What is Makaton?

SLT Stories: Making a change
28th April 2020
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What is Makaton?

Child in Speech Therapy

Makaton is a simplified version of British Sign Language, where signs and symbols are used alongside speech to help people communicate. It supports language and speech development and other essential communication skills. Furthermore, it is used frequently in SEN (Special Educational Needs) schools, speech and language therapy, and within families. 

Built on early communication skills using hands to gesture and sign intuitively, Makaton can be personalised and used at many levels to perfectly suit the needs of the child. Simple symbols and line drawings can even be used for children who prefer not to sign, and can also be used to encourage literacy skills.

Who does it help?

Over 100,000 people in the UK use Makaton. From those who have little to no speech, to those who struggle to be understood or remember what is being said, Makaton can offer an easier form of expression. Some people continue to use Makaton into adulthood, while others find that as their speech and language improves, they are able to gradually stop using Makaton signs. 

It’s never too early or too late to start; baby signing has gained popularity recently as parents realise the benefits of Makaton for children not yet old enough to talk. Signing with hands is often easier than speaking with our mouths, and it can be a great way to develop skills like listening, taking turns, or simply requesting something. Others start learning Makaton much later in life, perhaps to communicate with a family member or within a school, and often find that thanks to the instinctive nature of many of the signs that it is quick and easy to pick up the essentials. 

My child has some verbal ability – is Makaton still useful?

Absolutely! Using even very basic Makaton signs adds a visual cue to speech, which not only improves the clarity of communication but encourages confidence and motivation for those continuing to develop. As we sign, we also tend to naturally slow down and use clearer language, which can help those with hearing or understanding problems, as well as those whose speech is unclear. Using Makaton is always in combination with speech for this reason. 

Where should I start? 

There are many great resources out there for parents and education professionals to get started with Makaton. ChatterBug offers Makaton courses to get you started with an overview of Makaton, its uses and a range of basic signs and symbols. There are also many videos online, including sing-along nursery rhymes, to help you and your child learn in a fun way. 

To learn more, get in touch today! 

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