Makaton is one of the many communication systems that we use at Tettenhall Wood school, it is a total communication approach so can be used alongside all of our other strategies.

It is a unique language program made up of speech, signs and symbols to help support receptive and expressive communication. Our signs are based upon British Sign Language (BSL) so you will notice similarities, although in Makaton we always speak when we sign so that we can enable and encourage speech in addition to supporting the development of spoken language. We also use symbols that give more of a visual clue to the message as in symbols will remain the same and visual when the words have gone so that it helps reinforce what has been said and allows processing time.

In school we sign at a ‘key word’ level to highlight the important words in a sentence and the words that carry the most information, but dependent on needs we can also sign at a ‘functional’ level meaning that one sign/ symbol for a whole sentence which is the most meaningful sign that portrays the message of the sentence.  Makaton is a flexible approach and can be individualised for the user’s needs and at a suitable level for them. Using signs can assist someone whose speech is minimal or unclear and Symbols help people who have no speech or cannot/prefer not to sign so the approach is suitable for anybody. 


It can be used for:

  • Building relationships and enabling social interaction (taking part in games and songs)

  • English skills such as pre-writing and pre-reading (labelling items, reading stories and recipes, writing shopping lists, letters and messages)

  • Equal opportunities (making choices thoughts and feelings known)

  • Helping develop understanding (clarifying meanings of words through symbols and signs)

  • Language skills (linking words together developing language structure)            

It is important to us as a school that all our pupils are exposed to Makaton signing as we want our setting to be inclusive and for peers to be able to sign and communicate with each other, we have a core school vocabulary of words that will be used throughout school and have regular staff training and refreshers. As we have Makaton tutors in school we are also able to hold courses for anybody interested in Makaton so if you would like to join one of our courses please get in touch.


If you would like any more information on Makaton please feel free to visit the website.