Makaton is a language programme designed to provide a means of communication to individuals who cannot communicate efficiently by speaking.[1][2] Makaton has been effectively used with individuals who have cognitive impairments, autism, Down's syndrome, specific language impairment, multisensory impairment and acquired neurological disorders that have negatively affected the ability to communicate.[1][3]



The Makaton Language Programme uses a structured multimodal approach to teach language and literacy skills, through instruction involving a combination of speech, signs, and graphic symbols used concurrently.[2] It consists of a Core Vocabulary of roughly 450 concepts that are taught in a specific order (there are 8 different stages). For example, stage 1 involves teaching vocabulary for immediate needs, like 'eat' and 'drink'. Later stages contain more complex and abstract vocabulary such as time and emotions. Once basic communication has been established, the student can progress in their language use, using whatever modes are most appropriate.[2] Also, although the programme is organised in stages, it can be modified and tailored to the individual's needs.[1] In addition to the Core Vocabulary, The Makaton Charity has illustrated a Makaton resource of over 7,000 concepts.[2]


Original research was conducted in 1972 which resulted in the design of the Makaton Core Vocabulary based on functional need. This original research was repeated in 1976 in a community-based environment with institutionalised deaf cognitively impaired adults resident at St George's Hospital to enable them to communicate using sign language.[2][4][5] The name is a blend of the names of the three people who devised it: speech therapist Margaret Walker, and two psychiatric hospital visitors from the Royal Association for Deaf people named Katharine Johnston and Tony Cornforth.[6] Fourteen deaf and cognitively impaired adults participated in the pilot study, and all were able to learn to use manual signs; improved behaviour was also noted.[2] Shortly after, this approach was modified to be used with both children and adults with severe communication difficulties (including individuals who could hear), and was used in many schools throughout the UK in order to stimulate communication and language.[2][4][5] In the early stages of development, Makaton used only speech and manual signs (without symbols).[2] The Makaton Vocabulary Development Project was founded in 1976 to provide resource materials and training courses, and it became a charitable trust in 1983.[2][4] By 1985, work had begun to include graphic symbols in the Makaton Language Programme, and a version including graphic symbols was published in 1986.[2] The Core Vocabulary was revised in 1996 to include cultural differences. In 2007, The Makaton Charity was established.

International use

The Makaton Core Vocabulary is adapted for use in different countries; signs from each country's Deaf community are used, along with culturally relevant Makaton symbols.[1] For example, in the United Kingdom, Makaton uses signs from British Sign Language (BSL). Makaton is used extensively throughout the UK, but has also been adapted for use in over 40 countries, including Poland, New Zealand, France, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Kuwait and Japan.[1]


Stage 1: Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister, Drink, Drink of Water, Biscuit, Dinner x2, Food, Toilet, Bed, Chair, Table, Washbasin, Bath, Shower, House, Home, Car, Bus, I, Me, You, Where, What, Here, There, To Sleep, To Drink, To Eat x2, To Look, To See, To Stand, To Get Up, To Sit, To Wash x2, To Bath, To Shower, To Go, To Come x2, To Give x2, More, Good x2, OK, Bad, Please, Thank You, Hello, Good Morning, Goodbye.

Stage 2: Man, Lady, Boy, Girl, Baby, Bread, Butter, Egg, Chapatti, Dal, Rice, Yoghurt, Noodles, Milk, Tea, Coffee, Juice, Sugar, Cake, Jam, Ice Cream, Knife, To cut with Knife, Fork, Spoon, Plate, Cup, Door, Window x2, Fire, Radiator, TV, Lamp, Phone, To Phone, Dog, Cat, Bird, Tree, Flower, Book, Teddy, Doll, Bricks, Ball, And, Hot x2, Cold, Clean, Dirty.

Stage 3: Chocolate, Crisps, Sweet, Cigarette, Banana, Orange, Apple, Fish, Rabbit, Chicken, Horse, Cow, Pig, Sheep, Butterfly, Boat, Train, Plane, Bike, To Have, To Run, To Walk, To Kick, To Dig, To Ride, To Ride a Horse, To Ride a Bike, To Swim, To Jump, To Jump Off, To Jump On, To Jump Over, To Climb x2, To Fall Off, To Fall Over, To Smoke, Big, Small, Little, Up, Down, My, Your, Mine, Yours, Sorry, Now.

Stage 4: Teacher, Boss, Friend, Children, Name, School, Work, Outside, Cupboard, Pen, Pencil, Paper, Scissors, Picture, Sand, Water, String, Paint, Key, Box x2, To Put, To Create, To Do, To Sew x2, To Cook x2, To Sing, To Play, To Know, To Think, To Work, To Read, To Write, To Draw, To Paint, To Colour, To Cut, To Teach, To Build x2, To Create, To Break, We x2, Us x2, They x2, Them x2, In x2, On, Under.

Stage 5: Nurse, Doctor, Milkman, Milkwoman, Postman, Postwoman, Policeman, Policewoman, Police Officer, Firefighter, Ambulanceman, Ambulancewoman, Shop, Supermarket, Road, Garden, Blaze, Postbox, Money, Bag, Letter, Stamp, Time, Watch, To Carry, To Throw, To Catch, To Stop, To Help x2, To Like, To Want, To Love, To Quarrel, Quick, Fast, Slow, Happy, Sad, Difficult, Easy, Hard, Soft, Strong, Heavy, Clever, Angry, Frightened, To Be Patient, Trouble, Mistake, But.

Stage 6: Country, Town, Sea, Cinema, Disco, Holiday, To Start, To End x2, To Bring, To Ask, To Talk, To Listen, To Hear, Can, To Forget, To Grow x2, Same, Different, New, Old, Beautiful, Smart, Nice, Kind, Our x2, Ours x2, Their x2, Theirs x2, Another, With, Who, Which, Colour, Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Red, White, Yellow.

Stage 7: 1-10, How, How Much, How Many, How Old, Many, A Lot, Some, Few, Time, Hour, Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday, Next Week, Last Week, Next Year, Last Year, Long Time Ago, Saturday, Sunday, Night, Day, When, Always, Again, Late, Early, Before, After, Wages, To Buy, To Save, Careful, Expensive, Sun, Rain, Wind, Snow, Stars, Moon, Sky, Snowman.

Stage 8: To Choose, To Win, To Dance, To Find, To Understand, To Remember, Birthday, Party, Present, Balloon, Photo, Camera, Mirror, Radio, Newspaper, Video Camera, Video Tape, Video Recorder, Music, Stereo x2, Audio Tape, Cassette Player, CD, Computer, First, Last, Next, Over, Through, Near x2, Between, Lucky, Hungry, Thirsty, Worried, True, Why, Because.

Additional: Deaf, Blind, Communication Problem, Medicine, Tablet, Injection, Operation, Sick, Ill, Pain, Dead x2, Hearing Aid x2, Glasses, Wheelchair, How are you, People, Airman, Airwoman, Soldier, Sailor, King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Farmer, Clothes, To Dress, To Undress, Hairbrush, To Brush Hair, Comb, To Comb, Shaver, To Shave, Toothbrush, To Brush Teeth, Soap, Towel, Bacon, Bagel, Beer, Burger, Canned Drink, Cereal, Cheese, Chicken, Chips, Curry, Fish, Fruit, Meat, Naan, Pasta, Pie, Pitta, Pizza, Potato, Salad, Sandwich, Sausages, Soup, Tomato, Vegetables, Wine, Al Salam Alicoom, Namaste, Shalom, Room, Bedroom, Bathroom, Dining Room, Lounge, Kitchen, A, The, This, That, You x4, Your x2, Yours x2, To Open x17, To Close x17.

Training and resources

The Makaton Charity:

  • Delivers training to over 26,000 parents, carers and professionals
  • Develops and produces a wide range of resources (books, DVDs and computer based resources)
  • Provides a free family advisory service for information, advice and support for parents, family members and professionals working with children.


  1. ^ a b c d e Beukelman, D.R., & Mirenda, P. (2005). Augmentative and alternative communication: supporting children & adults with complex communication needs (pp.65-67). Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Grove, N., & Walker, M. (1990). The Makaton Vocabulary: using manual signs and graphic symbols to develop interpersonal communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 6 (1),15-28.
  3. ^ Le Provost, P.A. (1983). Using the Makaton vocabulary in early language training with a Down's baby: a single case study. Mental Handicap, 11, 28-29.
  4. ^ a b c Byler, J.K. (1985). The Makaton Vocabulary: an analysis based on recent research. British Journal of Special Education, 12 (3), 113-120.
  5. ^ a b Walker, M., & Armfield, A. (1981). What is the Makaton vocabulary? Special Education: Forward Trends, 8 (3), 19-20.
  6. ^ "Makaton: the early years". The Makaton Charity website. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 

External links

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