I walked into a school nervous and slightly scared, sixteen years old, no understanding of special education, and signing was a far off mystery I’d only ever seen on a Sunday morning during the Hollyoaks omnibus.
A young boy came running up to me, before I’d even reached the reception desk, ‘hello’ I think he attempted to say and waved his hand at me. ‘Hi’ I replied anxiously, too embarrassed to move my arms, he looked at me slightly confused and then ran away back to his class. That was the first time I’d seen anyone use Makaton, though at the time I didn’t know its name or its purpose.
That was a pre visit to my work experience placement in a Primary SEN school for college. The two weeks I spent there was full of similar encounters, in stories, songs and conversation. By the end of my time there I was able to move my hand slightly and at least say hello to everyone. I saw how so many people without the ability to ask for what they needed were able to express themselves. That’s the biggest gift of Makaton, it’s a key, a key that unlocks a door of communication. Inviting everyone in to a world otherwise off limits, a conversation finally conversed, an opinion finally expressed or a message finally heard.
After leaving that placement I never actually had anymore Makaton experiences until many years later (let’s not worry about how many exactly). When I began a job as a learning support assistant. The school I worked for championed Makaton and clearly believed in the benefits to its pupils. Every pupil in the school had a statement of special educational needs and a majority of them had speech and language difficulties. Every day I saw and got to be part of Makaton engaging and creating opportunities for young people to interact and be part of the conversation.
With a fellow colleague I created my first Makaton choir, the first song was ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry. The enjoyment, excitement and energy that came from doing that first song, and that was just me, demonstrated what a positive impact Makaton and music could have on a school and its community.
Some years later, now running my own class, I have a job in a mainstream primary school, working in a provision for speech and language, Since I came here two years ago the school has been on a journey in regards to Makaton, it is now an essential part of our school ethos.
We incorporate it into every aspect of the school day and are continually looking for new ways to inspire, develop and adapt how we use Makaton.
Our Makaton choir is the talk of Gosport, along with our federated school, we are performing more and more in public and taking Makaton to the community. Encouraging and inspiring everyone to lift their hands and join our conversation. Lots of parents enjoy watching the choir too, I’m hoping to start a parent choir soon.
I started my YouTube channel, SignWithSte, so everyone can learn, develop their skills and participate in assemblies and school events. The pupils, parents and friends of our school embrace being part of something so inclusive and enjoyable, they feel the same joy and pleasure when signing as I do, we have created our own Makaton community.
If it interests or inspires you in anyway, check out my YouTube channel or get in touch with your local Makaton Tutor, you can be part of the Makaton community too.