Thanks for coming back for the second half of the article I wrote initally for The Voice (the magazine of Down Syndrome Australia) back in March. It was modified for our feature page on the YOOCANdoanything website. Then some final changes on here. If you have come straight here, please stop reading and go to the previous blog for the first half!
(Also, while I have your attention, if you would like to be kept informed about how you can help launch our upcoming children’s book and its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, please provide us with your email address. We will keep it to ourselves and send you updates – you can even help develop the books with us! Thank you for your support, Rob 🙂 )
So how did Elijah and Crumpet come about? Mum first used a monkey puppet to encourage Elijah to learn words and sounds, which was very successful. I was always impressed at how Elijah would interact with his puppets as if they were living things, even if he sometimes did a double-take at me trying to be a ventriloquist! Elijah always tries to copy Thomas, which has been really good for his development. When Thomas started talking about YouTube and becoming a YouTuber, Elijah was quick to declare that he was going to be a famous YouTuber too. This was the seed for the idea that grew into reality. Embracing social media technologies seemed like a good way of showcasing Elijah’s strengths and as we thought about it, there were many other benefits: from our SRV (Social Role Valorisation) training, I knew that being a YouTuber was a highly valued role amongst his peer group; Elijah would have to practise content, which would assist his learning; the show would allow others to connect with Elijah, as they would learn about his life and have something to talk about; it might assist other parents of children living with Down syndrome, or anyone seeking information about what life was like living with Down syndrome.
We googled ‘how to start a YouTube channel’ and the advice was to just get started, so we did! Filming started with an old camcorder on a pile of books and I had a month free trial for editing software. The feedback was positive and I hoped that friends were not just being kind, but as time went by we developed content and slowly the channel took shape. Below are our very first 4 video thumbnails, before we learned about theming and logos! You can still find these videos (with better thumbnails now) on YouTube.
A new camera, tripod, green screen, editing software and many hours later (nobody told me it takes 4 hours for a 5-minute edit), we were fully immersed in Elijah and Crumpet. Elijah and I discuss each show, sometimes writing out the plan. If there is reading involved, Elijah has to practise until he is confident as it is important that we show him in the best possible light. We do a lot of ad-libbing as Elijah will make a funny statement and we then follow that lead. There is such a lot of content in the pipeline that it is hard to know what to do first. We are trying to appeal to a wide range of viewers, so we might do a chocolate video and then do a Japanese language learning video, then dancing, then wildlife, then travel.
Filming takes the least amount of time. Promoting and networking on social media takes more time and editing takes the most. We were doing daily uploads in order to get the content out, but we are now concentrating more on Instagram, since this has a lot more engagement. We have a strategy to build both channels. While subscriber numbers are not a priority, it’s always nice to see a show of support when someone clicks Subscribe (links at the bottom of this blog so you can support them all)! Ultimately, more followers means more advocacy and influence, which is a real motivator. It means a lot when someone messages to say that they were feeling low and our show picked them up. I often get woken up by Elijah wanting to do a show, or when I get up I find Elijah in his room reading the words to a song. He really wants to practise and do a good job. It has accelerated his learning and given him some real goals – you just have to watch Elijah rattle off 30 words at high speed in Japanese to see what he is achieving! The routine we have is a good one and it’s a fun activity for us to do together – great ‘father-son’ time!
We have connected with some great people from around the world in the YouTube, Instagram and Twitter communities and also the world-wide Down syndrome community and there are many exciting future opportunities which have opened up for us. We are making shows of interviews with other children living with Down syndrome from around the world. We have a world-first international art project using 21 acrylic on canvas paintings. We are seeking supporters who wish to be involved (all you need is a video camera, or even use your phone). In addition to Elijah’s emerging work as an artist (see our hashtag #NoSmallArtist), we intend to publish a book and also produce educational material for an international audience. We also have several TOP SECRET international projects, aimed at tackling discrimination, which we would love to tell you more about, but … !
With over 130 shows uploaded, we are nearing 1,000 subscribers on YouTube and we are on track to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram by the end of 2019. We value your interest and the momentum it creates. With your support, the Elijah and Crumpet show might just go on for longer than we expected … watch this account!
Thanks very much again. I hope you enjoy reading this and, if you did, please follow and click the notification bell, or whatever you have to do on here! Since I am new to blogging, please send any feedback you have to: ElijahandCrumpet@bigpond.com – you can ask any questions and I will try to build the answers into my blog. I’ll be guided by you!
(Sept 2019 update to the figures above … we now have nearly 200 shows. We went past 1,000 on YouTube, which was a major achievement through hard work for a year. Instagram is now over 4,000 but they have changed their rules which means we are not able to advocate to as many people as before, unfortunately. We could still get the 10,000 but I think 6,000 is more realistic now. In addition, I have finally got the hang of Twitter, so that is growing.)