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Hannah and Sarah did all of their Makaton Training together from Foundation through to Regional Tutor stage. They qualified as Tutors in March 2014. Hannah and Sarah were both keen to train as Makaton Regional Tutors as they understand that being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important life skills we need. They are both firm believers, through their own personal experiences and reading research undertaken, that Makaton is an incredibly valuable language programme. It has the power to reduce frustrations around communication difficulties and enable individuals to connect with other people and the world around them.

Hannah and Sarah recognise and are keen to promote the use of Makaton and educate how it can greatly enhance children and adult’s language and communication opportunities. They have also developed a keen interest in Early Years child development, phonological awareness and how the early stages of this helps children to develop early language skills. They are particularly interested in the link between how musical activities can aid the development of language skills. They are very aware of how early language development is directly linked with early exposure to song, rhyme and rhythmic activities.

Hannah McLorinan

Hannah had exposure to Makaton from an early age. Her younger brother has Down Syndrome and through him, she began using Makaton as a toddler and has carried it through to adulthood.

Hannah plays the cello and graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester with a BMus (Hons) in Summer 2011. In her final year at RNCM she enjoyed working on lots of community projects through a ‘Music for Health’ pathway. Hannah volunteered at Manchester Children’s Hospital, the Royal College Manchester and Wigan and Leigh Hospice giving ensemble performances and offering vocal and instrumental workshops based around improvisation and simple rhythmic games. Hannah spent time at Manchester Children’s Hospital and Royal College Manchester exploring how music can be an aid to communication.

Hannah has spent time working in both Primary and Secondary Schools, working as a Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant. Whilst in these positions she was responsible for delivering various interventions (particularly in speech and language), supporting her named children access the curriculum. For some of the children Hannah supported, Makaton was integral in enabling them to communicate their wants, needs and develop their learning and understanding. Whilst working in schools Hannah has always enjoyed being heavily involved in musical extra curriculum activities, running different musical ensembles.

When Hannah started at Buckfastleigh Primary School she was given the opportunity to formalise her Makaton skills and attended training. She then worked hard to cascade signing throughout the rest of the school, implementing a sign of the week and delivering basic Makaton training to all staff. Hannah also ran a Makaton lunchtime club, which children and teaching staff both enjoyed attending. In addition to Makaton training Hannah attended courses for phonics, as well as Tiger Teams training, which focused on developing children’s motor skills.

Since graduating, Hannah has also been employed as a pre-school music teacher, working with babies from three months through to four year olds. She often used her Makaton skills within these sessions, recognising the importance of a Total Communication approach within her classes.

Sarah Thorp

Sarah studied Psychology at Degree level, graduating with a 2i BSc (Hons) from University of Plymouth. In 2004, she had her son who has complex learning needs (including communication, learning and social-emotional needs) who now attends a Specialist Secondary School in Exeter. Following the diagnosis of her son she took voluntary redundancy from her previous career and became a full-time advocate and carer for him. This encompassed all aspects of his life, becoming heavily involved in ensuring his development and progress was continuous and optimised. When he was a baby/toddler she utilised Makaton signing to aid his communication and understanding, providing training for his Pre-school to work with him.

Sarah attended courses on Portage & Total Communication, following which she acted as a parent advisor in sessions and on interview panels for Portage Home Visitors. She has also taken part in training to train others in the Early Support Developmental Journal and has an NVQ 3 in Childcare, Learning and Development. She has also attended Independent Parental Support Training with Devon Parent Partnership, a Managing Conflict Workshop run by Devon Parent Carers Voice and Chaperone Training.

Prior to starting work at Denbury Primary School she also worked for Portage as a Parent Support Worker alongside a Music Therapist for children with complex medical and learning needs, again utilising her Makaton skills. Sarah has also been a parent support worker in a community youth choir.

Sarah has spent her time since 2010 working at Denbury Primary School, firstly, working as a Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant. Whilst in this position she was responsible for delivering various interventions (particularly in speech and language), supporting children access the curriculum. For some of the children Sarah supported, Makaton was integral in enabling the children to communicate their wants and needs and develop their learning and understanding. Sarah has worked with children of various ages with Down Syndrome, Significant Global Delay, Hearing Loss, children who are profoundly deaf and those with ASD and/or Sensory Processing Difficulties.

Sarah then became an Assistant SENCo within the school, predominantly across Key Stage 1 and transitioning children to Key Stage 2 or onto other specialist education. During her time in this role, Sarah was responsible for supporting children, other support staff and teaching staff in relation to developing individual education plans, behaviour strategies, resources and interventions, the monitoring of progress and speech and language provision across the school. Sarah was also integral to the school in developing a more child-centred approach to Special Educational Needs Reviews, supporting children in having their voice heard through signs, symbols and other communication methods. During her time at Denbury Sarah has undertaken training in phonics, language link, learning through play, the EYFS curriculum, supporting children with Down Syndrome & Global Delay. She supported the whole school in becoming a signing school, using Makaton signing across the school to ensure inclusion and for inclusive communication for school performances. Whilst working at Denbury, Sarah has also enjoyed being heavily involved in musical activities.

Sarah is passionate about Total Communication and multi-sensory learning alongside the ability of Makaton signing to support and develop early communication skills in children with or without additional needs, in addition to those of all ages with communication difficulties.