In 2017 my daughter, Alice, discovered Strictly Come Dancing.
She loved tuning in each week and as a Makaton user would sign each couple’s initials as they were introduced, as well as using signs for the themes of the dances they performed.
As the Strictly 2018 season arrived I began to worry about her understanding of the changed line up. In her ‘Strictly world’ so far Aljaz always danced with Gemma, so I was worried this would be confusing or upseting.
Alice has Down’s syndrome and needs Makaton signing for communication, she also uses Makaton symbols to support understanding, transitions and reading, so I came up with a symbol activity to help kick off the 2018 season.
We used the photographs of the new celebrities alongside their profession symbols, ie Dr Ranj – Doctor. On the opening show where couples were paired together, we played a matching game. It was a huge success, Alice understood the new partnerings, and it introduced the new celebrities.
We shared the game on social media and got several retweets from Kevin Clifton and Dr Ranj, which was the start of our campaign to make Strictly more inclusive. Each week Alice and I would pick a sign to suggest to the Strictly team and would put videos and posts on social media to encourage signing on the show.
Dr Ranj and Janette Manrara became our Champions of Makaton by signing Glitter Ball and Fireworks on their show entrances, and it didn’t go unnoticed, getting coverage across social media and the press.
Alice has been promoting signing within the NHS, so was delighted that Dr Ranj was raising awareness for Makaton and inclusion on the show. In January 2019 Alice went along to the Strictly Come Dancing live tour: Dr Ranj and Janette did not disappoint as they signed Glitter Ball as they walked down the staircase to their introduction. Alice was delighted!
She was also very lucky and over the moon when Dr Ranj talked about her and sent her a special sign on the show #KeepDancing (To Keep and Dance (2), originating from BSL).
Later Alice met Dr Ranj and was privileged to give him a Golden Okey from The Makaton Charity to say thank you.
A very special day and a very lucky girl indeed!
You can look at the resources and blog from Strictly 2018 and we are hoping to make resources available for the Strictly 2019 Season. Watch this space!