Signing for Santas (and Santa’s little helpers)


Santa’s little helpers are being urged to make Christmas more magical for children with communication difficulties by learning some festive sign language at Oswestry Library on Thursday, 21st November.

A trained tutor from ‘Makaton friendly’ Derwen College, in Gobowen, will be running the two-hour Signing for Santa workshop at the library from 2.30-4.30pm.

Senior Makaton Tutor and Derwen College Head of Speech and Language Therapy Julie Hawkins will be leading the workshop which will teach Christmassy signs, symbols and songs to enable festive helpers to communicate with youngsters with learning difficulties and disabilities. The course costs just £10.

The idea for Makaton’s Santa Signing Workshop originally came about through a partnership between The Makaton Charity and Weardale Railway, in Co Durham.

Julie Hawkins explained: “A few years ago, The Makaton Charity developed Makaton signs and symbols to support Santa on the Weardale Polar Express. A mum filmed Santa signing to three-year-old Betsy – a little girl with Down’s Syndrome - which made her Christmas magical. The video went viral, with more than 50,000 views. From there two Makaton tutors developed a Makaton Workshop to teach Santas to sign. We were really pleased to run our first workshop in 2017.”

Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech.

Senior Makaton tutor Julie Hawkins said: “Makaton is become more widely known and used in specialist and mainstream educational settings and on television. Children’s television presenter Justin Fletcher, aka Mr Tumble, uses Makaton signs and symbols to support speech, and we’ve even seen celebrities on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing signing ‘thank you’ to viewers. Derwen was also proud to see Makaton founder Margaret Walker receive a Special Recognition Award at the Pride of Britain Awards 2019.”

“We believe that by learning a few simple signs, every Father and Mother Christmas and would-be elf could communicate effectively with all children ensuring that the grotto experience is truly special for children with learning difficulties and disabilities.  The workshops are great fun and offer a bit of extra help for grotto staff, making sure that Father Christmas is never lost for words.”

For more information visit: www.derwen.ac.uk/events. To book, email [email protected] or call 01691 661234 ext 354.

  • Published on 14th November 2019