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2019 Bursary winner - Makaton

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

My name is Katy and I have been a member of Beeston W.I. since it started in 2017. I have recently had a change of career, re-training to work in a local Preschool. I applied for one of the bursaries that were on offer last year as I have always wanted to learn some Makaton and now that I work in a Preschool, I thought it would be an even more valuable skill. I was very excited when I learned I had won one!!

Makaton is described as a ‘language programme’ as it uses a combination of speech, signs and symbols (such as the one above). Although many of the signs used are similar/the same as those used in British Sign Language (BSL), Makaton differs in that the signs are generally also accompanied by speech and/or symbols and the Makaton signs are the same throughout the country, where BSL signs may differ slightly depending on the area/city that it is being used in (as an accent in spoken word would vary).

Makaton can be used by people of all ages for a variety of different reasons. Baby signing is increasingly popular, as it offers an alternative method of communication before a baby has developed the ability to speak. Similarly, Makaton can be used in any age where speech or communication is difficult or delayed, as it offers an alternative method of communication, which can help reduce the frustration and social isolation that may otherwise be caused. There is some research that suggests that signing may help to trigger the same area of the brain that is used in speech, and therefore signing may help to develop speech skills as well.

The course that I attended was run by the Makaton Charity ( and ran over two full days. It covered the Level 1 and Level 2 signs, which covered a surprising amount of signs, including food and drink, rooms of the house, transport, people, farm animals and items of furniture. There were 11 of us on the course – two from another Preschool, four from a care home, two people training to be teaching assistants in a special needs school, one social worker, and one new Grandma who wanted to sign to her grandchild.

I really enjoyed the course and was surprised by the amount of signs that we learned. I and another staff member at Preschool are now looking at ways of introducing Makaton signs and symbols into our activities at Preschool, as there are benefits of using the signs and symbols with all children, not just those who are experiencing communication difficulties. (My own children have also enjoyed learning a few signs, and were very impressed that I could sign curry, naan and rice after my first day, which was what they had made me for my tea!!)

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