This wonderful guest post on why and how to get a Santa signing in Makaton this year has been written by Nicola Pike, a Makaton Regional Tutor who is working very hard to give children with communication difficulties the same wonderful experience of Christmas magic as other children! This is also very close to my heart too, as our youngest son has communication difficulties. Please share this post far and wide!
I love Christmas. I truly love it. I get a fizz in my stomach when I think of all that the season encompasses, it’s about family and love, fairy lights on everything and Nat King Cole roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
Without question my favourite day is Christmas Eve. ‘Cos that’s when the big guy comes. Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Jolly Old St Nick. Ridiculously I still get excited, that old magic instilled in me as a child still lingers and now happily lives on in my own children.
My sister and I used to barely sleep on Christmas Eve, too excited to sleep in case we missed him, too fearful to open our eyes in case he knew we weren’t asleep and didn’t come!
You may, like me, have lots of great memories of visiting Father Christmas at a grotto. This is where you could see him legitimately, and experience that feeling of knowing you mattered. He knew you, he knew if you’d been bad or good, (and of course you’d been good because you’d been warned that ‘Father Christmas is watching’ every time you did something remotely mischievous!)
He would ask you what you wanted for Christmas and you would tell him, the eclectic mix of toys, bikes, dolls, games that had been growing longer with passing weeks and you went away safe in the knowledge that you’d imparted the most important of information to him and the responsibility of delivering it all now lay with him.
Imagine then if you couldn’t tell him what you wanted, or if you couldn’t understand what he said to you. How would it feel to want a doll or a train more than anything else for Christmas but not to be able to tell the person who is going to be bringing you your present. Would you still feel the magic? Would you feel like you counted, that he knew you?
So then, how can we keep the magic for children who have a communication difficulty? Think of the scene in the remake of ‘A Miracle on 34th Street’ where Santa signed to the little Deaf girl, her reaction was priceless. Last year a YouTube clip of a Santa signing in a mall went viral and rightly so – because Santa should know how to connect with children on all levels, shouldn’t he?
Here it is:
Makaton is a language programme that offers visual clues in the way of signs (hand gestures) and symbols (black and white line drawings) to help understand or express the main ideas in a sentence. It’s a very powerful tool for adults and children who need a different way to communicate, or who need to support their speech to help make themselves understood.
Learning a handful of signs could transform a Santa experience for a child with communication difficulties. It’s not hard to learn, lots of signs are based on natural gesture – think of how you might sign Reindeer – got spread hands up by the sides of your head to show the antlers? By Rudolph, you got it!
Makaton taster sessions for Father Christmas and his helpers will be rolling out around the country this year with a vocabulary specially selected for use in a Santa experience. If you think that Father Christmas should be signing with your child, please encourage the venue to get in touch with the Makaton Charity to find out where their nearest taster will be held, or find our Santa Signing Facebook Page.
Father Christmas is an important part of learning about giving and receiving for children. As adults we know the pleasure of giving. A fellow tutor once described Makaton as a gift – this Christmas why not give the gift of magic to a child with communication difficulties and make their Santa experience a meaningful one.
Nicola has been using Makaton at work for 30 years but more importantly it’s an integral part of her home life as it’s the primary source of communication for her son who is 9 and who has Down syndrome. Nicola is on a mission to get the world signing so he can grow up in a world where communication isn’t a barrier. With her colleague Erin, they provide a range of training for parents and professionals.
Try our amazingly unique and magical Family Christmas Tradition of Christmas Letter Bundles from the North Pole. Elf letters filled with secrets and snippets from the North Pole, for you to deliver very mysteriously … for your children to find.
*You don’t need an Elf or a Fairy Door to enjoy these letters. Pop them by their toothbrushes, in the shoes, stashed away in their toys – have fun!
A sneaky listen to our Advent Calendar Christmas letter bundle …
Take your children on a magical journey with these unique, hand-drawn letters from two of the most magical places on earth … the North Pole and Fairyland.
Hide them among the bills and junk mail, lay them on the table first thing in the morning, stashed among the toys, or snuggled up in their bed. You choose where your children find the letters, to create a magical family tradition the kids will love!
“The best Christmas idea ever.” – Charlie Condou (Actor)
“These were the best things I have ever (and I mean ever) ordered!!
I’ve never seen the magic or happiness last so long x”
– Jolene (August 2017)
If your child believes in Father Christmas and you want to keep the magic for as long as possible, There are new Christmas Letter Bundles each year.