Let’s Talk Makaton! With the Makaton Charity

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As part of our speech and communication development week at JoJo, we’ve teamed up with the Makaton Charity to help raise awareness of Makaton, as well as their services and resources for those who may rely on this form of communication. Today, the charity has taken over our blog to explain what Makaton is, who uses it, plus some top tips for signing and some useful illustrations to help get you started!

What is Makaton?

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. 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 – this extra visual cue gives the child a helping hand to 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. 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. It is also regularly used in mainstream schools, 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.


I cannot encourage the use of Makaton enough. It has literally given Barnaby a voice; not just to ask for things he wants, but to comment on the world around him, tell me what he’s thinking and to express his personality and sense of humour. Teaching your child Makaton is a wonderful experience and there is no doubt it helps strengthen the bond between you. It is a very intimate way of communicating as you have to be looking at one another. We don’t know when Barnaby will start talking, but I have no doubt Makaton will help him get there quicker and allow him to be better at it when he does.” From The Power of Signing blog by Claire (Barnaby’s Mum)



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 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. eg 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!


Download the sheet below to learn some useful signs and symbols.

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 (@MakatonCharity), Instagram (@Makaton) or join us on Facebook (Facebook.com/TheMakatonCharity).

We have recently launched the brand new Makaton Membership which gives you access to Makaton symbols, signs and videos, community spaces, advice, guidance and more! Start your free 7 day trial makaton.org/membership

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