, I’m Charlotte and I work as a senior community dentist, and I am a representative for the British Dental Association, a professional organisation for dentists in the UK.

Some dental patients get referred to the community dental service (CDS) if they aren’t able to go see their high-street dentist (also known as general dental practitioners) for a specific reason or clinical need.

CDS dentists often have more time for a patient’s appointments, and it can really help those who are anxious, or need some extra time to help explain what is going to happen during the appointment and to talk about how to keep your teeth healthy.

But we know many people with learning disabilities – both adults and children – may choose to visit a high street dentist if they can. One advantage is that it is probably nearer to your home, so it can be much easier to get to your appointment and also you might be able to attend at the same time as other family members.

We also know dentists are not always the most loved of health professionals! Many people have a reluctance or anxiety about going to the dentist. But we really are welcoming, and friendly, and modern dental techniques mean most treatments today are pain free. We want to encourage all patients to come and see us regularly, if possible – we know that prevention is always better than cure.

Your dentist, and other members of the dental team, can help advise on the best way to look after your teeth, good techniques for brushing and advice about diet too. 

During Learning Disability Awareness Week (14-20 June 2021), we are working with Health Education England, Makaton Ambassador Amanda Glennon, and Helen Laverty MBE from Positive Choices to help raise awareness of what it’s like for someone with a learning disability to visit the dentist. We really wanted to show how that experience can be a positive one, with the aid of some simple communications tools and Makaton.

"The dentist project has been a true together we are better whirlwind to be part of! From the original idea to asking for help to launch took about 12 weeks – just goes to show what we can achieve when we pull together! #TeamSmile" Helen Laverty MBE, Professional lead for LD nursing at the University of Nottingham

I play the part of the dentist in the film below, and Gary, an actor with the MiXit theatre group, plays my patient. Prior to filming Gary told me he was a bit nervous about sitting in the dental chair. But I reassured him I would not actually be doing any treatment, just having a look at his mouth and helping to show him how to brush.

 

After the filming, I was really delighted to get a message from Gary’s mum saying: “He really enjoyed it and it’s helped encourage him to go to the dentist and getting used to sitting on the proper chair.”

Makaton prompt cards

Cover of Your Dental Appointment, and a phoo of a girl brushing her teeth, with one of the Makaton prompt cards stuck on the bathroom mirrorDuring LD Week (and beyond), we are asking dentists and their teams to download and use these new free Makaton prompt cards, so they can use them in their dental practice. We know that good communication is one of the things that can make a dental visit more positive for all our patients.

There is also information on caring for your teeth at home, with the Makaton signs and symbols, and a chart that helps remind you to brush twice a day.

The free Makaton download can be found in the Makaton Library (Free Resources > Health).

 
 

Further information

Oral care and people with learning disabilities on the Gov UK website explains the different ways that patients with a learning disability can access dental treatment.

Author

Charlotte Waite

Chair England Community Dental Services Committee, British Dental Association

18th June 2021

Out and about

Jennifer’s Makaton Journey
24/05/2021

Jennifer's Makaton Journey

Sentence board with lots of Makaton symbol cards
Colourful Semantics with Makaton Symbols

I am a teacher from West Yorkshire, and I started my Makaton journey a little over a year ago with the very talented Kerry Cawley. Kerry has supported me all the way and has become a very good friend. 

I originally attended training to help a little girl in my care that needed Makaton for communication needs. When I took my training back into the classroom it quickly transpired that Makaton was going to not only help her but also help lower ability children within the classroom. I have completed Levels 1-3 and am a registered trainer for MSB (Makaton for babies).

Shortly after I had two other children join my class from overseas and they didn't have any English. We used Makaton signs and symbols and they picked up English quickly. As the rest of the class knew a little Makaton too, they were able to make friends and communicate. During lockdown, my Makaton journey has gone further, and I have used it with encouraging language development and sentence construction through face to face and online learning. I have seen reluctant writers become more confident and their parents have been enjoying learning a new skill along the way, through their children. When I spoke to the parents 93% of them said their children had improved their literacy skills by using Makaton and enjoyed writing again.

As we have moved out of lockdown, I have continued using Makaton within my everyday teaching. The children haven't regressed as much as I thought they might, and their sentence structure is much stronger. I feel very proud of the children as they have developed a new skill by not only helping their writing abilities but have developed the ability to be able to communicate with other people.

At the start of the year, I started by using symbols and colourful semantics to formulate sentences. As we are approaching the end of the year, I have a class of 28 children confidently signing in sentences, constantly asking for how to sign new words. I cannot recommend using Makaton enough for making writing fun and bringing it to live with visual representation!

Are you ready to take the first step and start learning Makaton? Getting started with Makaton is fun and easy. And once you've started, you'll soon want to learn more , starting with the Core Vocabulary. We look forward to welcoming you to the Makaton family soon!

Author

Jennifer M

24th May 2021

At school

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