What is Makaton?

About Makaton

Makaton is a language programme which uses signs and symbols to help people communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used together with speech, in spoken word order. With Makaton children and adults can communicate straight away using signs and symbols. For those who have experienced the frustration of being unable to communicate meaningfully or effectively Makaton can really 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.

Why use Makaton?

Research has shown that signs  and symbols are easier to learn than spoken words. This makes sense. Babies use gestures before they can speak, to tell us what they want. They can point at things or hold their arms out to be picked up. Children and adults can use Makaton to let others know what they want, make choices, share information and understand more. This helps build and develop important communication and language skills.

Who uses Makaton?

Today over 100,000 children and adults use Makaton symbols and signs, either as their main method of communication or as a way to support speech. Makaton users include:

People with learning or communication difficulties

Makaton is the UK's leading language programme for children and adults with learning or communication difficulties.

People developing language skills

Makaton is used for teaching communication and language skills with children and adults at an early stage of language development. This approach can help people learning English as a second language.

Mainstream nurseries and schools

Particularly across Dundee, Makaton is used in early years settings and speech therapy to support all children in developing communication and language skills. It promotes inclusion by allowing both children with and without language difficulties to communicate, learn and play together.

People with babies and young children

There is a special Makaton Signing for Babies course available to parents/carers and professionals who  wish to sign with babies they care for.


In today's society we come into contact with people from the above groups throughout our daily lives. If we all use Makaton we open the world of communication up to all these users and create a much more accessible and inclusive world for them.

Makaton or British Sign Language (BSL)?

Makaton is designed to help hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. It uses signs and symbols, with speech, in spoken word order.

BSL is the language of the Deaf community in the UK. It is a naturally evolving language, with its own grammar, word order and has regional variations. Wherever Makaton is used in the world, the signs from the sign language of that country is used. The Makaton Charity sign advisors select signs that look like a word and are easy to make. Once a sign is selected to be used with Makaton this becomes the sign that is used across the whole country. This means that if a Makaton user needs to move to another school or town, the signs used there will be the same as they use in their current location.

Will using Makaton stop my child from speaking?


Research has shown that using signs and symbols actively encourages the development of speech and language skills. When using Makaton we always speak while we sign or use symbols to make the link between the sign/symbol and the spoken word. Many children then drop the signs naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech.

Do I need to go on training to learn Makaton?

Attending a Makaton Workshop is the best way to learn Makaton. You learn with other people, can share experiences, receive feedback on your signing and practice with others. It also means that you will be in touch with a Makaton tutor who will be able to support you.