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What is Makaton? Learn signs and symbols.

Updated on July 10, 2012


What is makaton? At a training session for a new job I was told that I would find communication with some students easier if I learned makaton. The work is with young people who are either blind or have severe learning difficulties and problems with their speech.

This is the symbol for well done. I am sure that most of us would find that easy to remember
This is the symbol for well done. I am sure that most of us would find that easy to remember

Makaton is not British Sign Language. It is a mixture of words, signs and symbols to help communicate with adults and children who have communication difficulties

People who use Makaton use speech (if they can) , hand movements , eye contact and body language. It’s all communication. Think about the way you communicate. For example after visiting my mother I say “bye mum”, but like me she has hearing problems so I am not sure how much she hears. So whilst saying “bye mum” there is also that gentle wave of my hand, the smile on my face and the eye contact so that she understand that I am saying “goodbye”.

IN THE United Kingdom Makaton is registered as a charity. The basis of Makaton is that for some learners, signs and gestures are more able tools for communication rather than speech. When my daughter was little she would pick her plastic drinking cup up and bang it on the floor- what she was trying to say was, “I want a drink” but she did not have the verbal skills to do this. Imagine being a teenager, still unable to verbalise your need , you would feel angry and frustrated- thus Makaton helps in communicating even simple needs- such as the need for a drink.

Yes, you have done this before!

Makaton is for use by people of all ages who have difficulties in learning or communication. Parents, teachers and family members can easily learn enough to enable better communication with the user. Makaton is used in schools to support the development of all children. Research has shown that signing whilst speaking to babies does not reduce their speech skills, but encourages these skills to develop. The symbols are used everyday in public buildings- so you probably know some Makaton without realising. When I saw the video I realised that I had been using Makaton without realising it, with my babies from almost their first few weeks.

This is one part of the job that I feel I will really enjoy. If you are interested in learning Makaton and live in the UK there are a number of learning courses or taster sessions arranged around the country. Contact the Makaton organisation for more details and if you can’t make a class you can buy self instruction guides


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