Frequently asked questions
- Why does everyone start out with the Core Vocabulary?
- Do I need to go on training to learn Makaton?
- Why should I speak when I sign or use symbols?
- Do I have to use symbols?
- Is Makaton different from British Sign Language (BSL)?
- Is Makaton only helpful to people with learning difficulties?
- Will using Makaton stop my child from speaking?
- What is AAC?
- Why isn't Makaton free?
- What do I do if I can't afford to buy Makaton materials?
- What do I do if I can't afford to go on Makaton training?
- Where can I find the sign or symbol that I need?
- I don't live in the UK. Why can't I buy resources?
- I have a great idea for a Makaton product, what should I do?
Why does everyone start out with the Core Vocabulary?
The Core Vocabulary is the starting point for everyone learning Makaton. When anyone attends Makaton training, it is the Core Vocabulary signs and symbols that are taught and learned.
The Core Vocabulary was developed as a result of careful research. It has the signs and symbols needed for everyday communication. It is organised in Stages with early Stages containing signs and symbols for immediate needs like drink, eat and home. Later Stages contain vocabulary for more abstract concepts like time and emotions.
Once you have learned the Core Vocabulary, you can use other signs and symbols with it. There are over 11,000 extra Makaton symbols and signs in the Resource Vocabulary. This is organised in topics like food and drink.
Do I need to go on training to learn Makaton?
Attending a Makaton Workshop is the best way to learn Makaton. You learn with other people, can share experiences, receive feedback on your signing and practice with others. It also means that you will be in touch with a Makaton Tutor who will be able to support you.
If you cannot attend Makaton training, there are distance learning packs. These are designed for parents to use at home. They are available to purchase or can often be borrowed through your local library service.
Why should I speak when I sign or use symbols?
It is really important to speak when you sign or use symbols. Makaton is designed to support spoken language. This means that we usually sign or use the symbols to support or reinforce the information carrying words in a sentence. When we do this, we are making a link between the spoken words and the signs or symbols. This is to encourage speech where possible.
Many people, who initially rely on signs or symbols, will drop them naturally, at their own pace, as they develop speech and no longer need them. Research has shown that using signs and symbols actively encourages the development of speech and language skills. You can read about this in our research section.
Do I have to use symbols?
This really depends who you are using Makaton with and what they need, to help them communicate. Symbols are used by children or adults who have limited speech and those who cannot or prefer not to sign. Many people think Makaton is only a signing system but it is much more!
Symbols can be a really important part of how someone learns to communicate. When we speak, once a word has been spoken, it disappears. This is the same when we sign, you make the sign and then it's gone! For people who need extra help remembering what has just been said or need extra information to understand what has been said, symbols can help. Makaton symbols have been designed to look like the item they represent so that they can act as a permanent reminder or be used to support understanding.
Is Makaton different from British Sign Language (BSL)?
Yes. Makaton is designed to help hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. It uses signs and symbols, with speech, in spoken word order. British Sign Language (BSL) is the language of the deaf community in the UK. It is a naturally evolving language, with its own grammar, word order and has regional variations.
Wherever Makaton is used in the world, the signs from the sign language of that country are used. Our sign advisors select signs that look like a word and are easy to make. Once a sign is selected to be used with Makaton this becomes the sign that is used across the whole country. This means that if a Makaton user needs to move to another school or town, the signs used there will be the same as they use in their current location.
See also: Makaton and British Sign Language (BSL)
Is Makaton only helpful to people with learning difficulties?
Makaton can be helpful for children or adults of any age, with individual needs or a combination of needs. Many Makaton users do have learning and communication difficulties.
Makaton is also used by children and adults who have problems communicating but don't have a learning difficulty. This includes babies who have not yet developed speech, people whose first language is not English, those who have lost speech because of an injury or illness and those with memory problems.
Will using Makaton stop my child from speaking?
No. Research has shown that using signs and symbols actively encourages the development of speech and language skills. When using Makaton we always speak while we sign or use symbols to make the link between the sign/ symbol and the spoken word. Many children then drop the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech.
What is AAC?
AAC is Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This is used to describe different ways of communicating, either to support speech (augmentative) or instead of speaking (alternative). This could be using signs, symbols, communication boards, apps and Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs).
Why isn't Makaton free?
The charges we make for our training materials, publications and other resources reflect the costs it takes us to develop and produce them.
Growing the Makaton Programme, developing training and producing resources, takes a great deal of time, expertise and money. The Makaton Charity operates as efficiently as possible ensuring that we control our costs and expenses.
Making Makaton available depends on our being able to cover these costs. We do not receive Government funding or rely on donations, so instead we make a charge for our services.
What do I do if I can't afford to buy Makaton materials?
The Makaton Charity works hard to get the best possible production cost for all of our materials, to keep them as affordable as possible. We also work hard to make sure that you can access the Makaton vocabulary that you need. This could be through your Makaton Tutor, a health, education or social care service.
This might not give you your own copy of a book or DVD but it might mean that you have pages of vocabulary made for you or that you can borrow resources. We encourage libraries and toy share schemes to stock Makaton resources, so try them too. If you have a young child, there is a television programme on Cbeebies called Something Special. The presenter, Justin Fletcher, and all of the characters and children who take part, use Makaton. We also have a selection of free and low cost resources on our website, including songs, stories and activities.
If you continue to have problems please let us know and we will try our best to help.
What do I do if I can't afford to go on Makaton training?
Makaton training is delivered by our network of tutors across the UK. We set guidelines on what they can charge for training. However, the cost of training can vary depending on where it is being held and how many people are attending.
You should always speak to your Makaton Tutor because if you cannot afford the next available training, the cost of future training might be different. Also, many tutors are able to subsidise some places, particularly for parents. They may also have access to funds or can help you to access funds for training.
If you continue to have problems, please contact our training team and they will do their best to help.
Where can I find the sign or symbol that I need?
There are over 11,000 published signs and symbols. These are either part of the Core Vocabulary or are grouped by topics. We have created word lists which give details of all of the signs and symbols and where they are published.
I don't live in the UK. Why can't I buy resources?
The Makaton resources available in the UK use signs from British Sign Language (BSL). This means they are only suitable for use within the UK.
Wherever Makaton is used in the world, the signs selected, come from the natural sign language of that country. Even if a country is English speaking, like New Zealand, there are significant differences between their signs and those used in the UK.
In the first instance you should contact the Makaton organisation in your country to see what resources they have available.
If you have any other questions, please contact us.
I have a great idea for a Makaton product, what should I do?
The Makaton Charity does work with other people or organisations to produce products that use Makaton. We are very experienced at producing high quality products to meet our beneficiaries' needs and realise that with our limited funds we cannot do everything on our own. We are always looking for good ideas, so do contact us for a confidential discussion about your idea.