What is Makaton?

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. Makaton is a visual way to develop communication skills, which helps stimulate sounds and words.  The visual way of communicating helps language development, such as putting words together. Makaton helps understanding by giving an extra visual cue to communication.

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.

Who can Makaton help?

Makaton can be used to help wider groups such as:

Makaton can be helpful for children or adults of any age, with individual needs or a combination of needs.  Many Makaton users do have learning and communication difficulties.

Makaton is also used by children and adults who have problems communicating but don’t have a learning difficulty.  This includes babies who have not yet developed speech, people whose first language is not English those who have lost speech because of an injury or illness and those with memory problems.

What else can Makaton provide support with?

I don’t have any additional needs – why would I need to learn Makaton?

Makaton supports adults and children with and without language difficulties to communicate with each other.

Example scenario’s:

As part of your job role, you work on a reception desk greeting the public, a member of the public arrives will a learning difficulty who is none-verbal – you can now communicate with each other using Makaton.

Young children who become familiar with Makaton will start to use the signs rather than communicating through behaviours such as screaming and becoming upset as they will be more understood.

A member of your family is involved in a bad accident which makes their speech unclear permanently – having the knowledge of Makaton will give the means to communicate.

Verbal children can communicate with none-verbal children when playing together.

Where is Makaton used?

Makaton is used extensively all over the UK and has been adapted for use in many other countries:






Czech Republic





Hong Kong








New Zealand





Saudi Arabia

South Africa

Sri Lanka




The signs used with Makaton are all taken from natural sign languages.  In the UK, the signs are taken from the British Sign Language (BSL). In Germany, for example, the signs used with Makaton are all from the German Sign Language (DGS).

Wherever Makaton is used, it is important to use culturally appropriate symbols and signs and not to use British signs and symbols without checking first with The Makaton Charity.

The Makaton Charity

There are many ways to get involved with the Makaton community, including registering for Sign of The Week at wetalkmakaton.org and following:

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