What is Makaton?

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. It supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.

Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills we need in life. Almost everything we do involves communication; everyday tasks such as learning at school, asking for food and drink, sorting out problems, making friends and having fun. These all rely on our ability to communicate with each other.

With Makaton, signs are used, with speech, in spoken word order. This helps provide extra clues about what someone is saying. Using signs can help people who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. Using symbols can help people who have limited speech and those who cannot, or prefer not to sign.

For those who have experienced the frustration of being unable to communicate meaningfully or effectively, Makaton really can help. Makaton takes away that frustration and enables individuals to connect with other people and the world around them. This opens up all kinds of possibilities.

In the following video from CBeebies, parents of children who use Makaton explain how it has helped them communicate. And Makaton Tutor Kate Duggan explains how Makaton is beneficial for children (and adults) of all ages and abilities.

The benefits of using Makaton
(Thanks to CBeebies for allowing us to use this video)

The complete Makaton Language Programme comprises two vocabularies:

  • a Core Vocabulary of essential words or concepts presented in stages of increasing complexity. The Core Vocabulary is taught first and is the foundation of the programme
  • a much larger, open-ended, topic-based resource vocabulary providing an enormous bank of further signs and symbols covering broader life experiences and used in association with the Core Vocabulary as required

Makaton symbols and signs are matched to all the concepts in the two vocabularies to be used with speech, the written word or on their own. They provide a visual representation of language which increases understanding and makes expressive communication easier.

This multi-modal approach, where one mode facilitates another, has been shown to increase opportunities for personal expression and development, participation in interaction and socialisation and to increase access to education, training and public information.

Makaton is extremely flexible as it can be personalised to an individual's needs and used at a level suitable for them.

Today over 100,000 children and adults, use Makaton symbols and signs. Most people start using Makaton as children then naturally stop using the signs and symbols as they no longer need them. However, some people will need to use Makaton for their whole lives.

In the following video on the Something Special website, Makaton Tutor Kate Duggan gives a brief introduction to Makaton:

Justin Fletcher signing with a young boy