This page explains how to use Makaton, who it’s for, and how you can start to learn Makaton.

What is Makaton?

Makaton, or “key word signing”, is a simple and easy form of signed communication. It’s not a formal sign language.

Makaton uses signs and symbols, in spoken word order, along with speech. It’s use develops communication, language and literacy skills.

You can also use Makaton symbols to choose between activities, just how you use objects of reference and picture symbols.

Who uses Makaton?

Children and adults with communication or learning support needs use Makaton.

Today, more than 100,000 children and adults use Makaton, either as their main way of communicating or along with speech.

Teachers, health professionals, family, friends, carers and others use Makaton to support adults and children with communication and learning needs.

It is also helpful for people who have English as an additional language.

Before you read on..

  • You can communicate using a mix of different ways. (We all do!)
  • At Sense, we use whatever combination of speech, touch, sign or visual language works best.
  • It’s never too late to start.
  • Have a go and don’t worry about getting it wrong.

How can I start to learn Makaton?

How Sense can help

We offer free and impartial information about living with complex disabilities, including deafblindness.

Get in touch by phone, email, post or through a BSL interpreter.

The Core Vocabulary is the starting point for learning Makaton. It covers everyday life concepts (450) and gets gradually more complex.

The Makaton Charity offers a range of Core Vocabulary resources, including Welsh language versions.

The charity offers training levels 1–4 as on online or in-house workshops. They’re help you develop the Core Vocabulary needed for everyday communication.

The best way to start learning Makaton is with level 1 training. You’ll learn with other people, receive feedback on your signing and symbol work, share your experiences and practise with others.

With level 1 training, you’ll also meet and build a relationship with a Makaton tutor, who can help and support you in the future. The Makaton Charity has more than 1,000 licensed professional Makaton tutors.

Once you’ve completed level 1, you can go on to level 2, and then on to levels 3 and 4.

To find out more about the Makaton Charity and what it offers, go to

If you already know which level of training you’re looking for, the best place to start is the workshop search page.

Top tips for using Makaton

  • First, don’t worry – Makaton is fun.
  • Use signs and symbols as much and as often as you can.
  • Always speak as you sign or use symbols.
  • When showing someone how to use Makaton, offer lots of encouragement.
  • Don’t give up – it may take time but it’s worth it.

Want to take it further and become a Makaton trainer?

If you’ve already attended the Makaton Charity’s core training and have plenty of experience using Makaton in many situations, you could train to become a Makaton tutor.

Find out about entry criteria for training, length and cost of courses, study materials, course formats and taster sessions: Makaton training.

Other ways of communicating

Using speech

Using touch

Using signs


More information

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Find out more about communication methods and read inspiring stories about the people that use them.

This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.