Out and about

Your dental visit: a positive experience

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.


Charlotte Waite

Chair England Community Dental Services Committee, British Dental Association

18th June 2021

Out and about

DJ Jay spreads joy during lockdown

DJ Jay spreads joy during lockdown

DJ JayWhen lockdown struck, Jake who is 17, felt it was important to provide a fun inclusive environment for young people with Learning Disability, Autism and /or Communication difficulties whose worlds had become restrictive due to self-isolating at home.

As Jake’s diary of event bookings was cancelled, he decided to use the time and technology to run events on Facebook live, making them open to more people. The events ran every Saturday and Sunday and incorporated music, fun, dance, and Makaton! They were enjoyed by many people and families who looked forward to joining each weekend, making song requests, adding comments to the stream, and feeling safe in an environment where they could be included.

This was impressive for a young man who left school less than a year ago, but Jake’s caring inclusion story starts before then. Jake has always shared an incredibly special bond with his cousin Alice from the first time they met. Whenever the two families would meet Jake would always be found at Alice’s side entertaining her, chatting to her, and helping her navigate her way through whatever was happening.

Alice who has a learning disability and uses Makaton to communicate needs that extra understanding to access everyday things you and I take for granted. On a family holiday several years ago Alice and Jake went along to the on-site entertainment where the host kept looking right through Alice as if she weren’t there. Alice did not understand why she was not being given the chance to go up on stage or win a prize and she got upset. Eventually Jake took matters into his own hands and gave the host a prize to take to Alice – Alice was delighted.

Jake, who was at this time already running his own local DJ business decided that he never wanted any children to feel like this at his events. He wanted everyone to feel included and so he completed formal Makaton training to support this.

Jake and AliceJake immediately saw the benefit Makaton would bring to other entertainers and so he helped design a special taster Workshop for Party Entertainers, where he gave a presentation on how Makaton had helped him become a better, more inclusive entertainer. It inspired them all!

Following this Jake received his Makaton Friendly status – the first DJ/Entertainer in the UK to do this. Jake and Alice were invited to attend Positive Choices - an annual conference for student nurses supporting people with learning disabilities. Jake ran workshops demonstrating how he uses Makaton, the message being if he can learn Makaton to support entertainment surely they too can learn Makaton to support people like Alice when in their care, when patients are at their most anxious and vulnerable. Together Alice and Jake have inspired many people. Last year Jake was nominated and selected as a BBC Teen Awards finalist, he was invited to Kensington Palace where he met The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Taking feedback from his early lockdown sessions Jake has now developed a series of online events for the whole family to attend. With support from NHS England Transforming Care funding a number of families have been able to sign up to a series on 4 sessions where DJ Jay is the host for activities, song, dance and Makaton, improving wellbeing and support to the whole family. Jake is an inspiration to those he meets and continues to rise to the challenges placed in the way of people like Alice, although to him he is not doing anything special he is just being Jake.


Amanda Glennon

1st November 2020

Out and about

Going To Hospital Book

Going To Hospital Book

Amanda Glennon and friends

Amanda Glennon and friends

Hi, my name is Angie Emrys-Jones and I am co-author of the Looking Up book series for Cornwall Down's Syndrome Support Group (CDSSG), of which my 13 year old son is a member.

We have been creating accessible books at CDSSG since 2014 when the very first book, ‘Looking Up’, was created for brand new parents coming to terms with the news that their little one is chromosomally enhanced. Our subsequent books followed the same pictorial style: ‘Tea at Grandmas’ for grandparents, an update of the original ‘Looking Up’ book, and also our most famous publication, ‘Going To School’, which inspired the very wonderful LD Nurse that is Jane Rees to approach me about creating something similar for the hospital setting.

The Learning Disability and Autism Liaison TeamJane Rees leads the Learning Disability and Autism Liaison Team at our local hospital and is passionate about making Hospital visits for patients with learning disability and autism less stressful for them and their families. Jane has been a practicing Learning Disability Nurse for over 26 years supporting and advocating for individuals with a LD or autism, making sure they receive equality of care.

After our initial chat, the lightbulb switched on and we both instantly knew that ‘Going To Hospital’ would be born and be a massive success for so many families across the country.

So, what is it?

Going To Hospital is an accessible publication for patients with learning disability or autism and aims to help children & young people with additional needs to know what they might expect to see when visiting hospital for an appointment or when being admitted for a procedure.

Front cover of Going to Hospital bookThis is done by filling the book with real life pictures of our children and young people in the hospital environment having blood test and scans etc and supporting the images with Makaton symbols throughout, with an index at the back of signs and symbols to promote communication during the clinical episode and beyond.

The book can be used to build communication and relationships between the child and health professionals, to help the child feel empowered and in control of their health decisions. Knowing the plan and what is going to happen to them at each stage has proven to enhance their experience and hopefully a more positive one with the use of this book.

In Cornwall, all patients in the county are eligible for a free hard copy from the Royal Cornwall Hospital LD Nursing team. But what if I don’t live in Cornwall? Don’t panic, the book is also be available in digital format hosted on the RCHT website and other outlets so that those with anxiety, autism etc no matter where they live will have an avenue to view the images from their device at home in preparation of a visit to hospital.

Download 'Going to Hospital' as a PDF file

Our good friend and Looking Up Books Makaton Collaborator Amanda Glennon from Inclusive Teaching Matters has produced a pdf download of all signs and symbols used in the book in the form of Healthcare Prompt Cards. These are free to download from the Makaton Library. It is intended that wards use the health cards in the download to provide now & next boards with a timeline of treatment – medicine / operation / sleep / wake up / eat / drink / toilet / home etc - thereby creating a visual timetable for patients who need more support to embed their understanding and manage expectations of procedures or admissions etc.

Healthcare Prompt CardsThe project has the support of Mencap as this runs in line with their national Treat Me Well campaign, the Downs Syndrome Research Foundation and also Paula McGowan’s high profile #OliversCampaign following the preventable death of her son Oliver in 2016 due to poor care and inappropriate treatment.

Oliver’s story, and others like his, are one of the main drivers for this project, we want to make sure the voices of our young people are heard in the clinical setting and that they are communicated with appropriately and are in control of their care as much as possible.

Jane and I are beyond thrilled at the feedback we have had from families and are so excited to work with other trusts to make the book transferable and more relevant to other hospitals.


Angie Emrys-Jones

18th August 2020

Out and about

Flamingo Chicks

Flamingo Chicks

How Makaton helped us communicate our classes during Covid-19
New virtual classes 100,000 views and national TV coverage thanks to pioneering inclusivity online

Flamingo Chicks is an inclusive community bringing children together through dance. Early on in this pandemic we realised just how much of a challenge lockdown would be – as both CEO of Flamingo Chicks and mum to  a child with Cerebral Palsy – I too was having first-hand experience. 

We knew we had to find a way to continue supporting our families when our usual face-to-face classes weren’t possible.  Parents told us two big challenges were getting their children to exercise and also home-schooling.

Whilst there is an overwhelming amount of materials online, there is little that’s accessible for disabled children, particularly in terms of exercise.  And even less that is communicated in a way that they can access and understand.

Being out of routine and missing the familiarity of support from school and the raft of healthcare professionals is so unsettling - many families reported it felt like their world had been turned upside down. We wanted to recreate our content to provide that familiarity, a way for our children to express themselves and a moment of calm for parents/carers.

We partnered with science charity Lightyear Foundation to offer a unique blend of movement and science – supporting families both in terms of their child’s physical and mental wellbeing, but also keeping up their school work, with each session linked to the national curriculum.  And importantly, we recruited Makaton Tutor Nicola Pike from Better Communication Bristol as it was really important to us that our communication methods were accessible and also familiar to the children we work with, lots of whom we see regularly in special schools. Enter Makaton! Nic appears in all of our online classes, signing alongside our teachers. We know she’s a big hit with our viewers! Subtitles are also available on all of our videos.

Each week we release a new ‘virtual class’ with it's own theme, from Space to Le Corsaire (pirates) and Madame Butterfly to the Human Body.  Each has a STEM sub-theme and a spin-off science experiment from Dr Sarah Bearchall. Sarah is not only an experienced Science Presenter, she also specialises in working in SEN, and includes Makaton in her videos too.

As well as helping with home schooling, we know how much our children value story-telling and delving into their imaginations. We have produced a collection of children’s stories, written by our truly incredible volunteers, based around the theme of inclusion. Read by celebrities such as Ben Shephard, the extra sparkle is definitely the Makaton, again signed by Nic. The clear concepts that Nic signs really pull the stories together and enables everyone to engage with them.

Dance and movement provides a way for disabled children to not only develop their physical skills, such as balance and co-ordination, but to also express themselves in different ways, increasing their confidence, and enabling them to reach their full potential. Dance also develops key skills such as teamwork, communication skills, and problem solving whilst immersing children in a creative environment where they can feel free to be themselves.

Translating our inclusive and highly interactive classes into filmed sessions has certainly had it’s challenges. From green screens and lights in our living rooms, to matching up the Makaton with the class footage (ensuring the speech and signing are in unison) - all whilst working in isolation! However, our teachers found that Makaton was a really useful tool in keeping the content of the classes concise and clear. A key learning was to try and simplify the language of the sessions, to aid children's understanding. Knowing that the footage was being sent to Nic to sign really helped our teachers, as Nic would then pull out the key concepts, instructions and words from their speech to sign. This in turn helped the teachers realise the key message of their dialogue, and reduce their language as much as possible, to concentrate the content.

We are now on session 7 of our weekly virtual classes and the response has been phenomenal.  We’re up to 100,000 views across our platforms and we’ve been covered by a host of national TV programmes including Good Morning Britain, This Morning, Sky News and Channel 4.  We’ve had a sea of emails, messages and social posts from families as well as health, social care and education professionals saying how valued these new resources are.  We know they are being used in homes across the UK but also in settings like children’s hospices and hospitals and SEN schools looking after key workers’ and vulnerable children.  The thread through all the responses is the sense that disabled children and their families don’t feel alone – they feel connected again and part of something.

Feedback from families regularly includes the delight in Makaton being used so heavily, and some of the videos we’ve received show children excitedly pointing to Nic signing on the screen.  We hope that our classes will provide people with truly meaningful experiences that brighten their day and provide joy in the moment. We also hope they empower our young people - building confidence in their abilities and helping them learn new skills, whilst also celebrating who they are and creating a community of people that feel included, recognised and able to fulfil their potential.


Update: Flamingo Chicks have won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service


Katie Sparkes

16th June 2020

Out and about

Mr Blue Sky - with Makaton

Mr Blue Sky - with Makaton

Suzanne 'playing' an inflatable guitar

As with our fellow Makaton Tutors (and the Charity too), Boris Johnson's lockdown announcement threw us into turmoil with the abrupt closure of all events, schools and any training opportunities. The news of the Covid-19 pandemic was scary not just from a health perspective but also from a livelihood perspective - how could we possibly manage to get through a prolonged period with no opportunity to work?

Those first couple of weeks after the announcement had us all plunged into a rapid learning phase trying to find out whether we could ride out this pandemic by running classes via this previously unheard of platform called Zoom.

In amongst all this learning (with a bit of panicking and the odd sob here and there), we decided that the best way to pick ourselves up was going to be through music and through collaboration and supporting each other. And if that music includes ample opportunity for comedy air guitar, then even better!

One of the wonderful and positive things about social media - particularly during these strange times - has been the ability to connect with fellow Makaton Tutors and build a network of colleagues, outside of Singing Hands, who all share the same passion for communication.

With that in mind, we posted on the Facebook group for Makaton Tutors asking who'd be up for joining in with a Makaton lip-synced rendition of Mr Blue Sky It's a classic song that you cannot help but feel uplifted by once you hear it. Our hope was that it would bring some joy in amongst all the fear.

Luckily we had lots of tutors all across the UK who put their hands up and said YES! We then translated the song (with thanks to Nic Pike and Tracy Clark too) and divided up the lines and the musical interludes and this is the result. Over 50 tutors, many of whom have appeared with their children, bringing so much happiness to others during lockdown. If you haven't seen it already we hope you like it.

Thank you so much to everyone who was up for being involved, we couldn't have achieved it without you.



Suzanne Miell-Ingram

12th May 2020

Out and about

Bobbi the Therapy Dog

Bobbi the Therapy Dog


BobbiI had been considering getting a new dog for a little while after our lovely Labrador had passed away some years ago. However, I was having some trouble convincing my husband that a puppy would be a good idea!

In March 2018 I attended training on Selective Mutism, where we discussed the growing trend of using animals in therapy. I was travelling home from the course on the train with another Speech and Language Therapist, Rachel Hawley. We got talking to a woman who had her dog with her and she told us how she took her dog to work with her – she was a support worker for Adults with Learning Disability. The dog was adorable and there it was – my perfect way in to convince my husband!! A working dog; he couldn’t argue with that!

I immediately got researching breeds that would work well for therapy dogs and started thinking about training. In August 2018 we got our Cavapoo, Bobbi. I attended an Animal Assisted Therapy course which was invaluable. I knew I needed all the right training for Bobbi as well as being able to write risk assessments and having the right insurance.

Illustration of BobbiI decided really early on that it made sense for her to understand Makaton signs. I am a Makaton Tutor, many of my clients use Makaton signs and I knew puppies/ dogs respond well to hand signals so why not?

In the early days, it really helped with toilet training – we taught her the sign for toilet and she would trot outside when shown the manual sign. I believe it has helped with her developing her vocabulary too.

She is now nearly 2 years old and understands a range of signs, including Toilet, Food, Sit, Lie down, Carrot, Outside, Ball, Teddy, Stay/ wait, Stand, Come, and Give.

She is currently learning the sign for ‘reindeer’, as she loves to chew an antler, as well as the signs for colours – even though dogs having a limited spectrum of colours they can see, I’m convinced I can teach her using sound and colour switches – might have to rethink that one though.

Ami signs Sit to BobbiShe works with a range of clients from PMLD to high functioning Autism and Selective Mutism. For non-verbal children and adults, to be able to give instructions with Makaton signing and for the dog to respond is really empowering and motivating. For children and adults with anxiety, she is an added bonus. The use of signing and non-verbal communication as part of a shaping programme for children or young people with Selective Mutism has been invaluable. I’m sure I’ll keep finding ways she can assist children, young people and adults with speech and language therapy.

She has been a really powerful addition to the therapy we offer and would not be without her now.

Rachel Hawley, who was with me on that train back in 2018, has now got a puppy too, with a view to training her as a therapy dog. We best get teaching Tilly some signs too!


Ami Coleman

30th March 2020

Out and about

Friendly Fish & Chips

Friendly Fish & Chips

Richard & Josette Foster with their Makaton Friendly certificate

Richard & Josette Foster with their Makaton Friendly certificateFish and Chips @ Weston Grove is the first Makaton Friendly fish and chip shop.

They first heard about Makaton when they were approached by Amanda Glennon to become Makaton Friendly. Amanda runs the training and her daughter Alice is a Makaton user. The owners Josette and Richard Foster were very excited about this and jumped at the opportunity. They had seen Makaton used by Mr Tumble on Cbeebies TV, on Strictly Come Dancing and on the Pride of Britain Awards.

The Weston Grove team attended a free Makaton workshop in September 2019. This valuable training gave them the skills and confidence to use Makaton in the shop.
Each member of staff who is trained wears a Makaton lanyard which is easily recognisable to users. Attached to this is a variety of generic and Fish and Chip shop specific picture cards. These cards are used along side hand signs, speech and facial gestures to communicate to customers.

Josette said, “It is really fantastic to see our customers being given the opportunity to order their fish and chips independently and confidently in a caring environment. We all get very excited!”

Some members of staff are now taking the training further to become Makaton Champions. The shop now provides further resources such as books and signs that are Makaton Friendly.

Richard said, “ We now have a growing number of Makaton users who find our shop through the Makaton Friendly search on the Makaton website."

Fish and Chips @ Weston Grove is an award winning Fish and Chip Shop and came third in the National Fish and Chip shop awards this year. The couple lead by example and now urge other fish and chip shops in the uk to get involved.


27th February 2020

Out and about



Dance partner matching game

Dance partner matching gameMy daughter, Alice, is a Makaton User and a huge Strictly Come Dancing fan. During Strictly Come Dancing 2018, Alice made video tweets for Dr Ranj and his dance partner Janette Manrara asking them to sign on the show, and they did not disappoint her.

Seeing them sign at the start of the show each week became our Strictly Come Dancing highlight.

Alice was lucky to meet Dr Ranj at the Live Tour Show and presented him with a Golden Okey! When Strictly Come Dancing 2019 started Alice was so excited to see all the new stars of the show pairing up with the dancers. During the Week 1 show, Alice played our Symbol matching game to help her understand the new partnering’s, and who the new celebrities are.

Will Bayley tweetIn Week 2 Alice noticed that the pairs were all waving – like to sign for 'Goodbye'– at the start of the show. This was confusing so we tweeted a video asking them to sign 'Hello' instead. Then as Alice watched the results show as the contestants were saying 'Thank You' to the camera as a response to being saved by the public votes, Alice kept signing 'Thank You' back to the TV. So we made a 'Thank You' video and tweeted it with a request to sign 'Thank You' too.

Alice didn’t have to wait long, by Week 4 there was a 'Thank You' sign from Emma Barton and Chris Ramsey, and a 'Winner' sign from Will Bayley – Alice had sent Will this special sign just for him! Alice then started to get tweets back from the Strictly Stars to confirm their signing on the show. And other people started to notice too, with The Makaton Charity approached to do a series of BBC Radio interviews – We were amazed at the response and awareness Alices video tweets were getting, and thrilled to see Makaton signing on mainstream Saturday night TV.
Tweets from Chris Ramsey and Saffron Barker

As the competition progressed Alice recruited more of the show's stars to her #StrictlySigning campaign, and she added more signs to her video tweet requests. ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ were being signed weekly, so Alice added signs like ‘Winner’, ‘Halloween’ and ‘Remember’. Once Saffron Barker picked up on this she and AJ Pritchard were amazing, supporting Alice each week where possible.

Alice sent weekly thanks to each of the #StrictlySigning Stars and we started putting little videos together to share as many of the signs as possible. Our final video link is at the end of this blog. February 2020, Alice will be going to the Strictly Come Dancing live tour where we hope to see some amazing dancing up close and (fingers crossed) a few signs too. Hopefully Alice will get a chance to meet some of the #StrictlySigning Stars and present them with a Makaton badge as she did with Dr Ranj last year. Watch this space!

The #StrictlySigning 2019 story

Please like and share to support Alice’s #StrictlySigning Campaign – we can’t wait to see what happens on Strictly Come Dancing 2020!


Alice & Amanda Glennon

7th January 2020

Out and about

Pride of Britain - Terri's story

Pride of Britain - Terri's story

Sue Sjuve, Zanna Finnerty, Terri Demir, Evren Demir, Margaret Walker, Ian Walker

As a teacher, I had heard of Makaton long before I had met Margaret. I have seen it being used in various schools and the positive impact it has.

My first experience was whilst working at The Queen’s C of E Primary School, Kew; we held special days to recognise the achievements of all the children and ensure all felt included.

During one particular event, ‘Everybody Different, Everybody Brilliant’, we taught children how to use various signs from Makaton and encouraged them to use it around school, and in particular to those children who used it regularly to aid their learning difficulties. It was wonderful to see how quickly they picked up on it and enjoyed using it.

It came as a huge surprise when I moved house and discovered that Margaret, my new neighbour, was the founder of Makaton.

Knowing how widespread the language programme had become, I was amazed at how modest Margaret was in her achievements. Her passion and enthusiasm for speech and language shone through in our conversations. She was also a great support and fountain of knowledge when I had some queries about my son’s speech. Margaret gave me fantastic advice and tips and I was so grateful for her help.

The Pride of Britain trophy However, it wasn’t until a few months later that I decided to nominate her for a Pride of Britain award.

I saw Makaton being used on ITV’s This Morning, where a group of children used it to help sing a song. It was so moving and emotional and I just couldn’t believe that something Margaret created all those years ago was having this incredible impact on so many people. So, without telling anyone, I decided to nominate her for a Pride of Britain award.

Apart from recognising her amazing achievements, I thought it would be a lovely opportunity for the charity to be in the spotlight. 

I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call a couple of months ago to tell me she had won! But because I hadn’t told anyone, it came as a shock to Margaret and her husband and it was a while before they could take it all in.

The night itself was a fantastic experience and I was so proud and honoured to be there to see Margaret collect such a deserving award. A really special moment was when they asked everyone to sign a special thank you message to Margaret using Makaton. To see 900 people signing their thanks to her was unforgettable.

I feel so happy that, through winning the award, Margaret has been recognised for the wonderful contribution she has given to society and how her programme has helped so many. But, equally, it is wonderful to see how The Makaton Charity has been put further into the limelight and given the credit it deserves; hopefully enabling it to become more mainstream in schools and in society, in order to help those who need it feel more included.



Terri D

25th November 2019

Out and about

Sepsis Aware Bears

Sepsis Aware Bears

Ruth and Sarah surrounded by Sepsis Aware BearsHi, my name is Ruth Harrison and I am a proud learning disability nurse. I chose to be in this career because I had a brother with an intellectual disability. I have had the opportunity over my many years working in learning disability services to meet some passionate people who were motivated and keen to support me in my roles.

18 months ago, I started work with an amazing sepsis nurse called Paula Evans. We started out simply to make a leaflet that could be accessible for people, on looking after themselves following an infection. This was created in collaboration with our local day services, who were then keen to work with us more. We then created a series of videos for YouTube on looking out for the signs of sepsis.

We had a desire to create a further video on the softer signs of deterioration that may be missed in a person with a learning disability and/or autism. In collaboration with Vision West Notts College this film was edited and directed by their students. This can also be found on YouTube and in the 2019 LeDer report. It is here we met another dedicated individual by the name of Julie Hough, an employability and work placement officer.

Makaton symbol for TeddyAfter the creation of this video we all became firm friends. Julie messaged me one Saturday evening with this amazing idea, bears with information on the signs of sepsis that could be passed from one person to another. These became known as the Sepsis Aware Bears.

Between us we purchased 30 bears. The tags were created and all given unique names. Social media pages were created for them and the aim was to distribute them on the 13th September, as this is world sepsis day.

Ruth posting Mottled MyrtleIn order to get a feel of their success we let a few go early and the idea went 'viral'........ the very first bear given out was called Mottled Myrtle and she went to Helen Laverty, one of my tutors at university.

Helen put us in touch with Amanda from IT Matters in order to make the labels more accessible for people. Amanda has helped create a Makaton version and currently 10 of these are about to make it into the big wide world. One of the original bears is now currently in Canada.

It is amazing how one little project to support people with learning disabilities has gone on to create not only awareness videos and bears, but long lasting friendships. They have all seen a community coming together to help people spot the softer signs of deterioration, the signs of sepsis and give confidence to ask "could this be sepsis"

Sepsis is a condition where the body's response to an infection causes damage to the tissues and organs. Sepsis can only be caused such as a chest infection, urine infection or infected cuts and wounds. The early stages of sepsis can be similar to flu. The earlier a person can access appropriate healthcare, the better the chance of an improved outcome.

Ruth and Julie with a mobile phone

Please check out Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for #SepsisAwareBears

First page of our free Sepsis Information download Want more information about sepsis? Get our free Sepsis information download , written in Makaton symbols, available from the Makaton Library


Ruth Harrison

12th September 2019

Out and about

Thornbury Communication Trail

Thornbury Communication Trail

Thornbury Communication Trail poster

Poster from Thornbury Communication TrailOne half term while taking his children to follow the Scarecrow Trail around the town of Thornbury, class teacher Craig Tucker wondered if his school were to organise a trail around the town, what sort of trail would it be. The answer was obvious : A Communication Trail.

Craig’s enthusiasm was infectious and I was on board with helping the moment he asked. Our hope was that by participating in the Communication Trail people would:

  •  Have fun enjoying Thornbury
  •  Develop an understanding of different ways of communicating
  •  Learn how to recognise some Makaton symbols and the signs that match them
  •  Learn some British Sign Language

Around 40 posters were displayed in shops and other organisations around the town. Each poster had a Makaton symbol, a fact about either Makaton or BSL, and a QR code. When scanned the QR code linked to a video demonstration of the Makaton sign and a link to watch a BSL equivalent - thanks to www.signbsl.com

Some familiar faces helped with the Makaton sign videos - Suzanne and Tracey from Singing Hands, Dave Benson Phillips and Gym Stars from the BBC all took part, so a big shout of thanks to them too!

The trail has attracted a lot of interest amongst the public, with lots of mainstream school children taking part, learning about different ways of communication, picking up some signs.

With our bid to make Thornbury a Makaton Friendly Town alongside community interest group ‘Thornbury Welcomes’ this has been a fantastic way to raise awareness and generate interest amongst business owners in the town and we anticipate this will encourage them to sign up to the scheme.

We have enjoyed ourselves so much that we are already planning a trail in time for Christmas! Thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged us with this project.


Nicola Pike

27th August 2019

Out and about

Chloe signz

Chloe signz

Chloe with a Makaton Tutor21-year-old Chloe, who has been using Makaton to support her communication since she was a child, has started sharing Makaton on social media, and in weekly singing and signing sessions.

With the support of Dramatize, a theatrical provision for adults with learning disabilities, Chloe has launched an Instagram and Facebook account that shows her followers a sign of the day.

She is also building up her skills as a facilitator, leading a singing and signing class once a week to other Dramatize students.

Chloe with Makaton certificateWorking with adults has meant that Chloe has taken what she learnt from the Makaton “singing with signing” course and applied it to pop songs to keep it relevant.

Chloe is working towards taking her “Chloe signs” workshops into the community and other provisions.

She says “I like helping my friends. I want everyone to know sign”.

Chloe’s social media accounts are:

  • Instagram: @chloe_signz
  • Facebook: @chloesignz

4th July 2019

Out and about

Makaton Guinness World Record Attempt

Makaton Guinness World Record Attempt

A section of the crowd making the world record attempt
Guinness World Record Official Attempt logo

About this time last year, I was at Positive Choices #PCPC18 – an annual conference for Student Learning Disability Nurses where I ran mini workshops about the importance of inclusive communication and Makaton. At the conference I lead a Makaton signed welcome message to a full lecture theatre, this got me thinking - Could this be a World Record?!

Fast forward to January 2019 I started planning my activities for Positive Choices #PCPC19 and natural curiosity led me to check out the Guinness World Records Listings. I found a Record listing for Most People Signing Simultaneously Using Makaton. The record had never been attempted so the level was automatically set at 250 people. I took the plunge and applied to attempt the record, after a nail biting 12 weeks I eventually got the criteria guidelines, just in time for #PCPC19.

All Stations Go! The following days were full of room layout planning, colour zoning areas, sourcing stopwatches, wristband and a Klaxon, as well as the 20 volunteers needed to control and audit the attempt. I am certain I caused numerous headaches for the conference organiser Andrea Page from Birmingham City University who were hosting the conference.

To meet the criteria, I needed Tutors who could sign off that Makaton was been used throughout the attempt and so I put a request for help on facebook and via Debbie Twigg at the Makaton Charity. I was so grateful to receive offers to help from fellow Tutors and would like to thank Anne Bacon, Rebecca Thompson, Gabriella Roudvey and Caroline Russell for their support and help – without their generosity the attempt could not have been made.

At 9.30 on the 26th April with all volunteers and clipboards in place we did it!

Here is what happened


The attempt itself was amazing. Over the past 12 months, my daughter Alice and I have been campaigning for the use of Makaton across the NHS, so we were overwhelmed to see a room full of Student LD Nurses signing. We were also privileged to have the support of Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officers for NHS UK signing with us from the front row. After the attempt Ruth pledged her support for a NHS Makaton Champions Network that we are launching later this year. After collecting all the paperwork and video footage, and confirming with our independent auditors we were ready to consult with the Guinness World Record contact. The news was that we have just missed out on breaking the record set at 250 people – so whilst we are not official Record Breakers we still smashed it! We still achieved our primary objective of raising awareness of the use of Makaton and further cemented use of Makaton within the NHS.

We are still determined to break the official Guinness World Record – so watch this space for future attempt news!

Thank You symbol

With thanks to : Paven Khelg ,Pardeep Kandola and staff at the  H- Suite , Edgebaston Dr Nicola Ashby , Andrew Glennon, Anne Bacon, Rebecca Thompson, Meritxell
Marn Buznego, Joanne Lay, Louise Delany, Rebecca Boxall, Laura Roberts, Catherine Davies, Awen Hughes, Ffion Elen Jones, Esme Welbourne-Davies, Claire Howells, Gabriella Rouvray, Adam Wardon, Paula Richardson, Helen Laverty, Ross Sheridan, Angie Emyrs-Jones, Elizabeth Emrys-Jones , Jake Glennon and Joe Glennon


Amanda Glennon

8th May 2019

Out and about

Filming the Bedtime Story

Filming the Bedtime Story

Tracy and Rob Delaney

Tracy with Rob DelaneyI am a Senior Tutor for The Makaton Charity. I do work with CBeebies as one of the Makaton advisors on Something Special. When asked about doing a bedtime story using Makaton I was beyond excited, as I knew it was to be the first ever!

All the dates, times, venue, people and signs had all been co-ordinated. It was certainly going ahead, Ten in the Bed was going to be amazing!

We arrived at the venue and the CBeebies crew had the scene beautifully set for the story. There were ten teddy friends waiting for a bedtime story.

So, in walked Rob Delaney, actor, comedian, I could go on but he was here as a dad, to share a wonderful signed story with everyone.

Tracy demonstrating a sign to Rob

Rob was very excited to be doing this as it meant so much to him, and his family. The whole family had learnt Makaton to communicate with their son Henry. Rob shared his experiences, both the pleasure and more painful times. Their son Henry had passed away earlier in the year but was never away from their thoughts, this was going to be an emotional one.

We had some practice time, and his signing was great. He had clearly revised the story and demonstrated all the signs well. During this time we had many little chats about Henry, one being that he would have loved for him to be here to see this. However now he can do this to help so many others to enjoy the pleasure of a signed story. I knew then that no words or actions would benefit either of us, it was time to just listen, while this amazing dad shared his personal experiences.

Rob talking to Tracy just before filming starts

Time for the story. We did a few takes, not too many but he really wanted to get it right. He signed and told the story, just as it was meant to be. Directly to all those individuals out there watching, enjoying and hopefully to join in. The whole crew came along on this magical rollercoaster of emotions, we all laughed, cried, sighed, whooped and awed. It is truly an experience that will stay with me forever.

The launch for the story was just incredible, it was receiving so much press and attention. The story was shown just before Children in Need on the CBeebies channel. The Makaton Charity had also put together a free download of the signs and symbols needed for the story. You could prepare and practice your bedtime story before watching it, so beneficial for so many. I sat and watched as the story unfolded and hoped that it would bring so much pleasure and support to so many.

Wow... what a response everyone has received from the story. Social media, news, interviews, photos, feedback and films of people just enjoying 10 in the Bed.

I was certainly bursting with pride over this one; it has, and will always be very special to me. Thank you to all the crew at CBeebies, all the people in the background at The Makaton Charity, without these people none of this would be possible.

The CBeebies Bedtime Stories crew

Finally, thank you Rob Delaney this one is definitely one to remember!

The bedtime story generated so much interest that Tracy was interviewed on BBC News about it:


Tracy Clark

29th November 2018

Out and about