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Why we use Makaton- our Total Communication Approach:

A Total Communication approach is used across the whole of Hillside Specialist School and College. Total Communication encourages the use of all forms of communication alongside the spoken word, such as gestures, vocalisations, sensory cues, objects of reference, photos, symbols (PECS) and use of iPads and ICT, and Makaton signs alongside all of this.

This Total Communication approach supports a child or young person’s ability to understand and communicate with those around them. Makaton is used at our school in an inclusive way with all, not just for those who are pre-verbal or non-verbal. Makaton helps verbal children too; it is an anchor for learning new words and concepts, and helps to improve grammar. Makaton also helps verbal students to communicate with their peers.

Increasingly, Makaton is being used in an inclusive way with all children across the UK, not just for those with communication difficulties. Lots of parents of typically-developing children and settings such as nurseries, mainstream schools and Children’s Centres use it with their children and students too. It is also beneficial for children with EAL (English as an additional language) as a way to help those children develop their spoken English skills.

How Makaton works:

When we talk, it does not just involve the spoken words. Watch someone talking, they will also be using hand movements or gestures, facial expression, eye contact and body language (posture and movement). What would you look like if you gave a stranger directions to find a street they’d never been to before? Would you also use hand movements? All this is communication.

Makaton uses speech with signs (gestures) to help people communicate.  We also use facial expression, eye contact and body language to give as much information as possible.


Examples of line drawn Makaton signs:



To sleep (sign)


Where (sign)


With Makaton, signs are used with speech in spoken word order. Using signs can help people who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. Research has shown Makaton even helps those with clear speech understand language and grammar more.  Children and adults can use Makaton to let others know what they want, make choices, share information and understand more.  This helps build and develop important communication and language skills.

If a child has to rely on speech development alone, these vital skills may not develop properly: eye contact, turn taking, making choices, understanding, and sharing information.

Children and adults who have difficulty understanding and speaking often become frustrated or withdrawn. Young children may communicate this through behaviours such as screaming and kicking; older children and adults may shout or hurt themselves. By using Makaton, we are helping them to communicate in a more acceptable way.

Makaton signs are based on the gestures used in BSL (British Sign Language – the language of the Deaf community). However, unlike BSL, Makaton signs are used in conjunction with speech at all times and in English grammatical word order.


Let's Talk Makaton

You can start learning and using Makaton straight away.

As a first step, why not learn our Hillside Sign of the Week?


MAKAsong Club and Makaton Choir and Band

This year, we’ve set up two Makaton Choirs at Hillside Specialist School and College. We’ve got a Sing and Sign choir, called MAKAsong Club, for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 aged children, led by myself. We’ve also got a Makaton Choir and Band up in College, for upper KS2, KS3, KS4 and KS5 aged children, led by our Music Specialist, Laura.

If you’re interested in learning Makaton to help your child, want to know more about Makaton at Hillside or want to learn more about the clubs and choirs/band, contact me via the school office.

Christy Townson (Class 5 teacher and English and MFL (with Makaton) Subject Leader)


Files to Download

Contact Us

Hillside Specialist School and College

Ribchester Road, Longridge,
Preston, Lancashire, PR3 3XB

Kathryn Wilkinson, School Business Manager

T| 01772 782205


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