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.
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.
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