Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills we need in life. Makaton is a language programme that combines signs, symbols and speech to provide multiple ways for someone to communicate.
What is Makaton?
Makaton is a language programme that combines signs, symbols and speech to provide multiple ways for someone to communicate. The use of signs can support people who have unclear or no speech and symbols can help those who have limited speech and cannot, or prefer not to sign. Makaton transforms the lives of those with communication difficulties by giving them a way to express themselves independently which is proven to overcome frustration and promote inclusion.
With Makaton, children can communicate straight away using the signs and symbols. Many then drop the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech.
Being able to communicate eases frustration and gives children confidence and independence while developing communication and language skills.
Makaton is a visual way to develop communication skills which helps stimulate sounds and words. This visual way of communicating encourages language development, such as putting words together. Makaton helps understanding, giving the child an extra visual cue to help them understand.
Who uses Makaton?
There are currently in excess of 2.2 million people in the UK with speech, language and communication difficulties and over 1 million Makaton users, 45,000 of which are children up to the age of seven. It can help children who have difficulty with:
- Communicating what they want, think or how they feel.
- Making themselves understood.
- Paying attention.
- Listening to and understanding speech.
- Remembering and sequencing.
Makaton is the UK’s leading language programme for adults and children with learning or communication difficulties. It is also used by everyone who shares their lives for example, parents and other family members, friends and carers, education and health professionals.
Makaton is regularly used in all types of childcare settings including childminders, nannies and preschools, to support all children to develop communication, language and literacy skills. Using Makaton across a setting supports integration, as children with and without language difficulties can communicate, learn and play together more easily.
If you’re looking to use Makaton and incorporate this more into your setting, The Makaton Charity has also developed Makaton Signing for Babies training for parents, carers or early years professionals who wish to sign with the babies and children in their care. Signing while speaking encourages the development of communication and language skills. It can also give carers a greater understanding of a baby's wants and needs, which can help reduce frustration.
Makaton symbols are widely used in public buildings as well, such as schools, hospitals, courts and libraries, to help people find their way around. So, you may be using Makaton in daily life without even knowing it.
Have you seen Mr Tumble?
The BBC's award-winning Something Special children's television features Mr Tumble and friends, played by Justin Fletcher. They use Makaton symbols and signs to support speech throughout each programme.
The programmes use a simple repetitive format, making it easy to learn the Makaton symbols and signs used in each episode. Everyone is encouraged to join in using songs and games.
Top tips for signing
- Use the signs whenever you talk about the action e.g. eating and drinking happens many times day and by using the sign and saying the word each time it will help to reinforce it in your child's mind.
- Always say the word while making the sign.
- Try to make eye contact and use facial expression.
- Use clear, short sentences.
- You can guide your child's hands to help them sign.
- If your child tries to sign, encourage their attempts; use the sign for 'Good' and say 'Well done!'
- Encourage friends and relatives to use the signs too.
- Have fun!
What does The Makaton Charity do?
The Makaton Charity exists to ensure that everyone living with learning or communication difficulties has the tools and resources they need to understand and be understood. The Charity aims to ensure that as many people as possible have access to Makaton, to achieve our goal of a truly inclusive society. We:
- Provide training to parents, carers and professionals each year
- Develop and produce a wide range of printed and electronic resources
- Work with others to make information accessible using Makaton symbols
- Offer advice and support to families and professionals
- Work in partnership with organisations such as the BBC
Want to know more?
You can find out more about Makaton and the work of The Makaton Charity by visiting our website makaton.org or call us on 01276 606760. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram or join us on Facebook.