News and stories

The latest news from The Makaton Charity, and how Makaton is being used in the community at home, at school, at work, and out and about - and the Sign of the Week.

Sign & Symbol Downloads - NOW AVAILABLE
22/09/2020

Sign & Symbol Downloads - NOW AVAILABLE

Cheerful baby wearing a colourful stripy cardigan

We have been listening to your feedback over the past 3 weeks and it’s wonderful to see so many of you enjoying your access to Makaton Signs and Symbols housed in the NEW Makaton Library. We have also had positive reports of many users gaining support and guidance through the exclusive MakaChat social area.

A common thread of feedback that we received was the desire to download Signs and Symbols within the Makaton Library, on reflection we too think this would be a fabulous addition.

With immediate affect we have introduced the new capability to enable you to download up to 40 signs and symbols per month* to support your Makaton journey – Enjoy!

Not a member yet?  Then you are missing out…..

If you would like to have a 7 day free trial of the new Core Membership, please sign up for a free account  then go to the Membership page . Click the 7 day free trial link and you will have access to over 500 Makaton Signs and Symbols, download options and entry into the Core Member MakaChat discussion group.

* You can download any combination of signs, symbols and PDF files, up to 40 per month. For example: 40 signs; or 20 signs and 20 symbols; or 15 signs, 15 symbols and 10 PDF files etc.

Published

22nd September 2020

News

Makaton opens doors
16/09/2020

Makaton opens doors

Going on a bear hunt book and teddy

I'm Angharad and I'm a Dance Artist based in North Wales. I'm sure you are wondering what a dance artist does? Well, it is a really rewarding and wonderful job. I get to travel across the country, sometimes the world, sharing dance through performing, teaching and choreographing.

I often work within settings where I felt I was lacking in my communication skills with the children and adults I work with. So, during lockdown I seized the opportunity to further develop my skills and attended Makaton Level 1 and Level 2 training with Makaton Tutor Corrine Lloyd.

These last few weeks I have had the absolute pleasure to work at the Theatr Clwyd summer hubs in partnership with Flintshire social services. I’ve been facilitating with a group of wonderful children with varying needs and abilities. 

During our fun-filled days I've been able to put my Makaton training into practice. From the minute the children come into the room Makaton allows us to communicate and allows us to begin to form a relationship. As I begin to sign as I speak, I can see their faces light up as they recognise that I speak Makaton, and we begin to sow those seeds of trust between us. Makaton has allowed us a way to communicate and to establish a relationship built on understanding, something that has been invaluable during this time of relaxation of lockdown, as we are all emerging from months of being within our family bubbles. 

Being able to access the Makaton resources for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been fabulous. It is a favourite story of mine to use with children, we have great fun swaying through grass and lavender, splashing with material, and moving through a snowstorm of bubbles. To be able to integrate Makaton signs and symbols easily within the sessions has helped us to find our way together. The story is known to many of the children, which allows us to introduce new experiences of dance within the familiarity of the story, which in turn gives the children confidence to come with us on a movement adventure.

I am grateful to Makaton for opening the doors to effective communication and allowing us to have a great time together this summer, despite all the uncertainty about what the future holds. So much laughter and smiles have been had which have arisen out of the trust built through communication with Makaton.

Author

Angharad H

16th September 2020

At work

Baking with Alfie
08/09/2020

Baking with Alfie

Alfie with logoMy name is Alfie. I’m 6 years old and I just love baking. I am blessed with an extra chromosome. I was born 6 weeks early, I clearly couldn’t wait to get out into the world and start baking! I have a severe speech and language delay, but I find making baking videos really helps my speech, language and also my Maths as I can practise in a fun, no pressure environment.

Alfie rolling pastryCan you believe I actually used to be afraid of the noise the stand mixer made?! I know you wouldn’t believe it now, would you? Just goes to show you that in life you should always push yourself outside your comfort zones as you never know what you’re a capable of achieving until you do.

I’m now in Year 2 at my mainstream Infant school, having just returned back to my proper school after 6 months of Mummy school. I love swimming, water, books, music, dancing and generally just being outside. Food-wise I love all foods, but particularly chocolate, crisps, ice cream, blueberries & obviously cake! I love going on long walks and regularly walk 2 miles + each day. I hope you enjoy my baking and it inspires you to get your #BakeOn #BakingWithAlfie

Alfie and MummyThe mum behind the baker...

Hi, I'm Sarah, proud Mummy to Alfie, who has been blessed with an extra chromosome!

My Makaton journey started 6 years ago when Alfie was born. I first started with a Makaton Signing for Babies course at my local children’s centre and then graduated onto Dave Benson Phillips, Singing Hands (Tracy and Suzanne are absolute goddesses in our house!), and Mr Tumble.

I then decided I wanted to increase my Makaton knowledge, so I could help Alfie find his voice and gain his independence. So, I then did my Level 1 & 2 Makaton training, and I have recently just completed my Level 3 training. I now can’t wait to start my Level 4 training later this year, as I’ve decided I’d really like to progress to become a Makaton Tutor.

Alfie and birthday cakeDuring lockdown, I started #BakingWithAlfie across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, where we use Makaton. Not only does it help Alfie with his speech development, but it also increases awareness of Makaton across a wider audience, in an underused setting. Alfie has a severe speech and language delay and we use his baking as a way to introduce SALT and Maths work in a non-pressured environment, and we also happen to get some tasty bakes out of it too! I'm hoping to set this up as a business moving forward - fingers crossed!

Please follow us via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Author

Sarah C

8th September 2020

At home

Back to school: special offers
23/08/2020

Back to school: special offers

SALE: 20% off selected resources

This promotion ended on 30th September 2020.

To celebrate the return to school, we're giving 20% off the cost of selected resources until Wednesday 30th September 2020. Just add one or more of the resources listed below into your shopping cart, go to the checkout, type the code BACK2SCHOOL in to the promotional code field, and click Apply to get 20% off all the eligible products.

Screenshot of checkout showing BACK2SCHOOL code in the promotional code field

 

The special offer applies to the following resources:

Downloadable resources

Published

21st August 2020

News

Win a Mr Tumble Talk and Sing Soft Toy!
22/08/2020

Win a Mr Tumble Talk and Sing Soft Toy!

Win a Mr Tumble Talk and Sing Soft Toy!

The deadline for this competition was 30th September 2020.

To celebrate the launch of the Makaton Hub we are giving you the chance to win a Mr Tumble Talk and Sing Soft Toy.

For a chance to win head over to our Facebook page and comment on our post, telling us your favourite Makaton symbol or sign!

Terms and Conditions

  1. The promoter is: The Makaton Charity (company no. 06280108)whose registered office is at 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LH.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over except employees of The Makaton Charity and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  5. Route to entry for the competition and details of how to enter are via https://makaton.org/TMC/News_Stories/News/Win_a_Mr_Tumble_Talk_and_Sing_Soft_Toy
  6. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.
  7. Closing date for entry will be 30th September 2020. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  8. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  9. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows: Write a comment directly on the Facebookpost stating your favourite Makaton sign.
  10. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in any event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  11. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  12. The prize is as follows: Mr Tumble Talk and Sing Soft Toy.
  13. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  14. Winners will be chosenat random by software, from all entries received and verified by The Makaton Charity.
  15. The winners will be notified by DM on Facebook within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  16. The Makaton Charity will notify the winners when and where the prize can be collected / is delivered.
  17. The Makaton Charity’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will beentered into.
  18. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  19. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
  20. The winners agree to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  21. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
  22. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to The Makaton Charity and not to any other party.
Published

22nd August 2020

News

Totemigo and Harry
20/08/2020

Totemigo and Harry

Harry with his Totemigo

Harry with his Totemigo We started signing with our son Harry, who has Down's syndrome, from when he was about 9 months old. Seeing the difference Makaton made to him and how he was able to communicate with us before he could talk, made me want to continue the courses and become a Makaton Tutor.

Harry is now verbal, but we still use Makaton to aid his learning and to ensure that he has a way of communicating with others if they are finding his speech unclear and difficult to understand. Harry loves to use Makaton with singing and the school choir have started using Makaton, which is lovely to see how he can now be fully included in their performances.

The past few months have been quite challenging, having to home-school Harry and constantly think of new activities to hold his attention. Then Makaton launched the Totemigo, which I had been eager to use since I had been shown it on our Tutor Study Day back in November. I immediately joined the Totemigo website and started to make symbol strips. These are really easy to create, thanks to the template that is provided online and you can also download ones that other people have already made.

Harry has previously used colourful semantics in his speech and language therapy sessions, so I thought that this would be a good place to start with him. Due to the tactile nature of the Totemigo, Harry was instantly drawn to it and was desperate to try it out, even before he knew how to use it.

We have used the Totemigo to create sentences and Harry is now starting to recognize different word types such as nouns, verbs and adjectives. When using the Totemigo, Harry chooses the different symbols himself and then reads the sentence aloud. If he finds it doesn’t make sense, he then goes back to correct himself. He then signs the sentence and records it in his book.

He enjoys having the symbols in front of him to check he has remembered the sentence correctly. This has given him a far better understanding of how to construct sentences and can even now replace given words with synonyms, which he loves to do. Harry has loved using the Totemigo and we are planning to create mixed-up fairytale strips, so that he can make up some amusing stories containing a range of different characters and settings.

 
 

I can see that this is a really useful tool for schools and speech therapists. In fact, after speaking to Harry’s class teacher and 1:1 about the Totemigo, they are already planning to order some to help support many of the children’s learning needs. It is also extremely robust, so won’t get broken easily, as due to its bright colours and pleasing shape, every child will undoubtedly be desperate to use it. We look forward to using it more.

Totemigo is a multi-purpose tactile tool which uses Makaton symbols to help you communicate and learn in a variety of fun ways. You can use Totemigo for making choices, sentences, matching and much more.

Totemigo is available to purchase from our shop for £59.

Author

Jemma S

20th August 2020

At home

Meet the Makaton Ambassadors
19/08/2020

Meet the Makaton Ambassadors

Peter Rooney, Makaton Ambassador

We would like to congratulate and celebrate the success of the new Makaton Ambassadors being welcomed onboard to support with a wide variety of areas with their skill and expertise.

They are the first cohort of Ambassadors to be announced since our founder Margaret Walker left her legacy of our Senior Tutors, who continue to strive to maintain the quality of the Makaton Language Programme and continue to pass on the knowledge to our Ambassadors. You will see our Ambassadors out about in the community supporting the development of Makaton across all possible aspects.

Published

19th August 2020

News

Going To Hospital Book
18/08/2020

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.

Author

Angie Emrys-Jones

18th August 2020

Out and about

Welcome to our new website
04/08/2020

Welcome to our new website

#BlackLivesMatter

Stephen signing OKThe new Makaton website heralds an exciting chapter for The Makaton Charity. Over the past 6 months, in addition to developing online training and launching the revised Level 3 workshop guides and manuals, the team at Makaton head office have been beavering away to get our new and interactive website up and running.

This has ensured that the charity has both successfully weathered the Covid storm, while also starting us on Our Vision to ‘Double the number of people using and engaging with the Makaton language programme’.

What’s new?

The new website provides a range of additional functionality, including easier access to free resources and downloads, including current and back copies of Sign of the Week. The website offers improved self-service, with the ability to track your relationship with the Charity, download invoices, and where appropriate pay by Purchase Order, together with enhanced searching to help you find local and online training in your area.

Later in the month, we will be launching our new Makaton membership scheme, open to the public. The membership scheme will for the first time offer users direct access into the Makaton Library and MakaChat social area. The Makaton Library enables users to search our database of signs, symbols, and videos. MakaChat provides a Charity-approved facility to contact and ask questions to our team of experienced tutor ambassadors.

Expanding the Makaton Library

We will be setting out our aspirations for new products and services. These will include expanding the searchable database from our Core Vocabulary collection to include our full Resource database, with over 65,000 assets, supporting over 15,000 sign and symbol concepts. Makaton will be creating one of the largest digital searchable sign and symbol databases in the world.

New initiatives and aspirations

Longer term we are working on a range of new and exciting initiatives; from online booking where you will be able to register and pay for Tutors run courses to offering a self-service templating, where you will be able to develop your own Makaton forms and materials. We will be rolling out new and exciting online and face to face refresher training and practice sessions, so you can feel more confident using Makaton more fluently.

Finally following your feedback we are working with a range of third-party providers to better link the Makaton language programme with existing online and app-based provision, with the aim of making Makaton one of the best integrated language programmes.

Digital vs Traditional

While this is an exciting and significant step into a digital world, we are not forgetting the importance of direct delivery and the support that a face to face environment can offer, that is why we will be developing the digital alongside the more traditional teaching methods. Keep an eye out for the launch of the new Level 4 workshop, together with new signs and symbols to better meet the needs of our diverse community base.

Help and support

Do have a look at the website, it is well worth it.

If you do find things that aren’t quite right or if you need any support using the website, please drop us a note on the ‘Contact Us’ through the ‘Help’ icon on the website, or email our help desk team at help@makaton.org, and our wonderful Makaton team will be on the case.

Thank you once again for your support, do keeping a look-out for new developments and releases coming soon and enjoy browsing our new website and library hub.

Happy browsing.. and do keep signing!

Author

Stephen Hall

CEO, The Makaton Charity

4th August 2020

News

Totemigo Trial
16/06/2020

Totemigo Trial

About 18 months ago I received delivery of an education tool called Totemigo. I had been asked to trial it for The Makaton Charity and had no idea what to expect. As a newly retired learning support teacher in Further Education and SEN teacher in Special Schools, and as a Makaton Regional Tutor I was interested to see the latest way of combining communication learning and Makaton symbols.

I run a community Makaton club (Makachat) for Makaton users who live semi independently and thought I would ask them to trial Totemigo. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that it is an old school object, in several sections which clip together magnetically with a satisfying clunk. I wanted to handle it immediately, and so did members of my Makachat group when we met. To use it requires turning each section so that you see a row of symbols that make up the syntactically correct sentence, and you can use smaller or greater numbers of sections as you build competence. My three testers were able to bring different experience to the challenge.

Totemigo Colourful SemanticsYou can use Totemigo with a stimulus picture on the first section, or you can find your stimulus elsewhere in a real-life situation, video etc. I populated the Totemigo with topics we suggested by the group, with a stimulus of a film clip linked to the topics we had been developing in the group already; signs and symbols to do with socialising in the community. I populated the Totemigo with concepts we were working on, and assigned a part of speech to each section, following the Colourful Semantics themes, i.e.

•    Who (Subject) – Orange.
•    What doing (Verb) – Yellow.
•    What (Object) – Green.
•    Where – Blue.

Oliver, William and Christopher are key members of the group. What I loved about the trial was that each one of them subverted my carefully planned activity and made it their own. Oliver, looking at the photo I had screened as a sentence stimulus, wanted to find a concept I hadn’t managed to include, ‘pub’ (you can now add concepts outside the core vocabulary). Oliver grasped the potential of the Totemigo immediately. He silently scanned and turned the Totemigo sections, seemingly oblivious to prompts.  Only once he’d made his decision about his sentence did he look up and was then happy to speak and sign to explain it. He remained grumpy that not all the concepts he wanted were there and was keen for me to give feedback about that.

 

In contrast William took the Totemigo, and found it difficult to rotate the sections, so we took it apart and he looked at the pieces individually. He discarded one of the sections and worked hard for a while to put it together. What he came up with was, quite unexpectedly, a rule for his mum about not using your phone in the cinema! He had chosen the symbol of ‘woman’ for ‘mum’ and the format allowed us to compare those two concepts afterwards to remind him of the difference.

 

Finally, Christopher had a go. He was less intuitive about the meaning of the symbols and it was more challenging for him to manipulate the pieces, so I gave him the sections separately. He had watched the others and picked up the way in which the other two had clicked the sections together and was pleased with those satisfying clunks. He could see that there was meaning in each section and once completed was happy to have a go at reading it back, with some support. I could see that it held his attention, allowed him to identify what he knew already and would be a good way of introducing new concepts to put together.

All three of the testing group used speech when reading back and signed when they had their hands free. They all used more concepts in the sentences they had made, and so were able to communicate in a more sophisticated way. They all reached for the Totemigo immediately and were motivated to use it. Finally, it gave them the time to process, to assimilate the information available and to use it in a way that allowed them to initiate, in their own time.

Well done everyone!

Totemigo is availble to purchase for £59

Author

Helen Hayhoe

16th June 2020

At work

Totemigo – bringing Makaton symbols to life
16/06/2020

Totemigo – bringing Makaton symbols to life!

Alice using Totemigo

As a parent and Makaton Tutor I have seen first hand the advantages that Makaton Symbols can bring as part of a multimodal approach for reading, writing , and developing memory skills.

I have found that they can sometimes printed card type resources can appear uninspiring to learners, and so when was asked to trial Totemigo by Makaton I was excited!

The totemigo is a robust, colourful ‘tool /toy’ which welcomes exploration and limited motor skills. The reels  attach together by internal magnets – it has a ‘rubic cube’ feel and I have found it kinaesthetic and undestructable (so far)!

Don’t be fooled by the colourful early years appearance – Totemigo uses are easily differeniated across ages and abilities and I see many uses across High School, Colleges and Adults to express feelings and choices. For example it could be used by people who have recently had a stroke and lost the ablilty to verbalise  to express their needs.

Each of the reels can be rotated vertically offering a choice of symbols and/or images and text. The vertical strips are produced online, printed, laminated and cut into strips to lead into one or more reels – depending how many you want to use. In the above pictures there are 4 and 3 reels used. The user can then build options by twisting the catridges and lining up the symbols up across the reels.

When you purchase your Totemigo you will receive the device itself (4 blank reels)  in a handy storage tube, an A4  folder to keep created activities in an activation code to enable your for your account on the Totemigo website.

Once you create your account you are able to view activities other people have shared and create and edit your own.

Using the online tool is relatively easy. When you choose to ‘+’ an image you will be able to switch on the Makaton tab and access all the Makaton Core Vocabulary symbols.

This is how it looks on screen. You can search by typing the start of the word and the symbols will be displayed to choose from. A click on the symbol adds it to your Vertical Strip.  Once you start creating an activity you can save, share and print , ready to laminate and load into your Totemigo. Previous activity strips can be stored in the folder for future use.

I have found many uses and thought I would share a few ideas here:

1. Simply Sentence building using only Core Vobabulary. You are able to colour the backgrounds, this means you can support a Colourful Semantics approach to the level your user needs

2. More personalised Sentences using pictures alongside the symbols by loading images

3. Symbol support for topic work like the 3 pigs, dear zoo by loading pictures and /or non core symbols.

Alice using Totemigo Whatever you are supporting as a Makaton Tutor I can recommend using the Totemigo, especically when talking about and illustrating the use of symbols – it really brings them to life.

My daughter Alice took the Totemigo into school to support some literacy work. Here is what her teacher said:

“Totemigo is an excellent tool which I found really helpful for children in a school setting. I used this at first for a sequencing activity within a communication activity. The pupils found it easy to use and the visuals created a great support and reference point. This would be a tool that I would use widely across my classroom for various activities and with a variety of children.”  Alicia Dooley – Dorin Park School

If you are interested in purchasing a Totemigo and have any questions please feel free to contact me . The after sales and technology support you will receive from Antonin and the team is also first class.

Highly recommended!

 

Totemigo is availble to purchase for £59 from the online shop.

Author

Amanda Glennon

16th June 2020

At work

Flamingo Chicks
16/06/2020

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

Author

Katie Sparkes

16th June 2020

Out and about

Condover College Ltd - Mr Blue Sky
16/06/2020

Condover College Ltd

SLT TeamCondover College Ltd is a small independent specialist college and residential care provider in the heart of Shropshire. Founded in 2004 by Steve McGill, a father who insisted the only very best care for his son, Matthew. Steve’s goal was to find a college that catered for his son’s disabilities and he struggled so he decided to start a college himself.

Today 16 years later, we continue Steve’s legacy of providing the best care and opportunities for learners aged 18+ who have moderate to severe learning disabilities, profound and multiple learning difficulties and additional complex needs.

Oli in the woodsWe provide Education, The Opportunities Programme, Care and Support including Accommodation and Short Breaks. Condover College has expanded and grows progressively every year, starting from just one residential home to now 13 residential homes nested in communities in and around Shrewsbury.

At CCL we use Makaton every day and we truly believe that it makes a huge difference to the lives of the people that we support. By making the world a more inclusive place, Makaton is helping everyone who lives with a communication difficulty to understand and be understood.

Emma hiking With this is mind, CCL wanted to fundraise for The Makaton Charity, to support them to be able to continue to provide the wonderful service that they offer. We had organised a Mini Makahike to take place at the beginning of May but this sadly could not take place due to the current COVID-19 situation. All was not lost… we decided to twist it up and collectively travel the equivalent distance of Snowdon as part of our daily exercise. And of course, no decent Mini Makahike is complete with a song so we all managed to practice the signs for ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and create a fun video compilation of our efforts.

Using platforms like FaceTime and Skype to communicate and teach the Makaton signs to learners and staff was a great method  to use in lockdown. Creating the video has lifted the spirits of everyone and put a smile on lots of faces! Our fundraising target was £100 and at the time of writing, we have reached £231. From everyone at CCL, we would like to thank everyone who has donated and to all staff and students who took part in the video.

Author

Condover College Ltd

16th June 2020

At school

Joy Grimsby - Makaton for NHS Staff
16/06/2020

Joy Grimsby - Makaton for NHS Staff

My name is Joy, I am a Makaton Tutor and Higher Level Teaching Assistant in Castle Batch Primary School, which is part of The Priory Learning Trust in Weston-super-Mare.  I just cannot believe the incredible things are happening to me at the moment involving Makaton and the NHS during lockdown!

This journey started 35 years ago when I was 22 years old and driving double decked busses for a living. A little girl with Down syndrome called Donna got onto my bus and gestured something to me. Her mum, an old school friend, said “she’s signing to you she’s learning Makaton at her school”.  That was my first ever Makaton sign. Donna had signed ‘cake’ her mum had just bought a cake from the shop. From that day on I started to pick up the occasional signs from Donna, who was a regular on my bus, teaching me new signs whenever we met. By the late 90’s I had started a family and so changed my job to accommodate my new lifestyle. This job was driving mini-busses for the local council supplying home to school transport for an SEN school. This is the job that changed my life! Having daily contact with children who had a range of difficulties and abilities, children with Down’s syndrome, children with autism, children with physical disabilities and children with global delay all using Makaton in some way. I became passionate about helping in any way I could including supplying respite at a local children’s respite centre.

Moving forward I retrained and was fortunate to get a position in Castle Batch Primary supporting a boy with autism on a 1:1 basis, this led me into the Speech and Language at the same school where I upped my retraining  and became a Higher Level Teaching Assistant. In 2010 I started my official Makaton Training delivered by the Springboard Opportunity Group and with the support of Castle Batch and Springboard completed my Tutor training.

Present day in lockdown at home. My friend, who is The Clinical Director of nursing, has been very busy preparing and recruiting staff for the new Nightingale Hospital Bristol. However she was very concerned about the feedback from other Nightingale Hospitals saying they found it very difficult to communicate with each other whilst wearing PPE so asked me to provide her with a few Makaton signs to help, of course I said yes and jumped at the chance to help. The Nightingale team decided on the words they needed, I put the signs and symbols into a poster and recorded a little video of how to make the signs for them to share during their own training. Little did I know what impact this would have! These few signs have become a local news story, I have been on local radio and local news broadcasts talking about Makaton, the Press association has shown interest and I have received hundreds of acknowledgments on social media! I am doing a webinar about Makaton to the NHS (possibly an audience of 200) which may also lead to more staff being trained up to use Makaton throughout Hospitals and care homes throughout the country.

Author

Joy Grimsby

16th June 2020

At work

Black Lives Matter
11/06/2020

Black Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter

The Charity is saddened by the challenges and prejudice still faced by Black members of the community. As an organisation we stand together with the victims of marginalisation and repression because of their race, and with those who seek change. At Makaton we value equality and inclusion, and Makaton is a language programme for everyone. As a Charity we are striving to expand accessibility to help everybody communicate effectively from all backgrounds.

We are committed to developing an enhanced cultural mix of support materials and where appropriate widen our language programme to reflect diversity. The recent events have made The Makaton Charity look at our own responsibilities, and we hope to meet the highest expectations of change and inclusion within our communication system.

We would like to show you some signs to help you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement:

 
 
Published

11th June 2020

News

Castlemilk Family Learning Centre
12/05/2020

Castlemilk Family Learning Centre

Joanne and Johan with Dave Benson Phillips

Joanne and Johan with Dave Benson PhillipsWe are on a wonderful Makaton journey which has led to us sharing our passion for Makaton within our local community. This journey began with our two wonderful staff members, Joanne and Johan, attending Makaton training and sharing their interest in further developing our children’s communication skills. They have led this journey; supporting our staff and families and sharing their enthusiasm.

We began using signs of the week, and staff quickly embraced signing and the enjoyment it brought to our establishment. We post our sign of the week and Makaton song of the month on our seesaw app and on our twitter page.

We have visuals and signs displayed all around our establishment as well as our sign of the week.

Families watch and learn the signs and join in together. The positive feedback we have gained from parents is huge. We observed in particular how beneficial signing with songs had on our children and the impact it had on all our children’s communication skills. The children started to spontaneously sign to one another, helping each other understand. We began sign along sessions with our parents, so the children could show how much they had learned and express the enjoyment it brings. Makaton strengthens the children’s communication, confidence and self-esteem.

Our sign along sessions have become a big family event. In September 2019 we received our Makaton Friendly award and quickly got to work on how we would like to celebrate. We invited Dave Benson Philips, and on the 12th December 2019 he spent the morning with us singing Christmas songs and watching all our fabulous children sign and sing. All of our families joined us in this event. Dave was amazing, energetic and expressed how much he enjoyed seeing all the signing the children were doing. Dave joined us for our Christmas family market, having some warm soup, and enjoyed chatting to staff and our families.
Pupils and staff with Dave Benson Phillips

The children are so proud of their achievements and love learning new signs and songs. Makaton is embedded within Castlemilk Family Learning Centre and we are very proud. We are now focusing on raising further awareness within our education sector and sharing our good practice.

We are delighted Makaton is being talked about and used in and around our community. This is because of all our staff children and families’ enthusiasm recognising the enjoyment and benefits signing have brought to our establishment.

As our Makaton Tutor Karen said, we are “riding a Makaton wave."

Author

Kelly Sloan

12th May 2020

At school

Mr Blue Sky - with Makaton
12/05/2020

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.

 

Author

Suzanne Miell-Ingram

12th May 2020

Out and about

SWAN UK - Dottie's story
17/04/2020

SWAN UK - Dottie's story

Dottie

DottieWe've been using Makaton in our family for almost 9 years which is something I never expected all those years ago. When my eldest son Henry was born we did some baby signing classes, which I found very rewarding and really bonding between us as well. When Dottie was born we signed up to do them again as I’d enjoyed it so much the first time around. Dottie is now 8 years old and we didn’t realise then what lay ahead.

Dottie has an undiagnosed genetic condition and this presents itself largely with her having learning disabilities and epilepsy. At 18 months old, Dottie still hadn’t hit many of the typical milestones, such as walking or talking; she also had other medical and health issues which became apparent around this time.

This meant lots of hospital appointments, tests, procedures, planned and emergency hospital stays, and different therapies. These appointments and therapies are still continuing now.  We receive excellent care with everyone doing everything they can but we still don’t know what is causing Dottie’s challenges, and why she isn’t developing typically.

Marie and DottieThis has been extremely challenging over the years and I am grateful to be supported by an organisation called SWAN UK (this stands for syndromes without a name). They provide information and support to families with children and young adults with undiagnosed genetic conditions and these children are affectionately known as swans.

Dottie is largely non-verbal, although she has recently started saying some words and she has the sweetest voice, however Makaton is one of her main ways to communicate. I’m so grateful I knew about Makaton so early on and was able to easily incorporate it into our family life.

At one year old I started using 20 key signs with Dottie consistently for more than a year before she started to sign back, I am so glad I didn’t give up, it was just going to take Dottie longer to learn the signs than her brother.

At 3 years old Dottie’s first sign was duck, which she signed in hospital when she was very poorly: it was such a wonderful and reassuring moment after being extremely worried for the previous few days in hospital.  Drink, Eat, More and other animal signs came shortly after that.

Slowly but consistently Dottie was always making progress adding to her signing repertoire and at 5 years old knew around 300 signs.  It was at this point I attended a Makaton workshop (Levels 1 & 2), as I realised after being largely self-taught (with the help of Dottie’s SALT) I needed to learn more signs to help teach Dottie more.

The course was so valuable and really cemented my knowledge. Up until this point we weren’t using symbols very much, as I didn’t fully understand them, and the course was also very helpful for this. Both at school and home we now use a visual timetable and signs for now and next and choosing items, which Dottie responds really well too. I wish I had attended the workshop earlier and I now encourage friends who have just started using Makaton to go on the course as soon as they can.

We noticed from an early age that Dottie loved watching TV programmes with people signing, particularly Something Special with Mr Tumble.

Dottie with Singing HandsDottie also loves music and singing: she is a big fan of Singing Hands and really enjoys watching them. We noticed that Dottie was learning lots of new signs and picking them up quickly from Singing Hands and she would often sign songs to herself in her bedroom. Now she is able to say a few words, we hear her singing the tune, saying some of words and signing along, its so wonderful to see and hear. Music, together with signing and singing, definitely helps Dottie to learn and retain new signs, it also helps me do the same. We get so much joy watching Singing Hands together, we’ve also been able to see them live and they are such lovely ladies too. We can’t recommend them enough.

Dottie and family with Singing Hands

Dottie signing FishIn the last couple of weeks we have been using the Makaton resources more than ever as we are home during the pandemic and trying our best to continue Dottie’s learning. We found the Your Home resource pack easy to use, really useful and fun. Dottie particularly enjoyed picking a symbol out of the hat and finding it in the house, we’ve also learnt a few new signs through this and its been a fun game. Now Dottie’s signing repertoire is quite large we are working on putting 2 and 3 key word signs and symbols together as our next goal.

The whole family enjoy signing with Dottie. Mike, Dottie’s Dad, also self-taught or taught by me, is planning on attending a workshop and the new online courses will be very useful for him. Dottie’s brother Henry has also expressed an interest, his signing is very good, he often corrects me when I make a mistake and it's lovely watching them sign to each other.

24th April 2020 was SWAN UK’s annual awareness day, Undiagnosed Children’s Day, raising awareness and funds to support families with children with undiagnosed genetic conditions. Many families like ours already feel isolated and lonely and need SWAN UK’s support more than ever  during these difficult times. Within the swan community, our children with undiagnosed genetic conditions are affectionately known as swans and Dottie and I would like to show you the sign for swan and share the swan in 60 seconds challenge with you.

Author

Marie P

17th April 2020

At home

Covid-19 advice
14/04/2020

Covid-19 advice

Lily washing her hands

Nic and Lily show us how to wash our hands properly, and explain what is meant by social distancing. Thanks to Makaton Tutor Nicola Pike for making these videos.

 

 

Published

14th April 2020

News

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Signs
09/04/2020

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Signs

Hannah signing Hello

Hannah shows us a few useful signs to support you in identifying some symptoms of Coronavirus / Covid-19.

Published

9th April 2020

News

Richard and Lydia's story
30/03/2020

Richard & Lydia's story

Lydia and Richard

Lydia and RichardI have been learning Makaton for 5 months now. I started learning Makaton to help my daughter develop her communication.

Lydia (now two and a half years old) is moderately deaf and has worn hearing aids from 16 weeks old. Having been identified as having a speech delay we thought Makaton would be a useful way to support her with her communication.

I started learning Makaton at a local weekly class and my signing vocabulary built rapidly. The regular practices of the early stages, with the gradual introduction of new stages each week, has meant that I feel very confident with stage 1 and 2 vocabulary. The relaxed nature of the class  and the amazing group of people who attend, with ages differences spanning 60 years it has been an absolute pleasure to learn and I now go as much for the enjoyment as for the necessity!

Lydia signing cakeWe have seen real impact using Makaton with our daughter.

The first time she linked two words together was speaking and signing (Cake please), which really emphasised to us how beneficial it could be.

The toughest challenge we have faced is trying to build Makaton into our daily lives and routine, as forming new habits and breaking old ones is extremely difficult. We are gradually having success and are slowly building more words into our daily activities, mostly at the moment centred around food!

My other daughter, who also enjoys learning new signs has started using Makaton at dinner times too (though mainly to combat the talking with her mouth full conundrum, which admittedly was not our initial motivation for learning Makaton!

I would highly recommend learning Makaton, either for the sheer joy of it or to make a significant impact on someone’s life, and if you can do it as part of a group, even better!
Author

Richard K

30th March 2020

At home

Bobbi the Therapy Dog
30/03/2020

Bobbi the Therapy Dog

Bobbi

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!

Author

Ami Coleman

30th March 2020

Out and about

An update from The Makaton Charity
26/03/2020

An update from The Makaton Charity

#BlackLivesMatter

Stephen Hall, Chief Executive of The Makaton Charity, gives an update on how we at the Charity are working to support you, our wider Makaton family, during the current situation.

 
 

Transcript of the video

Hi my name is Stephen and I’m the Chief Executive at The Makaton Charity and I want to update you on how we at the Charity are working to support you, our wider Makaton family.

This past week has seen a seismic change to all our lives, with schools closed, travel and movement restricted, and families and love ones separates in ways we would not even have considered possible even a few days ago.

This is a frightening and unnerving experience for everyone, but even more so for those with a learning disability or communication need; and we at the Makaton Charity are committed to doing all we can to support our community of users and the wider network of tutors, to get through this period.

Over the past week, The Makaton Charity has been working hard to establish an effective remote working environment, and I’m pleased to confirm that we are now fully operational, with all telephone lines and emails working, and our online ordering and product dispatch systems fully in place.

But we now need to up our game even more, with our community effectively locked down, we are working to provide an ever growing range of digital support and services to our network, with weekly downloadable resources for parents and families on our website, sign posting to key partner activity, such as those provided by Singing Hands; together with a growing list of support materials developed and shared via the wider tutor network.

This time at home, also provides a unique opportunity to move the learning of Makaton into an online environment. So, I can confirm that we are running a number of pilot Webinars this week, based around the Zoom platform. Over the next few days these pilots will feed into the same formal guidance for our tutor network, so that over the coming weeks more people can learn and refresh their knowledge of the Makaton language programme. So that we can ensure that the excellent standards of learning delivery are maintained, can I ask our Tutor network to hold fire on web-based delivery until these guidelines are published early next week.

But we need to go further still, I’m therefore pleased to confirm that we are ramping up our efforts to setup and deploy our Makaton Hub initiative. This will for the first time provide Users and Tutors alike with a central place to advertise and book onto Makaton network trainings, be that online or face2face; together with a membership platform providing a central space where individuals who use Makaton will be able to come together and share ideas and resources and access and search our database of  over 14,000 signs, symbols and videos. Testing will start soon, so if you are interested in helping us to develop and test this exciting resource, keep an eye on our website for further information on how you could get involved.

In closing, can I thank everyone for their many of emails, texts and Facebook posts of support and encouragement. We at the Charity are committed to do our bit to help our community and nation get through this difficult time, and as a plea to our innovative tutor network – if you have any downloads or materials you would like to share, do email them to the office and we will make them freely available and credit you for the idea provided.

Announcements are coming each week via Facebook, Twitter and our website so keep checking, and I would encourage you if you are not already sign up to join the Makaton Newsletter which can be found on our website.

Thanks for everything you are doing, collectively we can get through this. Keep safe and keep signing.

Thanks for listening

Published

26th March 2020

News

The Tiger Who Came To Tea
05/03/2020

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Mother signing to her daughter

This World Book Day, four organisations who champion Makaton as a communication method have come together to create a video to tell Judith Kerr’s children’s classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea in Makaton, making it more accessible to children and young people with additional needs.

 
 

The organisations, Family Fund, The Makaton Charity , Singing Hands and Wouldn’t Change a Thing, have produced the video, which is free to view, with the help of supporters and families raising children who use Makaton to communicate. There’s also a guest appearance from CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher AKA Mr Tumble.

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. It supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.

Following last year’s successful translation of Julia Donaldson’s, The Snail and the Whale for World Book Day, the organisations wanted to continue highlighting the importance of making children’s storytelling inclusive on a day that is important in many families’ calendars.

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive at Family Fund; “World Book Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate something that all children love - stories. Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills needed in life. So, when a story is told to a child in a language they understand it can open up a window to a new world.”

‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ was written by Judith Kerr, and originally published in 1968. It has sold over 5 million copies and been translated into at least 11 languages. A TV adaptation was shown by Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 2019.

Published

5th March 2020

News

Sport Relief: It's Game On
04/03/2020

Sport Relief: It's Game On

Suzanne from Singing Hands

We've teamed up with Sport Relief, Singing Hands and Out of the Ark Music to create a Makaton-signed version of this year’s Sport Relief song, It’s Game On.

 
 
Published

4th March 2020

News

Makaton at Derwen College
28/02/2020

Makaton at Derwen College

Derwen College Head of Speech and Language Therapy Julie Hawkins is a Senior Makaton Tutor and a firm believer in the power of Makaton. She explains why Derwen is a proud advocate of Makaton.

Julie Hawkins teaching Makaton to a class

Derwen College logoDerwen College is incredibly proud to be officially Makaton Friendly , offering students with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), and communication difficulties, a helping hand to communicate.

We believe it is vital that students are understood, and that they should be given every opportunity to communicate their feelings and needs. Makaton signs and symbols support communication and increase understanding between students, and between students and staff, helping to extinguish some of the frustrations that students feel at not being understood. Makaton also allows staff to better explain what is expected of students in their work area, residence or free time, and to recognise and communicate quickly when there is an issue.

As a College, we are proud to be able to offer Makaton expertise. I am a Senior Makaton Tutor, and also have a team of two trained Regional Makaton Tutors and six Local Makaton Tutors.

The college was delighted to host The Makaton Charity’s Study Day on 21st February, with 37 people. It was an opportunity to showcase our work with Makaton and demonstrate the vocational learning, work skills and independent living skills that our students learn.

Derwen Premier Inn appDerwen College is particularly pleased to showcase its ground-breaking ‘Support Work’ apps. The apps, which can be used on a tablet or a mobile phone, support students to access work, using Makaton options to prompt students. The apps, which have been developed with backing from The Makaton Charity, include a CV Builder App, Working in a Premier Inn app, and Working in a Café app. We believe that these apps are the first of their kind to help students with SEND in accessing work.

Using images, video, words or Makaton sign options, students can be guided step-by-step towards creating a CV; Hospitality students working in the college’s training hotel or at an off-site work placement are prompted gradually through ‘routes’ on how to make up a Premier Inn guest bedroom.

Derwen Working in a Café appHaving our own on-site Makaton Tutors means that all staff have access to a mandatory Makaton Taster and the new Level 1 and Level 2 training. Makaton symbols and signs are used in reception, food outlets and garden shop. Symbols are used as signage, on posters, college leaflets, student timetables and on the college website. Makaton can be embedded throughout learning and independence skills, not only for students with specified communication or SALT needs.

As well as facilitating the use of Makaton across college, Derwen is keen to spread the word locally, regionally and nationally. As a Senior Tutor, I am asked to train new Makaton Tutors for The Makaton Charity. At Derwen College, we are able to teach Makaton to groups in the community or to invite groups to come to us for workshops..The college runs courses on or off site, and has visited schools, groups and businesses. The college has hosted and led Makaton Taster sessions which have included teaching horse-related signs at a Riding Centre and festive signing for potential Santa’s Grotto employees.

The college also raises awareness of Makaton with our fabulous sign and dance group DOT (Derwen on Tour) who have performed at events including the National Eisteddfod, Christmas light switch-ons, and a Premier Inn national conference, bringing Makaton to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

We look forward to welcoming Makaton delegates to the college this month, and to continuing to support The Makaton Charity in creating a more inclusive environment for learning, work and communication.

Author

Julie Hawkins

28th February 2020

At school

Friendly Fish & Chips
27/02/2020

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.

Published

27th February 2020

Out and about

Isabella's Makaton journey
30/01/2020

Isabella's Makaton journey

Lucus and isabella

Lucus and IsabellaI came across Makaton when my little brother Lucus was born with Down's syndrome.

I sat in on a course with my Mum and Dad, we then realised not only was it going to be a massive help to Lucus but it was going to be really useful for my other brother, Alexander, age 2, who had just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy after a stroke in my Mum's womb.

I continued just picking up key words and concentrated on using them with Lucus. Then at age 11, after watching Wayne Barrow sign to songs, I decided that I wanted to be able to do the same for Lucus.

My mum shared a video of me and it had over 30k views in a matter of days and it made me realise that other people were interested too. That's when Isabella Signs was created across all social media platforms.

Fast forward now 3 years, I have well over 120k followers across my socials, including followers from around the world. And now my brother Alexander is completely verbal, and Lucus is well on his way.

He no longer gets frustrated as we now all have a way to communicate with him thanks to Makaton.

On our Makaton journey, Lucus and I have found ourselves in lots of unique situations whilst raising awareness.

Last week we were on The One Show where they surprised me and Lucus with my all-time favourite singer, Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, which was a dream come true!

They also surprised me with the legendary Dave Benson-Phillips and Zanna from The Makaton Charity. Louis asked me to introduce his first ever live performance of his new song in Makaton.

I feel very blessed to be supported through my whole journey by The Makaton Charity. I have purchased several of their resources including the Core Vocabulary USB stick, which has been invaluable to me and my family. We also love that they regularly post free print out resources .

My daily sign vlogs have even helped my younger sister Indiana (6) with her confidence: she was very shy but after filming in some of my videos she's now no longer shy. She has also gotten great at signing!

Author

Isabella E

30th January 2020

 

At home

The One Show
29/01/2020

The One Show

Isabella with Alex Jones and Matt Baker

Isabella with Alex Jones and Matt BakerOn Wednesday 22nd January, The Makaton Charity helped The One Show surprise a young Makaton supporter.

Isabella is 14 and has a younger brother, Lucus, who uses Makaton. In the last two years Isabella has used social media platforms to help raise awareness of Makaton, by sharing videos of her signing along to popular songs.

The One Show saw Isabella's videos and asked The Makaton Charity to help celebrate all of her hard work with a special surprise to say thank you.

Isabella with Alex Jones and Matt BakerDirector of The Makaton Language Programme Zanna Finnerty attended a filming session at Redriff Primary School along with Dave Benson Phillips, patron of the Makaton Charity, to help film the surprise for Isabella.

Zanna said "I love my job - I am so pleased that we managed to pull it off. After being involved in lots of work and secret codes with only 2 days notice, we filmed the surprise for our young Makaton supporter Isabella. Isabella came along to a session where we were having fun with Makaton in a primary school.

"Whilst watching the iconic Dave Benson Phillips clip of Goldilocks, he walked in and sat next to Isabella. It took a while for her to realise what was going on but she was thrilled to hear that she was getting an opportunity to talk about how Makaton changed her family’s life on BBC The One Show. She did not have a clue what we were up to, and she was in total awe and overwhelmed when she met her idol Louis Tomlinson.

Zanna and Dave Benson PhillipsIsabella was not the only one to get to meet her hero. This was my first time meeting Dave Benson Phillips. Anyone in the Makaton world will know how cool that is.

"Well done Isabella - you did really well and I am sorry for talking Makaton all day, in between filming. I hope it’s all helped you understand the Makaton Language Programme and how to use it. It was a pleasure to finally meet you and your beautiful mum and family. Always think The Core Vocabulary first and Keep Signing"

Read more about Isabella's Makaton journey .

Published

29th January 2020

News

Charlie Farley's
20/01/2020

Charlie Farley's

Charlie Farley's image

Makaton Tutor Fiona Cockram signing with a young girlAt Charlie Farley’s Nursery in Jersey, Makaton training has changed how we communicate with the children.

It has given us, as practitioners a whole new skill set to support and develop all our children to become effective communicators, whilst having great fun too. There’s nothing like your nursery teacher signing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to make a group of pre-schoolers laugh.

Using Makaton has brought children of all ages and abilities together, making it easier for all children to understand each other. Being an Early Years practitioner is all about having those moments when you’ve taught a child something that has supported them in their day, and raised their self-confidence.

Looking after the children’s well-being is of upmost importance and having this training has boosted the children’s and the practitioners' confidence. With Makaton we now have a nursery full of positive communicators who have tools ready to support when needing to express a want or need.

We have now made our two nurseries Makaton Friendly, and will carry on working with Makaton Tutor Fiona Cockram.

Are you interested in becoming Makaton Friendly?

Published

30th January 2020

At school

#StrictlySigning
07/01/2020

#StrictlySigning

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!

Authors

Alice & Amanda Glennon

7th January 2020

Out and about

Countdown to Christmas 2019
07/01/2020

Countdown to Christmas 2019

Mother and daughter in Christmas hats

A massive thank you to everyone who took part in our Countdown to Christmas. Your videos have been watched more than 260,000 times, which is the most views we’ve ever had during Advent!

To help you get through the dark days of January we’ve put together a few highlights and outtakes. Enjoy!

Published

7th January 2020

News

Pride of Britain - Terri's story
25/11/2019

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.

 

Author

Terri D

25th November 2019

Out and about

Marine Academy Primary
25/11/2019

Marine Academy Primary

Young girl poimtint at Makaton symbol for cutleryWe are the Makaton Champions from Marine Academy Primary in Plymouth. We would love to introduce ourselves to you and tell you all about the outstanding Makaton we do across the school.

In every class there is a selected Makaton Champion pupil. We have weekly meetings (which are invite only) where we discuss and come up with ideas of how we can improve the use of Makaton.

The Makaton Champions wear Makaton badges with pride, so other children can easily recognise who the Makaton Champions are. They are great role models who are superb at Makaton and want to help and learn more about Makaton.

Three pupils -two girls and a boy

Recently, the Makaton Champions came up with the idea of Makaton Mailboxes: a small box decorated with appropriate Makaton signs.

Each class has one. If a student or a member of staff would like to know a certain Makaton sign, they can write down the word they want to learn and post it in the Makaton Mailbox. Then in our weekly meetings, the children collect the mailboxes and learn what has been asked. Then they teach their friends the Makaton sign.

We have a designated Makaton Board for all staff, external agencies, parents and children to see. The board is filled with information about the Makaton Charity, the Makaton Champions, and useful website links that could be of use. The Makaton Board is updated weekly with the Sign of the Week (which is sent our electronically to all teachers too). Children learn the Sign of the Week and try to use it independently with their learning or when communicating to other adults and children. We read the Makaton Monthly newsletters and send them to the teachers to read too.

Young girl pointing at Makaton symbol for Classroom

In the past we have held Makaton workshops for parents and carers and have had the two-day Makaton Foundation Workshop for staff members to support their CPD.

Throughout our school we have Makaton symbols on the doors and the cupboards to support the visual image of the meaning of object.

Currently, we are learning lots of Makaton signs to complement our Christmas performances. When practising the songs in class, the Makaton Champion helps the teacher by demonstrating and teaching the signs.

When we have whole school rehearsals, the Makaton Champions stand at the front of the hall and performances the songs with the Makaton actions. Teachers get PDF documents of the signs they need to complement their songs.

Two young giels signing Tiny

We are very lucky to have Widgit's InPrint3 which our Inclusion Team use to make personalised resources with appropriate Makaton signs and symbols to support a child's learning, transitions or communication.

In the future we are hosting a Dudes Club, where dads can spend time with their children for one afternoon and take part in a variety of fun activities. One of the activities is going to be a ‘Makaton sing off’ of Christmas songs between the children and their parents.

We try our hardest to post our Makaton learning on Facebook and Twitter so please do have a look @MarineAcademyPlymouth (Facebook) and @MarineAcademy (Twitter).

Author

Makaton Champions

25th November 2019

At school

Makaton in the morning
05/11/2019

Makaton in the morning

Steven signing with pupils

Walking into school every morning, hurrying to the staff room for my first cup of tea, I pass the ‘Breakfast Club’.

Holbrook Primary School, where I teach, runs a breakfast club for its pupils every day, a chance to eat something nutritious and start the day in a settled and inspiring way. It’s an important time and can have huge influence over the rest of the day, positively or negatively. The school works hard to give the best possible start to its pupils, encouraging their mind and bodies to be prepared and ready to learn.

On a few occasions I’ve noticed the pupils standing in front of the screen copying dance moves or doing a mini morning workout. My first thought is ‘Maybe I should put down my biscuit and join them’. Afterwards, I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to use some Makaton, promoting signing and giving their brains a kick start, to the day.

The staff running the club were enthusiastic about the idea and the very next morning I walked in and saw a very large version of myself high up on the wall. All of breakfast club were joining in, including the staff. The pupils were engaged and focused, being active and concentrating, it was a great way to expand their muscles and their minds. I could tell they were having a lot of fun too.

The great thing about Makaton is that it benefits everyone in our school, even if pupils don’t use the signs to communicate, the physical and cognitive benefits are enormous. Pupils begin their education each day with focus, energy and enthusiasm.

Now when I walk in and see the pupils excitedly signing, I feel lucky to work in a ‘Makaton Friendly’ environment, that positively promotes inclusion and is able to celebrate our differences, recognising the benefits for all.

Pupils at breakfast club

Holbrook Primary School is a Makaton Friendly school, click here for more information about becoming Makaton Friendly and its benefits.

Author

Steven M

5th November 2019

At school

Dorothy's story
05/11/2019

Dorothy's story

Dotty

DottyWe've used Makaton with Dorothy since she was very little, literally a few weeks old.

We started just using basic everyday signs for milk, mummy, daddy, hello and bye bye, we weren't particularly strict about it but tried to remember to use them as much as possible. I remember her being quite young and making her first attempt at the sign for milk and looking delighted when a bottle was produced.

Her signing at the start was few and far between, but it made me determined to carry on as she was clearly understanding my communication.

When she was a few months old, our local charity was running a Makaton Beginners’ Workshop (modules 1-4) and I was interested in expanding my signing beyond the few that I had picked up from Mr Tumble, so I signed up.

Dotty sticking out her tongueThe course was great and gave me the confidence to really go for it and start signing with Dotty - the whole family got involved too. This was something that I really pushed and encouraged as it was important to me that Dot had more than just me who she could communicate with.

Her first official sign, and one she still uses regularly today, was dog. She was playing with our pooch (Winston) and he moved away, she signed dog indicating she wanted him to come back and play again.

It was amazing, proper meaningful communication, done unprompted.

She used it daily after that and quickly added more to her repertoire. She is now aged 2 (27 months) and has over 100 signs, including lots of animals, and is putting them together with speech to make short sentences.

Learning Makaton has not stopped or hindered her speech development at all. We've always used Makaton alongside speech, and she has copied that behaviour. Her speech is really coming through now with lots of words, plus it's really helped her understanding.

It's also stopped her getting frustrated by giving her a means to communicate while her speech is developing.

I feel Dotty has flourished using Makaton by giving her greater independence and autonomy to communicate her wishes effectively. For the family and I, Makaton has given us a way to enhance our relationships with Dotty – finding common ground to not only communicate on a practical level, but also to play, have fun and love our time together.

Author

Rhiannon H

5th November 2019

At home

Margaret Walker: Pride of Britain
29/10/2019

Margaret Walker: Pride of Britain

Margaret Walker with Strictly Come Dancing stars

We are delighted to announce that Margaret Walker, founder of the Makaton Language Programme, has won the Pride of Britain, Special Recognition Award for her dedication to and creation of Makaton.

The ceremony was held on Monday 28th October 2019.

 

Zanna Finnerty, Director of the Makaton Language Programme and Senior Makaton Tutor, attended the ceremony. She said:

"It was a wonderful night celebrating people of all ages, who go above and beyond to enrich other people’s lives. Watching Margaret receive her award was one of my proudest moments. I was in a room with hundreds of celebrities but the fact I was there with Margaret was already my dream come true.

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

"As a surprise to Margaret I stood on the stage and taught the audience to sign a message of thanks. It was terrifying but an absolute honour to play a part in the tribute to the amazing Margaret Walker and have the opportunity to share the occasion with her.

Margaret with Strictly Come Dancing stars Oti, Shirley and Craig"Much to my excitement the stars of BBC Strictly Come Dancing awarded Margaret with her trophy”

Please join us in sending our warmest congratulations to Margaret and to all of the other well-deserved winners.

See also: A brief history of MakatonMargaret explains how Makaton was first developed

Published

29th October 2020

News

The power of signing
07/10/2019

The power of signing

Barnaby as a baby

Barnaby as a newborn babyOur son Barnaby was born in January 2017. We knew when I was pregnant that our baby had Down’s syndrome so we had a bit of time to adjust to the news and learn about what lay ahead for us. We met with various people who gave us advice for the early weeks and months which was really helpful and reassuring.

We learned that our baby was likely to have a global development delay, meaning they would take a little longer to reach certain milestones like walking and talking. Everyone we spoke to mentioned Makaton, but we knew very little about using signing with a baby and how it might help. Our daughter Martha, who is two years older than Barnaby, had been to baby sign classes, but as she was a pretty early talker it never really became part of our way of communicating.

Barnaby as a baby, wearing a party hat Having picked up a few Makaton signs from various groups and watching Mr Tumble, we started using some signs with Barnaby when he was about 6 or 7 months old.

We started with just a few basic ones which might help him communicate his needs; ‘hello’, ‘more’, ‘food’ and ‘milk’. To start with Barnaby mostly used gestures rather than sign – pointing to things and nodding and smiling.

By the time Barnaby was about 15 months, he had started to copy us and was doing the sign for ‘more’ and ‘milk’ if we modelled it for him. Very gradually this progressed to him doing the signs in response to a verbal cue and then when he was about 18 months old, he would request his milk unprompted. This was a wonderful breakthrough and I can’t imagine how fantastic it must have felt for Barnaby when he was able to ask for something and have his needs met.

As Barnaby’s signing vocabulary expanded to some animals as well as ‘food’, ‘no’, ‘thank you’, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ he then had another breakthrough when he was about 22 months. He looked at me and signed ‘more’ followed by ‘food’. This was the start of a 24 hour binge where I had to reward him with a snack every time he made the request!!!

Our next breakthrough moment was just before Barnaby turned two. We had done bath time rather late and my husband and I were keen to get Barnaby and his sister into bed, so instead of all having a book together I said to my husband, let’s just pop Barnaby into bed now. Barnaby looked at me and did the sign for ‘book’. It was such a special moment – to think that he knew his routine and wasn’t going to let us get away with skipping his special reading time.

I often use this example when telling people how powerful signing is. If Barnaby had not had the ability to communicate with us using Makaton he wouldn’t have been able to ask his Mummy for a book for the last nine months!

My favourite signing moment with Barnaby though was when we had our annual appointment with his neurodevelopmental paediatrician just after he turned two. She had given him a toy car to play with on the floor. He crawled over to her, wedged the car behind her bottom then looked up at her and signed ‘where’ and ‘car’! After we both stopped giggling she concluded there was no problem with Barnaby’s communication – or his sense of humour!

Barnaby as a baby, with his familyAbout six months ago a friend was sitting with Barnaby and he was signing something to her which she couldn’t understand. She said she’d love to have a way to learn some signs, especially so she could teach her daughter as Barnaby would be joining her at nursery a few months later. I reflected on this and realised that it would be helpful for all Barnaby’s little friends and our immediate family to have a way of learning some key signs. And so the next day Barnaby and I started a little instragram account (called @signwithbumblebee) to demonstrate Makaton signs.

We try and post a sign every day if we can, and love to take requests from our followers. As well as helping our friends and family it has been the most brilliant way for Barnaby and I to expand our Makaton vocabulary. Even in the few months we’ve been doing this both of us have learned so much and I can’t get over how many new signs Barnaby has picked up.

Many of them he is now using completely spontaneously and just today he surprised me by looking at me and doing the sign for ‘outside’ as he wanted to play in the garden. The first thing he signs when I go into his bedroom in the morning is ‘Daddy’ and he regularly does the sign for ‘ice cream’ when I ask him what he wants for breakfast! Barnaby loves music and one of his favourite activities is signing along to songs and nursery rhymes.

Barnaby as a toddlerBecause Barnaby’s speech is significantly delayed (he currently has about 4 or 5 actual words), it is so powerful for him to be able to sign. His vocabulary has expanded enormously since he turned two and he probably knows in excess of 60 signs now. He is also regularly using two signs together such as ‘where’s Martha’, ‘dog sleep’ and ‘mummy eat’.

As we go about our day he is able to react to the world around him and is always pointing things out to Mummy e.g. ‘bird’, ‘car’, ‘dog’. In addition he anticipates his routine and lets me know when it is bath time or bed time.

As Barnaby is nearly three we’re now starting to get quite a bit of help from speech and language professionals to encourage his speech and it is through this I’m really seeing how beneficial it is for Barnaby to have amassed such an extensive vocabulary through signing. Recognising objects, being able to remember them and having a sign for them means that when he is able to start making the sounds and associating them with the correct objects or actions it will be so much easier for his words to literally fall into place.

If he didn’t have that signing structure and background it would be an awful lot more difficult for him to make that leap. And for this reason it is so important that Barnaby continues to sign even when the words start coming as it provides the most wonderful scaffolding and structure for his speech.

Barnaby dressed smartlyWe all continue to learn every day and to appreciate the power of signing.

My favourite example of how special signing can be is the sign for ‘sorry’. For this sign you make a fist with your dominant hand and rub it on your heart. Barnaby often gets a bit mixed up with signs that involve touching the body, so if you ask him to say sorry he’ll rub his fist on the other person’s heart instead of his own. If that isn’t special enough, since learning this sign Barnaby’s big sister Martha often prefers to sign ‘sorry’ than say the word out loud despite the fact she’s more than capable of doing so. As we all know saying sorry is never easy, so having a gentler, non-verbal way of conveying it can make it just a little less difficult.

I cannot encourage the use of Makaton enough. It has literally given Barnaby a voice; not just to ask for things he wants, but to comment on the world around him, tell me what he’s thinking and to express his personality and sense of humour. Teaching your child Makaton is a wonderful experience and there is no doubt it helps strengthen the bond between you. It is a very intimate way of communicating as you have to be looking at one another. We don’t know when Barnaby will start talking, but I have no doubt Makaton will help him get there quicker and allow him to be better at it when he does.

Author

Claire E

7th October 2019

At home

Sepsis Aware Bears
12/09/2019

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

Author

Ruth Harrison

12th September 2019

Out and about

Makaton changes lives
27/08/2019

Makaton changes lives

Katie and Gracie

Katie and GracieMy beautiful daughter Gracie is four and a half years old, she has complex needs, including global development delay, and is non-verbal. Gracie has a small number of single words and therefore uses Makaton as her main way of communicating.

As an experienced early years practitioner I had heard of Makaton and like many other mums we loved to watch Mr Tumble. I started to pick up some signs and wondered if this was a way forward as Gracie seemed to take notice in the children signing, independently copying the 'friends' sign.

Gracie riding a horseDuring a conversation with Gracie's speech therapist, she suggested that I could attend a Makaton Beginners' Workshop, and in the meantime we introduced 10 signs including 'more', 'eat', 'drink' and 'home'.

I began to follow Makaton videos on YouTube and we stumbled across the inspirational Singing Hands, who we are determined we will see live one day! Gracie has always had a love of music and their songs allowed us to enjoy singing together, while learning a host of new signs to add to our growing Makaton vocabulary.

Gracie has embraced signing and alongside picture cards she uses a total communication approach, enabling her to express her needs and ensuring that we are able to fulfill her requests... biscuit is still the most used sign and one everyone understands!

Amber signing pleaseI have always been passionate about supporting children with additional needs and around the time that I attended the Makaton training I was offered a position as a SEN lead in a local nursery that encouraged me to develop the SENCO role. This is when I met Amber a two year old who had very little expressive language, which was impacting upon her development and causing her huge frustration. With Amber's Mums support and enthusiastic practitioners on board, I began to introduce a handful of signs and Amber instantly began to respond to these, copying them with accuracy and beginning to use them herself to make requests.

Amber had been awaiting a speech and language assessment, which as anyone knows is a long wait, and as the weeks rolled by Amber began to use two and three signs together, often only being shown a sign a couple of times. Amber had been able to acknowledge the birth of her sister by signing 'baby sister Ruby' and the most poignant and longed for 'love you Mummy'.

Amber and RubyAmber's language has literally appeared before our eyes and she is now at the point where she is using 3-5 word sentences, understanding and using positional language and the pronoun "I". To cut a long story short her speech therapy is now on permanent hold!

Amber's story is truly exceptional and will not be a reflection of everyone's journey, it certainly isn't my daughter's. However Makaton has given Gracie her voice, enabling her to build confidence to communicate and her bank of spoken words is expanding.

I have become somewhat of a champion for Makaton as it is used within our setting on a daily basis, and several other parents have signed up to courses as a result, understanding that it is an aid to communication and never a replacement for language. Surely all we want as parents and practitioners is for our children to be understood and their voices heard... being non-verbal certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to say!

Makaton really does change lives and these two incredible girls are proof of that.

Author

Katie S

27th August 2019

At work

Kerry's story
27/08/2019

Kerry's Story

Kerry with workshop certificate

Kerry with workshop certificateAt the end of September 2018 my mum was diagnosed with a rare psychological condition called Disassociative Fugue State. This condition means that the sufferer can ‘forget’ who they are, where they are or the identity of any persons around them. It can also lead to wandering off and loss of speech.

It’s cause is apparently rooted in stressful life events, events so stressful that the mind in effect takes over and protects the sufferer. It’s a very reptilian existence for Mum. She is literally operating on a fight or flight basis and nothing more, and her speech can go completely off line: she’s had a number of days with no speech. It’s not that she won’t talk, she can’t. 

Since her diagnosis there have been a number of ‘episodes’, a number of hospital admissions, and a number of tests. A number of arguments with myself and a countless number of doctors. She has also been reported as a missing person on at least three occasions with the police involved in searching for her as they deemed her high risk.

The whole world can sometimes frighten my Mum and she faces challenges each day in activities you and I take for granted. We are slowly identifying triggers to these states, so far we have sounds, particularly high pitched beeping sounds like a truck reversing and sirens. Fireworks are also hugely challenging. Did you ever notice how loudly tills beep in the supermarket? Did you ever think that your phone beeping or ringing could impact people around you significantly, like my Mum?

Smells, not as prevalent as sounds but sometimes a smell bothers her so much it can cause these wandering episodes. One such smell is coffee, which is a shame as personally I’m addicted to the stuff!

Busy places, especially if enclosed like a supermarket. People dashing about doing their business, babies crying, children screaming, personal contact with strangers, loud announcers and those awful self serve tills with the computer generated voice. Airports and hospitals are particularly bad.

We decided to learn Makaton as when Mum goes into a disassociation she loses speech, which she finds highly frustrating thus adding to her stress. She knew a bit of Makaton previously as she worked for many years as a carer to special needs people, with a particular expertise in Autism.

I’m absolutely stunned with the results. We had an excellent and understanding tutor. I emailed Sonia prior to booking the course and half expected her to say Mum wasn’t a suitable candidate for a course. I asked some odd questions about if any videos would be played and how big the class would be etc. The course was very short of people with only three of us and I know that realistically there was a chance Sonia would cancel, however she stuck with us and we completed the first stages in two day long sessions.

Since then Mum has had a few episodes, however none have thankfully yet been serious enough to involve the police again. She used Makaton for the first time when she was distressed and with her sister. She started to sign and her sister filmed it and sent it to me and I was able to tell her that Mum was saying she wanted to go home.

Another time Mum has had an ambulance called for her and she had no speech. We got onto a video call together and I was able to help Mum through Makaton to say where her pain was, where her medication was kept, what she had been eating and drinking, and that she’s slept well.

The most recent success was following a call from my aunt. She told me mum was having a disassociative episode and she was struggling to stop her running off. My aunt held the phone up as we carried out a video call. Mum didn’t recognise me, as always happens, however as soon as I started signing she almost did a double take and stared intently at the phone. I ran through some basic words we had learnt and Mum started to join in. She calmed down quite a bit and I was able to tell her who she was, where she was and who the people around her were, and reassure her she was safe.  Slowly but surely she started to come back and then her speech returned. Sadly a buzzer went off in the room which set her off again but again Makaton saved the day.

I truly believe that Makaton has done more for Mum so far than any doctor or tablet has been able to achieve for many months. It acts as a brilliant grounding tool and seems to focus her mind somewhat and drags her back into the here and now.

We still have a long road ahead and we do feel alone with it sometimes. We have good family support but as a family we are on our own with it. There’s very little information out there as it apparently only affects 0.2% of the population. Public services are so overstretched that we have six months on average between appointments with a specialist, where for an hour we tell him what’s happened and he renews the prescription and sends us away again.

Mum has no memories at all of these episodes. She literally will snap out of it and suddenly say something clearly and articulately and will realise, I guess by the way we look at her, that something happened and then we have to gently explain it to her, after all she has a right to know what happened.  We don’t know why this has happened to Mum and we don’t know if it ever be cured, but we’re working on it.

Author

Kerry L

27th August 2019

At home

43 years of Makaton
27/08/2019

43 years of Makaton

Ann Cardinal

43 years of Makaton. Time to reflect...

I had the great fortune of attending the very first Makaton workshop at Botleys Park Hospital in 1976, very shortly after my arrival in the UK from Sweden. This was run by its inspiring creator Margaret Walker (who took the project forward) and  to whom I owe so much. Having struggled to teach some of the Paget Gorman Signs to an adult with a learning disability living in a large hospital outside Norwich it became obvious that Makaton would be the solution to improving his communication as well as that of so many others.

Work opportunities for this client group were seen as essential even in those early days. One deaf lady had a job in the kitchen of a department store. Staff welcomed the opportunity to learn some signs.

After moving to Folkestone a few years later, my first speech and language therapy post involved preverbal communication with children who had profound and complex needs. Basic Makaton was essential. I also worked in an SLT clinic where children with significant language delay benefitted greatly from sign support. However, in those days there was a fair bit of scepticism from some parents (“we want our child to speak, not sign”).

I recall two particular sets of parents of babies with Down’s Syndrome. One couple embraced Makaton, attended evening workshops that I set up and used signs consistently with their son. The other parents rejected signing outright and discharged their son from SLT. Fast forward about 30 years to my retirement years, these two by now young men both attended a Sing and Sign session that I ran, accompanied by my husband at the keyboard. The young man who had been immersed in Makaton was now an articulate and confident person who no longer used signs.  He wanted to be in the group because of the singing and the drum kit! The other young man had very limited understanding and poor speech. (Clearly other factors may have played their part in this difference!)

From my Norwich days I had wanted to return to working with Adults (LD) again. In the early 1980s there was no SLT service in South Kent for these people. I secured some sessions in a local day centre and from there the referrals started coming in from across the district. Having no car I got around on a bike and train for a bit, but I finally bought a car. This opened up opportunities for running evening Makaton workshops across our health district. These were initially “Open House” sessions run on seven evenings with up to 50 people attending.

In 1988 I trained as a Regional Tutor. The team of SLTs working in ALD expanded, as did the number of tutors. It was a dynamic team keen to work on training across services and enhance communication skills amongst health and social services colleagues. One of the last Makaton projects I was involved in before my retirement from SLT was the development of the Makaton Health Communication Pack in collaboration with Makaton, following GP training across East Kent.

So 45 years later...

  • Gone are the days of extensive hand written letters by Margaret Walker.
  • We have a culture where signing is lauded and applauded.
  • It is my time to say goodbye.

Thank you Makaton for enriching my life!

Author

Ann Cardinal

27th August 2019

At work

Thornbury Communication Trail
27/08/2019

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.

Author

Nicola Pike

27th August 2019

Out and about

Chloe signz
04/07/2019

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
Published

4th July 2019

Out and about

Truly amazing impact
03/07/2019

Truly amazing impact

James 

I first became aware of Makaton when I started my children's nursing career around 9 years ago, however I never became familiar with it.

My son James was born in 2016 and has complex medical needs including having a tracheostomy for laryngeal stenosis (narrowing of his airway), kidney issues and heart issues which he required open heart surgery. Despite all of this James is a very fun-loving, beautiful three-year-old.

Due to James’s airway problems he unfortunately cannot vocalise. When James was around 6 months old we were introduced to a speech and language therapist who began to teach us the basics of Makaton.

Anna, Ryan, Kevin and James (L to R)In the beginning it was a lot to get used to and it was quite overwhelming as you never think you are going to need to need and use signing for your children. Thankfully we did continue to learn and use Makaton signing with James and he has picked it all up so quickly.

Anna, Annmarie, Ryan and James (L to R)We continue to see a speech and language therapist at home on a regular basis and it has been really good in helping us along with our Makaton signing. It has allowed James to communicate with us allowing us to understand his feelings, what he wants and needs.

Recently, with James’s sister Anna (5 years), brother Ryan (1 year), and Kevin, my husband and James’s dad, we have all been singing songs on Anna's karoke machine. The use of Makaton and learning the signs to songs has been absolutely amazing and means James can join in and be fully involved in family fun activities.

James and RyanThe use of Makaton also helps James’ siblings Anna and Ryan be able to communicate and play with James and learn what he is asking or telling them. Also James’s aunts, uncles and grandparents are all beginning to pick up and use Makaton now on a daily basis to communicate with him. We also use Mr Tumble, Singing Hands and YouTube to learn Makaton signs and songs.

To someone starting out in learning Makaton, I completely understand how overwhelming, scary and even frustrating it can be having to learn this form of communication, but the impact Makaton will have on your family life will be truly amazing to help you understand what your loved one needs.

It is also a skill you will carry with you when you meet other very special people who uses Makaton in you day to day or work life.

Author

Annemarie McBride

3rd July 2019

At home

New Life Nursery
10/06/2019

New Life Nursery

New Life Nursery is the first preschool in Congleton to receive Makaton Friendly status.

Children holding Makaton Friendly certificate

We have a little boy who has Down’s Syndrome and using Makaton with him was really where our Makaton journey began.

At New Life Nursery all staff have received Makaton taster training and we have one fully trained practitioner who helps the whole staff team develop their signing. 

Callum with Makaton Friendly certificateIt was tricky at first trying to learn and remember new signs.  Signs around the nursery including the kitchen cupboards help to prompt us.

Our children are excited to ask for their drinks at snack time by signing and we sign our snack time song and end of day song too. We are starting to see the children use signs during play when asking for help or encouraging each other to share.

Using Makaton on a daily basis means that our nursery is accessible to everyone, including children and/or their families who find communication difficult for whatever reason.  We are very proud to have been recognised as Makaton Friendly.

Callum with his mum, TinaCallum’s mum, Tina, says “I’m really pleased that the nursery has taken the time to all learn something that will benefit my son and others. It stops him becoming frustrated when he can’t express himself.”

We are very grateful to Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support group for training, supporting  and encouraging our staff.

We would encourage anyone thinking of learning Makaton to have a go. It can make such a difference to anyone who finds communication tricky.

Author

Alison Timbey

10th June 2019

At school

Filming the Bedtime Story
29/11/2018

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:

Author

Tracy Clark

29th November 2018

Out and about

Tom's Makaton story
29/11/2018

Tom's Makaton story

Laura giving Tom a piggy back

Laura giving Tom a piggy backOur Makaton journey started in January 2014 with five line drawings on one A4 piece of paper: book, bath, ball, teddy bear and chair.

A couple of months prior to this, Tom had been fitted with a tracheostomy, an artificial airway tube in his neck to help him breathe properly.  The tracheostomy tube meant no air passed Tom’s vocal cords and as a result he was completely silent and incapable of speech.

We had spent the last few months in hospital, and it had been a gruelling time.  This took our total time in hospital up to around 11 months... Tom was 14 months old.

Colin holding baby TomAlthough the news about his speech was difficult to take and we had a lot of concerns, we were just so glad to be getting to take our baby home safely.  So in amongst juggling all the medical care at home, we started to sign these 5 things whenever we could.

Months went by.... Tom had severely delayed development as well as a long list of medical complications, so it was difficult to tell if we were getting any feedback from the signs. Then in September 2014, his dad, Colin, signed Bath and Tom clapped his hands and smiled. He recognised the sign!  All three of us signed and clapped and hugged and cried.

The following week Colin and I went on our first full Makaton training, learning Stages 1 and 2 of the Core Vocabulary.  The new signs and symbols felt overwhelming at points, but the tiny bit of progress we had seen was just the encouragement we needed. We also got to meet our local Makaton Tutor, Linda Macleod, who shared her personal experience with Makaton and the positive impacts it had on her and her family.  We were inspired!

All of this gave us such motivation to really embrace Makaton and all it could bring to Tom and us as a family, and it came just at the right time as our journey was about to get more complicated.

During our time at home, we had started to suspect Tom may have a hearing impairment - given his health complications, he didn’t undergo the usual newborn screening, and subsequent tests were inconclusive.  His long time in hospital intensive care beds meant his development was progressing differently to the average child, so even audiology and speech and language were confused.

It was agreed Tom should undergo an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test to confirm, which would be performed under general anaesthetic.  The date was booked for mid October 2014, just a couple of weeks before Tom’s 2nd birthday.

We went to hospital and once Tom was asleep, audiologists attached specialist probes to his head which would measure his response to sound while he was sleeping through his brain waves.  Tom also underwent an MRI scan of his ears and head to help assess him.

A few hours after Tom had woken up our audiologist came to see us… the news was not good.  Tom had been diagnosed with profound bilateral sensorineural deafness; they had tested him up to 90dB and there was no evidence of hearing in either ear. 90dB is the equivalent of an airplane taking off or being in the front row of a concert, so Tom was likely in a completely silent world.

A follow up appointment to review the MRI scan results confirmed the audiologist suspicions – Tom had missing auditory nerves and underdeveloped inner ears, which meant the sound signals were not reaching his brain.  This meant that hearing aids would offer no assistance and cochlear implants would be very unlikely to work.  We were devastated.  And hugely concerned about how Tom would be able to communicate with us, or we could help him understand some of his future medical treatments.

Tom riding a tricycleInitially some speech and language professionals were shocked by the diagnosis and rather pessimistic about the outcomes. With only visual cues, it was much harder to learn signing, plus Tom had other learning difficulties.  No wonder it had taken so long for him to pick up even one sign.  We were told to be realistic about his low chances of being able to sign or understand.  It was another devastating blow, and felt so cruel given all the other complications Tom was dealing with so bravely.

For Tom’s 2nd birthday we had a massive superhero themed party.  We tried to focus on how well he was keeping and the fact we were able to celebrate at home; his 1st birthday was spent in intensive care.

As I watched Tom respond to the lights and people around him, and the feeling of the music through the speakers and dance floor, I thought back to our Makaton training and Linda’s stories of her journey.  Colin and I discussed it and talked to our speech and language team again – we were going to put our energies and faith into Makaton.

So far progress had been slow, but at least the was some progress. Our speech and language therapist Georgina was very supportive, as was Linda.  With their support, as well as our amazing local mainstream nursery Larbert Day, Tom was surrounded by Makaton, with additional visual cues to help support his learning such as photos and symbols.

Sign sharing sessions were arranged for our carers at home who helped look after Tom’s medical needs, other family members attended training, we took out a subscription to the MyChoicePad app; and Mr Tumble, Dave Benson Phillips and Singing Hands DVDs were all on repeat at home.

Slowly we learned more vocabulary and felt our confidence grow.  And Tom grew with us… he continued to respond to more and more signs, and we could see him looking at our hands as much as our faces to understand what was going on.

As part of our bedtime routine, I had begun signing “goodnight Tom, mummy loves you” after we learned it at our training in September 2014.  9 months later in June 2015, I tucked Tom into bed and signed as usual, and this time he looked up at me and signed “love” back to me by tapping both his hands on his chest.  I cried out with joy and scooped him back up out of his cot, sobbing and kissing him.

TomIt had taken almost 18 months but my Super Tom had shown me he could learn to sign!

Now almost five years later we use over 300 signs and Tom signs over 50, and in sentences.  His most commonly used ones are iPad and bike, his two favourite things!  Makaton has given Tom a voice and a way of telling us what he wants and needs.  Without it, he would be a very different boy.... frustrated and stuck in a silent world. Now he is a bright, sociable and curious 6 year old with often very strong opinions on what he does and doesn’t want to do.  It’s also been hugely beneficial from a medical point of view - we have been able to explain to Tom when we are going to hospital, and what was going to happen, as well as him telling us when something wasn’t okay.

Tom has complex epilepsy and had  a very lengthy and severe seizure in December 2016.  As we waited for him to come round, the medical team had told us they were unsure of what to expect in terms of long term damage.  Tom opened his eyes and looked around, unsure of where he was. I was able to explain the nurses were looking after him and he was safe in hospital.  I asked him if he felt okay and he signed back “sore”, holding and moving his hand above his head.  “Do you have a sore head?” I signed back to him, and he responded “Yes”.  I grabbed him and gave him a big cuddle and asked the nurse to get some pain relief.  Despite such a prolonged seizure, he was able to communicate and be comforted, which was one of the key things I had been most worried about when we first got his hearing diagnosis.

Tom’s reaction to the CBeebies Makaton-signed bedtime story was just magical to watch.... I wasn’t expecting him to be so engaged but his face completely lit up and he was totally enthralled.  He seemed surprised to be seeing someone on the TV signing just like him on a programme he recognised... he kept nudging me and looking to make sure I was watching it!  There are a lot of areas in Tom’s life where it’s difficult for him to be included without a lot of support.  It’s wonderful CBeebies are using Makaton and we can’t wait to see more stories and programmes with it.

The video going viral was a surreal experience - I didn’t even know my husband Colin was filming at the time!  I had asked him to take a photo when I saw Tom’s reaction - it was an hour or so later when I discovered there was a video, and when I watched I knew I had to share it.  I so wanted to let CBeebies see how much of an impact it had made.

It was also really important to me to let Rob Delaney know how much we appreciated it as well.  We had followed the story about Rob’s son Henry, who also had a tracheostomy like Tom.  I was really moved by the piece Rob wrote about Henry, and the mention of their family journey with signing.  It felt really special for me as a parent of a child with similarly complex medical needs to see a fellow parent, someone who knows the personal and profound impact the Makaton language can have, signing the story.

The subsequent flurry of news and radio coverage was amazing!  I so enjoyed talking about Makaton and sharing a little bit of our story.  If it encourages one other family in the way we were encouraged in the early days, then it’s all totally worth it.

In the future I hope to do more training and eventually qualify as a Makaton tutor so I can keep spreading the word (and signs!) of how much it has brought to our lives.

Laura, Tom and Colin wearing Santa hats
Author

Laura McCartney

29th November 2019

At home

Communication for all service users
26/06/2018

Communication for all service users

Back in April 2017, I attended a conference called positive choices in Hull, with a group of my learning disability nursing students, lecturers and qualified nurses from Edge Hill University. This is a conference that takes place annually and brings together learning disability nursing students from across the U.K.

The aim of the conference is to keep students up to date with the latest happenings in our field of practice, as well as raising the profile of learning disability nursing and celebrating the achievements of the people we support.

It was here that I first met Amanda Glennon, a Makaton Tutor, who taught us some basic Makaton signs that would be useful in practice and she also told us about her daughter Alice.

Alice is a fun, loving, energetic young girl who communicates via Makaton. Alice has had numerous medical appointments with various healthcare professionals over the years, and Amanda informed us that not one healthcare professional had been able to communicate with Alice through signing.

It was this story, along with the #GetTheNationSigning and #HelloMyNameIs campaigns that inspired myself and my colleague,  Eve Hesketh, to make a change. We wanted to teach student nurses from other fields of practice the importance of adapting your communication skills when communicating with a person with a learning disability and how we should always include them in conversations regarding their health and wellbeing.

The two of us making 300 sets of 8 symbols. It took weeks!!

We started this project by providing the September 2017 cohort of student nurses at Edge Hill University with a communication workshop. This cohort includes student nurses from all four fields of nursing. 

This workshop involved explaining why adapting our communication skills as professionals is so important as well as demonstrating how to introduce yourself in Makaton by signing ‘hello my name is...’.

At the end of the workshop we provided each student with a communication aid that included a set of 8 cards with a Makaton symbol on one side and the corresponding Makaton sign on the other.

The students were able to take these communication aids on their first nursing placements and when we conducted an evaluation with the cohort about the project we received positive feedback. The students gave examples of when they had used the aids in practice and how they had enhanced the service user’s experiences.

Comments we received from the students included:

  • "..used them in placement at a hospital when it was tea time and I used the eat and drink sign. The patient also communicated when they needed the toilet" Student nurse (child)
  • "the patient I used them with had Huntington’s disease and was unable to communicate verbally" Student nurse (adult)

These comments highlight that Makaton can be used with a variety of service users, with varying needs.

This project has been expanded and recreated with student paramedics, as well as being implemented in the first year of the nursing curriculum at Edge Hill University. Our aim is to expand this project further and deliver it to other student health professionals as well as introducing them in local NHS trusts.

It is important that awareness of adapting communication skills in order to meet the individual needs of people you work with is increased within the health service and how much of an impact this can make to people lives.

Not just settling for teaching as many healthcare professionals to sign #hellomynameis as possible, we recently had the chance to meet Holly and Phil from This Morning. After explaining the reasoning behind the project they were both more than willing to take part...

We are on a mission to help spread the word. Watch this space!

The Makaton Healthcare Cards are available as a free download from the Makaton Library.

 

UPDATE 1st May 2019
Eve, Emily and their colleague Alice Waddington have won the award for Student Innovation in Practice in the Student Nursing Times Awards 2019.

“We are over the moon to have won this award and want to thank Makaton, Amanda, Alice and everyone at Edge Hill University for all their support. By winning this award we are hoping that we have gained a bigger platform to enable greater communication for all, across the NHS. We are extremely proud that this has already begun, with Alice’s paediatrician pledging to learn some signs for her next appointment.”

Author

Emily Kavanagh

26th June 2018

At work

Do we really need Makaton?
02/10/2012

Do we really need Makaton?

Natty and Mia play cardsDepending on where you live in the world, you will most likely be recommended to begin to use a system of signing when your child with additional needs is young. It's not unusual for parents to question the usefulness of Makaton. Portage workers advised us to use Makaton with Natty, but I had very mixed feelings about it at first. This is just our experience, every child's journey is different, but it might answer some questions you have if you're new to signing.

What is Makaton and how can it help you child?

When our eldest was born I knew baby signing was a good idea in theory, but didn't get any further than buying a few books with baby signs in them. She was quick to learn to speak and the need to sign passed. However, when Natty was born and Down's syndrome was identified, Makaton was suggested. Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to aid communication. Initially, I questioned whether this was necessary. Was it really essential for Natty's language development? I think I was in denial that she would need additional help at first, and the thought that she might need to use signs to communicate frightened me a little if I'm honest.

Using Makaton can help the whole family communicate

NattyI also remember wondering if maybe the Makaton would actually delay her speech development.

I hear a lot of parents ask the same question, worried in case the signs would be learnt instead of the spoken word. Luckily, my days as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages had taught me that the one way to help adults memorise new vocabulary was by doing as many actions as possible to embed new words. Doing two things at once can only enhance and accelerate language learning.

Imagine that you're at a party. You are introduced to someone new. They tell you their name, 'Hello, I'm Hayley.' Instantly forgotten. But imagine that this Hayley trills 'Hello, I'm Hayley', whilst simultaneously jumping in the air and clapping her hands. Would you be so likely to forget her name then? It's the same reason we learn lyrics to songs more easily than the same words written down in bland text on white paper. It's called kinesthetic learning and children with Down's syndrome tend to be kinesthetic learners. They work best when all the senses are involved. In short, Makaton supports, backs up, speeds up and develops language learning for children with speech delay. It gives two different types of input for every word, which should always be said clearly as well as signed. It's an extra hook to hang the word on if you like.

You don't have to learn a lot of signs at once, because your child will let you know what they want to say, and you will only need 5-10 or so words at a time, so don't be daunted or put off. Natty's first signed words were 'Mum', 'Dad', 'Cake' and 'Chocolate'... quickly followed by 'Chocolate cake!' coupled with a fervent pointing motion at the treats cupboard! So when I had accepted our daughter's needs and pursuaded myself that Makaton really was the right thing to try after speaking to several parents and professionals, we began in earnest.

I can't recall exactly how old she was then, around 18 months, or 2 years old I guess. But here is the next vital point about signing to your child. It will reduce the frustration of the toddler years. This applies to all children, but if your child has language delay and knows what they want to say to you and can't vocalise it they will become frustrated. Very frustrated. Can you imagine being 3 years old and wanting a glass of water and not being able to communicate it? Teaching them to sign these vital needs will not only ease frustration for you both, but will also likely bring about the speech you all crave sooner than not using signs at all. And the beauty of it all is that when your youngster masters a word, they naturally drop the sign. They drop it of their own accord, you don't have to worry or interfere. Signing will not delay or prevent your child from speaking. If your child doesn't verbalise, they still have the benefit of the signs.

There are lots of resources out there to help your child learn Makaton

Natty still reintroduces signs if she is super excited or in a new situation where she needs comfort. If she is over stimulated or being a bit naughty, signing to her focuses her, calms her down and makes her listen to what is being said to her. We use Makaton a lot for more abstract concepts these days, such as colours, emotions and currently Days of the Week. This will continue as long as Natty needs new ideas explaining to her. So, give it a go. Don't be afraid and don't feel overwhelmed, you don't need to learn a lot at once. Seek support if you need it, and learn to love Makaton. After all, without it, how else can you sign across a crowded room to your Mum that you need the toilet, or indicate to her that you want a drink when your mouth is too full of food to talk.

And how else can you emotionally blackmail a parent when they leave for work, unless you can sign 'sad' doefully out of the window as they drive away...

It seems that yes, we do need Makaton.

 

Read Hayley's blog, Downs Side Up

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Hayley G

12th October 2012

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