Help with autism and communication

Girl with autism using Makaton to sign the word butterflyMakaton can help people who have autism to communicate by combining signs, symbols and speech. Makaton helps children and adults with autism develop language skills, to understand and be understood. Makaton allows children and adults with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) to communicate independently using signs and symbols, with many naturally dropping them at their own pace, as speech develops. It can also help to reduce frustration and promote inclusion.

How does autism affect speech?

ASD can affect speech, language development, and social communication in many ways. Children with autism might be slower to develop language, have no language at all, or have significant difficulty with understanding or using spoken language.

A person with autism may:

  • be nonverbal
  • speak musically or hum
  • make sounds or babble
  • repeat words that have been heard (echolalia)
  • appear to be fluent communicators but lack complete understanding

To find out more about autism visit the National Autistic Society

What age do autistic children talk?

Children with autism with verbal communication generally hit language milestones later than children with typical development. While typically developing children produce their first words between 12 and 18 months old, children with autism were found to do so at an average of 36 months. Speech patterns can be idiosyncratic, with the child non-verbal or acquiring speech quickly but in particular ways.

Once autism is diagnosed, speech therapists assess the best ways to improve communication. Throughout therapy, the Speech and Language Therapist also works closely with the family, school, and other professionals. If someone with autism is nonverbal or has difficulty with speech, the therapist may introduce alternative communication strategies such as Makaton.

To find out more about autism diagnosis visit NHS Getting diagnosed

How does Makaton help people who have autism with their communication?

Some individuals who have nonverbal autism, or difficulty communicating, may find that Makaton signs and symbols help them to speak. Signs are used with speech to provide extra visual support about what someone is saying. Using signs helps people who have no speech, or whose speech is not clear. Symbols can be used by people who have limited speech, or those who either cannot or prefer not to sign.

Research shows that some children with autism may prefer to use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) as their chosen form of communication. Makaton symbols can be used with PECS.

Many children will develop understanding ahead of their speech, which will leave them feeling frustrated as they may know what they want but are unable to express it. Makaton reduces this frustration, allowing them to communicate meaningfully and effectively which promotes inclusion and independence.

Makaton can help people with autism who have difficulty with:

  • conveying their feelings, wants and needs
  • being understood
  • attention and listening
  • visual sequencing memory

With Makaton, individuals with autism are able to connect with other people and the world around them, which opens a range of possibilities. Learn more about Makaton

How can Makaton be used in everyday life?

Makaton is extremely flexible, as it can be adapted to suit an individual’s needs and used at a level that works for them.

It can be used for a range of purposes. Some include:

  • sharing thoughts, choices and emotions
  • labelling objects, pictures, photos and places
  • participating in games and songs
  • listening to, reading and telling stories
  • creating recipes, menus and shopping lists
  • writing letters and messages
  • helping people find their way around their environment

Makaton signing is being increasingly used in mainstream and SEN specialist schools to allow all pupils to communicate effectively. Find out how Makaton works

How do I start out with Makaton?

Are you ready to take the first step and start learning Makaton? Getting started with Makaton is fun and easy. The best way to start learning Makaton is to attend Level 1 training . It means that you learn with other people, share your experiences, and practise with others. It also gives you the opportunity to meet and build a relationship with a Makaton Tutor, who can help and support you in the future. Use our quick and easy search tool to find a workshop near you  (both online and face-to-face training is available).

Makaton Membership complements and enhances training with 24/7 digital access to symbols, signs and video tutorials plus the support of our vibrant online forum, MakaChat. Membership is a valuable support tool for family and friends of Makaton Users and professionals who use Makaton in the workplace.

If you prefer to learn at your own pace, in your own time and in your own home, membership  is a great way to begin your Makaton journey. With a choice of Individual and Group Memberships, simply select the Membership that's right for you.

Visit our Membership  area to start your free 7-day trial.