Random ramblings and TV-inspired activities

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Something Special: review

Something Special is a masterwork; the crowning achievement of the ubiquitous Justin Fletcher. Cbeebies seems to rotate the series, and the producers seem to have nailed the format by about series 3 or so (you can spot the difference based on whether Mr Tumble or Justin introduces the programme). Mr Tumble comes into his own in those later series, and indeed we don't call it 'Something Special' in our house, it's known simply as 'Mr Tumble'.

I've watched it with my kids from a very early age, as what I found fascinating is that, throughout the programme, the presenter/characters use Makaton, a form of sign language. We did baby-signing with our kids in a rather half-hearted fashion using a book to teach ourselves, and that is, I think, derived from Makaton.

It's more a comment on our commitment than on baby-signing in general that the only sign that seemed to stick with either of our kids was 'milk', but it is amazing the difference that one sign can make. Just the other day, my grumpy boy was squalling and I couldn't figure out what he wanted - it was too soon for food or sleep - and then he starts desperately clenching and unclenching his fingers, a distress beacon of flashing digits. Ah! thinks dozy mummy, it's afternoon milk time...

Anyway, the reason that they use Makaton in Something Special is that the series is aimed at children with special educational needs, so where perhaps speech may be a problem, Makaton is another way for them to communicate. The children which Justin meets often (but not exclusively) have special needs. From a diversity perspective, I think it is great that my kids get to see a whole range of people represented on television, and I really like Something Special for that reason.

Another reason I really like it is the range of scenarios that Mr Tumble and Justin encounter, a wide spread of activities, from shopping to sailing. I find it quite interesting to watch, and I have picked up quite a bit of the signing myself without realising it. My daughter likes the signing too, and will often do that while she talks, which is sometimes a bit odd when we're out and about, but who cares... My little boy also seems to have picked up a bit, and will wave at the TV at the appropriate moments at the start and end of the programme. I really like the gentle humour of the series, the friendly tone, and that the kids actually do learn quite a lot from it, not just the signing but also about the wider world. I think Justin Fletcher does an excellent job presenting it, it is pitched perfectly.

It was quite an exciting moment last year when one of the series we were watching featured, as Mr Tumble's house, a holiday home we stayed in a couple of years prior. We went back there this year. It is a gorgeous house (see above,) so I will quite happily glaze over and pretend I am still there, looking at the sea view and enjoying the sunshine. I didn't tell my daughter we were staying in Mr Tumble's house. I think the lack of spots would have confused her.


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