Your stories

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

Include Choir receives Queen’s Award
08/11/2022

The Include Choir receives Queen’s Award 

From a crazy idea to a Queen’s Award

The Include Choir signing PeaceWhat if...

…I left my job as a safeguarding lead in the NHS, trained as a Makaton Tutor and set up a charity which combined my speech and language therapy training and creative skills to teach and raise awareness of inclusive communication. That was the thought stuck in my head while on maternity leave in 2016.

It was a daft idea, leaving the security of the NHS to work unpaid in a sector I knew nothing about. But the thought refused to go away; I had seen the lack of support for people with communication disabilities and the devastating impact that has on people’s lives:

  • as a speech and language therapist working with adults with learning disabilities and autism
  • as a safeguarding lead working with vulnerable adults with dementia, aphasia or other communication needs
  • as a daughter and granddaughter when my Dad had a brain tumour and my Grandpa had a stroke

The Include ChoirBut was it sensible to leave a regular income and strike out into uncharted territory, especially with young children?

Of course it wasn’t. But if breaking my neck and back six years earlier has taught me anything, it is that life is for living - and I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try.

The Include Choir at NHS conference

Fast forward another six years, and Include.org is now a registered charity, based in Surrey, with a small staff team and over 50 volunteers working to provide community activities which promote Makaton signing and another inclusive communication skills. We raise awareness of communication needs in schools and businesses and provide training to help ensure that people with understanding and speaking difficulties get the support they need and deserve.

With the support of our volunteers, we run outdoor inclusive communication sessions, create easy read resources and devise training with our members. We now have not one, but two Include Choirs, which use Makaton signs, symbols, objects and more to make sure our members with communication needs are fully included and empowered.

Our volunteer team includes people with learning disabilities and autism who use or have used Makaton themselves - and without exception, we were all absolutely delighted to discover we’d been chosen to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year.

Queen's Award for Voluntary Service logoThe Queen’s Award is described as the MBE for volunteer groups and, due to the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II, we are one of very last UK charities to receive it, making it even more special. We look forward to proving ourselves worthy of this honour and reaching even more people with Makaton and inclusive communication in 2023.

If you would like to support include.org in our mission, any donation made between 29th November and 6th December via The Big Give Challenge Website will be doubled! Needed more than words alone can say (thebiggive.org.uk)

For more information about Include.org please email info@include.org or visit www.include.org

Author

Alix L

8th November 2022

Out and about

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

The power of Makaton
03/11/2022

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.

Author
Linda B

3rd November 2022

Out and about

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

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 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

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

Trusted Travel Buddies
13/09/2022

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

Makaton at Alton Towers
13/09/2022

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

Pixie's Makaton journey
13/09/2022

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

Why I love Makaton Friendly Scheme
13/09/2022

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

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