04 January 2018

Makaton: The alternative Sign Language

Today over 100,000 people use Makaton as a method of communication, either to support their speech or as their main communication language. At Newcross Healthcare our Clinical Trainers, deliver Makaton training across the UK, since its introduction over 462 employees have been trained in Makaton, with courses running weekly.

Developed by Margaret Walker MBE in the 1970s, Makaton became a means of communication for those who have cognitive impairments, autism, Down Syndrome, multisensory impairment and acquired neurological disorders. The language was developed by adding signs from British Sign Language to key words in speech so that the adults and children had a better understanding of language, and how to communicate.

The early stages of Makaton only used speech and manual signs, it wasn’t until 1985 that graphic symbols were included in the language. Since 2007, Makaton has been a registered trade mark of the Makaton Charity and is featured on the BBC Cbeebies children’s television programme Singing Hands.

The accessibility and popularity of Makaton makes it a very easy tool for our employees to use when communicating with the wide range of service users that we provide care for at Newcross. Employees can book a place onto our Speech, Signs and Symbols Makaton course, through their local branch, that teaches our staff 120 signs and symbols along with the alphabet.


A brief history of Makaton:

For many of us, Makaton has proven to be a hugely versatile and helpful means of communicating. It’s now a language that we actively promote across Newcross via local training courses.

Of course, there are many different types of sign language which have evolved over the years and the history of signing dates back much further than you might imagine.

5th Century BC - Socrates said, "If we hadn't a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn't we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body.”

685AD - Archbishop of York John of Beverly was recorded as teaching a deaf person to speak it was seen as a miracle

1500s - Italian mathematician called Geronimo Cardano identified that learning does not require the ability to hear and educated his deaf son by using written words.

1600s - sign language was used for secret communications as well as for public speaking and interaction by the deaf.

1760 - Thomas Braidwood opened ‘Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb’ which is considered to be the first school in Britain to include sign language in education.

1771 - Catholic priest called Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee established the first free deaf school open to the public.

1880 - Alexander Graham Bell was involved in the scheme of banning the use of sign language in at the Milan conference in 1880.

1892 - Electrical Hearing Aid Invented

1974 - Sign language was acknowledged as a language and officially named ‘British Sign Language’. Linguistics studying BSL agreed that it has grammar, structure and sign order.

2003 - British Government recognises British Sign Language as a bona-fide language.

2010 - the 21st International Congress on Education of the Deaf held in Vancouver formally apologised for the 1880 ruling citing that it accepted the damaging ramifications of the sign language ban.

2017 onwards - Several new sign languages developed including forms such as Makaton. Today there are over 137 different forms of recognised sign language. Some have legal recognition whilst others have no status whatsoever.

Did you know? There are an estimated 560 million people in the world with a hearing loss.