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Two women sat together on a park bench in front of a bush outside. They are having a conversation.


Makaton is a language programme that uses signs, symbols and speech; giving a person different options when communicating.

What is Makaton?

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

It is a language programme that combine signs, symbols and speech to give different options for people to communicate.

Using signs can help people who do not user speech. Symbols can help people who have limited speech, or who cannot or prefer not to sign.

Makaton transforms the lives of people with communication difficulties, by giving them a way to express themselves independently. Being able to communicate eases frustration and gives people confidence and independence while they develop communication and language skills.

More about Makaton

With Makaton, children and adults can communicate straight away using the signs and symbols. Many people then stop using the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech.

Makaton is a visual way to develop communication skills, which helps stimulate sounds and words. The visual way of communicating helps language development, such as putting words together. 

Makaton helps understanding by giving an extra visual cue to communication.

Watch the video, created by The Makaton Charity to find out more. 

Who uses Makaton?

There are currently over 1 million Makaton users.

Makaton can help anyone who has difficult with:

  • communicating what they want, think or how they feel
  • making themselves understood
  • paying attention
  • listening to and understanding speech
  • remembering and sequencing.

It is also used by supporters of people with a learning disability , such as family, friends, carers, education staff and health professionals.

Makaton is also regularly used in mainstream schools, to support all children to develop communication, language and literacy skills. It supports integration as children with and without language difficulties can communicate, learn and play together more easily.

Makaton symbols are also 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 is your daily life without even know it!

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.

Lucinda and Nikki

Take a look at the fantastic Lucinda and Nikki teaching Makaton. 

Why not watch and see if you can do it too?

Try Makaton

Use this guide, developed by The Makaton Charity, to help learn some Makaton signs and symbols.

Take a look

Top tips for signing

  • Use the signs whenever you talk about the action e.g. eating and drinking happens many times a day and by using the sign and saying the word each time it will help to reinforce it
  • Always say the word while making the sign
  • Try to make eye contact and use facial expression
  • Use clear, short sentences
  • You can guide an individual's hand to help them sign
  • Encourage attempts at signing; use the sign for 'good' and say 'well done'
  • Encourage friends and relatives to use the signs too
  • Have fun!
A man and woman sat next to each other in a Mencap service, both holding their hands together.

The Makaton Charity

Makaton charity logo; Makaton  written in yellow letters.

This webpage was developed with support by The Makaton Charity.

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 through:

  • providing training to parents, carers and professionals each year
  • developing and producing a wide range of printed and electronic resources
  • working with others to make information accessible using Makaton symbols
  • offering advice and support to families and professionals
  • working in partnership with organisations such as the BBC.

Want to learn Makaton?

Many people learn Makaton by attending a Makaton workshop. You can search for workshops happening in your area here

If you prefer to learn at your own pace then Makaton Membership gives you digital access to the Makaton Library of symbols, signs, videos and activities. You can learn more about the Membership options here. 

This webpage was developed with support by The Makaton Charity. 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 curates and promotes the Makaton Language Programme, trains and supports the Licensed Makaton Tutor network, and provides tools to enhance the learning and usage of Makaton. 

You can contact The Makaton Charity direct at or follow them on Twitter @MakatonCharity, Instagram @Makaton or

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