10 Minutes with: Isabella Evans of "Isabella Signs"
Meet Isabella Evans from South Wales, who you may recognize from the “Isabella Signs” videos we’ve shared many times on the MTeam’s Facebook page. She creates daily signing videos, usually with her siblings involved, using the Makaton language.
It’s easy to forget that she’s just 13-years-old when you hear about all she has already accomplished, on top of being an amazing big sister to two brothers who both have special needs and a little sister too.
We caught up with her to find out more about why she started signing, why it’s important to her, what it’s like to be a special needs sibling and how that might influence her future career choices.
Isabella answered all of our questions in video format and they are also transcribed below, so take your pick!
MTEAM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
ISABELLA EVANS: Hi, my name is Isabella Evans. I’m 13-years-old, and I live in Bridgend (near Cardiff) in South Wales. I have three siblings, two brothers and a sister. Alexander is 9-years-old and he has cerebral palsy; Lucas is six and he has down syndrome and Indiana is five.
MTEAM: What keeps you busy beyond the daily signing videos you create.
IE: I do a fair bit of modelling. I’ve done multiple campaigns and I’ve been published online at Vogue Italia. I work at a swim school two nights a week helping the little ones swim and I just enjoy going out with my friends.
MTEAM: You’ve built an amazing community on social media where you share signing videos, usually with your siblings involved. Can you tell us a bit about when and why you started doing this and why it’s important to you?
IE: I started doing sign language because obviously I’ve mentioned Lucas has down syndrome so he is non-verbal. I’ve always wanted to communicate with him so I thought sign language was definitely the best way possible.
I remember my mum’s friend and her little son who has down syndrome came round and I was signing to my favorite song (which is Rockabye), so my mum took out the camera because she thought it was really cute. She uploaded it to Facebook and it got like 30,000 views in a couple of days. So that’s when I realized that other people want to learn and that they need help communicating with their loved ones who are non-verbal, who have additional needs. So that’s why I started this, to help other people.
MTEAM: Tell us about the specific type of signing you use in your videos and explain a bit about what it is and how it works for those of us who are unfamiliar.
IE: In my videos, I use Makaton. If I can’t find a word in Makaton, then I would resort to using BSL (British Sign Language). With Lucas, Makaton is a lot easier for him to pick up, so that’s why we use that with Lucas.
MTEAM: What resources would you recommend to someone, beyond your amazing videos, that would help them learn to sign?
IE: Oh my gosh, there’s so many! If you look at my facebook page, I have a pinned post with them all on there. Some of the main ones are definitely the Makaton Charity because they’re the ones who made this incredible language. Two lovely ladies called Suzanne and Tracy from Singing Hands. They’re amazing and they’ve helped me so much. There’s a lot of other ones, especially some unofficial pages like Sign Along with Us and Genna and Jaxon who are amazing. There’s just so many that I couldn’t name them all.
MTEAM: Tell us more about your siblings! What do each of them love most? What makes them happy? What makes them uniquely Lucas, Alexander and Indiana?
IE: I’ll start with Alexander. Alexander enjoys Xbox and playing Fortnite. He also loves to dance. Obviously he tried as hard as he can because he has cerebral palsy, but he puts as much effort in as he can. But his favorite move is probably the Floss. He does it all the time. We can be in Tesco (supermarket) and he’ll be there flossing in the queue.
Lucas enjoys Avengers, Lego Ninjago and he also likes to dance as well. Even when he had his gallbladder removed and he was in pain, he was still dancing.
Indiana is a proper girly girl. She like anything pink, glittery, shiny, anything with the word unicorn in it, rainbows, coloring, anything girls; she loves it.
MTEAM: How has being a big sister, specifically to two brothers with individual special needs, influenced your life so far? Maybe it's too early to tell, but do you think being a big sis to Lucas and Alexander will influence your future career choices at all?
IE: Yea, definitely. I’ve always wanted to help people and with experience helping Lucas and Alexander, that’s definitely made me realise 100% that I either want to be e a teacher or just something to do with children with disabilities. It’s just amazing. I love, like with Lucas and Alexander, just spending tie with them. I get along with them so well, so with other children, it would be really nice to work with them.
MTEAM: What are some of the ways you most enjoy bonding with your siblings?
IE: Cinema time. When we go to the cinema we enjoy it so much. And that’s one of my favorite times with the kids. But also, my signing! When we’re all sat here at the table, it’s just amazing when we’re all signing together. And you guys get to see it every day!
MTEAM: What would you say to someone who is struggling with their role as a sibling to someone with special needs?
IE: Just obviously understand that they’re probably struggling as well because maybe they can’t communicate with you or something. They are struggling as well. Just take it day by day, breathe and just be patient; be really patient with them.
MTEAM: How could the world become a more inclusive place for Lucas and Alexander to grow up in?
IE: I think just having more awareness of people with disabilities. That would definitely help them massively.
MTEAM: If there was one thing you’d most like the world to know about Lucas and about Alexander that you haven’t said here already, what would it be?
IE: They entertain me and my whole family so much, all the time. Literally I’ll be watching TV, just minding my own business, and Lucas and Alexander will come in front of me and they’ll either do something hilarious or they’ll just be sat there laughing at something. Alexander’s laugh makes everyone laugh because it’s just so funny. I just love them both so much and they’re just hilarious.
People need to remember that Lucas and Alexander are more alike than different. And what I mean by that is that they’re more like me and you, and yea, they’ve got a few additional things going on, but that doesn’t make them any different to us. They’re exactly the same as us. And that’s how they need to be treated. They need to be treated the same as us and not differently. That’s something that I definitely need to get across.