Makaton is a simple and easy language that was created to support people with communication difficulties. Makaton enables people to communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly through signs, symbols and speech. It’s a versatile and adaptable language that can be tailored to each individual’s communication needs.
Communication is an essential aspect of our daily lives that we often take for granted. For individuals with communication difficulties, expressing and communicating their needs can be challenging at times. Makaton gives people different options for how to communicate and allows them to express themselves independently.
If you’re interested in learning some Makaton yourself, take a look at the following basic Makaton signs. Learn how to greet someone, common questions and other important daily vocabulary.
Basic Makaton Signs
To say hello, move your hand from one side to the other once at shoulder height.
Do a thumbs up and then wipe your hand across your chest.
How are you?
Flat hands move up chest and then do two thumbs up.
Put your right hand sideways and move down face.
Cupped hands, right hand brushed over and up your left hand.
Palms face each other and do a circular motion.
Fist on chest, then take two fingers to your forehead and do a salute. To then sign your name you would use finger spelling using the alphabet.
Bring index fingers together horizontally.
Touch top and bottom lip with index finger.
Touch back of hand.
Touch end of nose with index finger.
Fingertips touch arm.
Do a circular movement around the face with index finger.
Touch head with fingertips.
Pretend to pluck a strand of hair from head.
Fingertips touch leg.
Pinch earlobes gently or pretend to do so.
With your index finger swipe from the left eye to the right eye.
Point to foot and then outline your other hand.
Put palms together, elbows out and push forward to emulate breaststroke.
Put both hands into a fist and do a circular motion with both hands.
Put palms in the air and push up.
Put hands on top of each other with elbows out and push down.
Put two fingers on top of the other hand and do a kicking motion with your fingers.
Put your hands in a fist, elbows pointing down and sway your arms from side to side.
Use a shovel motion to dig.
Use your fingers to emulate a person walking.
Put two fingers on the back of your other hand and lift your fingers off the hand and back on.
Put two fingers to your mouth and lead them away and into the air in a spiral motion.
Take both hands and with your index fingers do a circular motion starting from the mouth.
Mime beating a mixture under your armpit.
Raise your index finger and sway it side to side.
Put your palms towards the ceiling and do a circular motion.
Flutter fingertips against cheeks.
Knock knuckles together twice.
Point index finger and take your hand to your chest.
You are next.
Point at other person and then rotate hand upwards.
Your turn to talk.
Take fist from chest towards other person. Turn your fist upwards (like a thumbs up but without the thumb) and then move index finger from mouth towards other person.
You are listening well.
Point to the other person. Cup your ear with your hand and then do a thumbs up.
For signing face your palms together and do a circular motion. For talking point your index finger to your mouth and move your index finger towards the other person.
Put your palm to the ceiling and with your other hand draw a circle over the top.
Put your fists together with an index finger out on each hand and then point them to the sky.
With your hand lift it up to indicate height.
Put one arm out and with your other hand, move your index finger from wrist to elbow.
Index fingers touch each other quickly and then move upwards fast.
Put finger to mouth and rotate slightly.
Hold two fingers out from the same hand and move downwards quickly.
Put hand to chin and move downwards to knees.
Put hand to chin and move downwards to chest.
Put one hand in a fist shape and cover it with the other hand.
Top Tips for Using Makaton
- Start with basic signs and symbols and practise them often
- Try to use short, clear sentences
- Always speak as you use signs or symbols
- Make sure everyone involved in communication is familiar with the signs and symbols being used
- Use facial expressions and body language to support the message being conveyed
- Adapt the use of Makaton to suit the individual’s needs and abilities
- Use repetition and reinforcement to facilitate learning
- Seek advice from trained professionals if you need extra support
- Have fun and use Makaton to create positive and inclusive communication for all
Makaton.org is the official website of The Makaton Charity, a UK-based charity that manages the Makaton language programme. It provides a range of resources, including videos, books, and training courses to help individuals learn and use Makaton effectively. Find out more about Level 1 Training.
For full access to online resources and tutorials, consider becoming a member of the Makaton Charity.
Many people learn Makaton through attending workshops. Find workshops local to your area here.
Specialist Support from Liaise
Makaton has the power to transform lives by allowing people to convey their thoughts and ideas freely and independently. Simply learning basic signs and symbols can open up a world of communication possibilities and improve an individual’s quality of life.
At Liaise we don’t just provide specialist care and support, we empower people to live richer lives. Through our residential care and supported living services, people with support needs can learn, work and fulfil their goals in a positive, structured environment.
Every day, at every step of the way, we help you thrive. Contact our friendly team to learn how we can support your family.