What Makaton Signing Did For Us

What Makaton Signing Did For Us

When I mention Makaton signing, I’m often met with blank looks. But when I say, “You know, Mr Tumble?” Well, now you’re talking.

Or not talking, as the case would be.

I realised my child wasn’t developing language when he was just two years old.

I just knew. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “he’ll talk in his own time” or “boys always take longer to talk” (that was a favourite) but I just knew.

He would point at what he wanted and had a few of his own sounds, but no recognisable words.

It was hard.

Hard to see his anger when he was trying to tell me something. Hard to see his peers run out of nursery talking excitedly to each other. Hard to hear that he’d withdrawn from playing with others because he couldn’t communicate with them. Hard to listen to other mothers complain that their child wasn’t reading yet. Reading…really? All I longed for was to hear mine say that one word – mummy.

And above all, incredibly hard being unable to fix it.

Then we were introduced to Makaton by our wonderful NHS speech therapist.

Our world changed. But most importantly, his world changed.

Makaton is a language programme which uses signing and symbols as a means of communication for those who cannot communicate through speech. The signs are used to support spoken language and are used in the same word order.

The symbols are simple black and white drawings that show the meaning of a word. These can be used to label objects, to write messages and for those who cannot, or prefer not to sign.

Learning Makaton is not difficult, especially if you’re using it all day everyday, as we were. Most of the signs are common sense, while a few are rather random (the ‘poo’ one is interesting and was much used in our world, obviously).

Never before had I paid much attention to Mr. Tumble, but now I was an avid fan. I could be found with my glass of wine in the evening watching endless episodes of his CBeebies show Something Special, created by Justin Fletcher. No longer was TOWIE my guilty pleasure, oh no, it was me and Mr. T. Justin Fletcher had become my new Joey Essex (seriously Justin, I cannot thank you enough).

I also went on a course run by The Makaton Charity, as well as finding many useful resources on their website.

Luckily my child was very receptive and picked up new signs quickly. The whole family embraced this new form of communication. His sisters were particularly enthusiastic, often making up their own signs for the more obscure – SpongeBob SquarePants was a particularly amusing one, as you can imagine. But that’s one of the many beauties of this signing programme: the flexibility means it can be personalised to suit a person’s specific needs and used at a level appropriate to them.

As a result, over 100,000 children and adults are using Makaton today.

Just as those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) find a world of language unlocked for them, many people also use it to unlock communication for babies. Makaton Signing for Babies is a programme introducing the most basic and useful signs at a very early age, before language is accessible. It is believed that signing in this way may help a baby to be more sociable, and therefore attempt to communicate at an earlier stage in their development.

I remember seeing a mother make signs to her tiny one across a busy playgroup room, and wondering, back then, what on earth she was doing. Little did I know that she was successfully communicating a basic message to her one year old child.

Being able to communicate is such a vital skill in life, but one many of us take for granted. Asking for a drink, telling someone what you’ve been doing, what you want to do, making friends – none of this is possible without communication.

Over a million children in the UK are effected by SLCN (that’s two to three in every classroom) and thankfully it seems that more pre-school and early years settings are getting on board and using Makaton in everyday learning. And not just for for the benefit of those with special needs, but for all children.

For us, it was a godsend.

As The Makaton Charity’s website says, it ‘is a language programme that gives everyone a helping hand to talk’ and that hand certainly helped our little boy, who, in the words of the great Mr. Tumble himself, is truly something special.

As featured in Huffington Post UK.

Mum Muddling Through
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


  1. Katherine Coyle
    November 13, 2017 / 8:35 am

    Another touching one, Susie. From the heart, open and honest. xx

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 13, 2017 / 6:24 pm

      Thanks lovely you, means a lot x

  2. November 14, 2017 / 7:30 am

    My youngest has a speach delay. I wrote quite an emotional post about it in March. Unfortunately we had quite a negative experience with speach therapists. But makaton did wonders for him. For me personally Mr Tumble has helped us far more than the therapists have. I am so greatful to Justin Fletcher and the work he does. Great post x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 14, 2017 / 10:08 am

      Hi Claire, I will go and check your post out too. Great to hear that Makaton helped your son too – Mr Tumble rocks! We were very lucky with our speech therapist but sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience. Thx for reading x

  3. November 14, 2017 / 10:44 am

    So moved by this post and the power of Makaton becoming mainstream thanks to Justin Fletcher. Mr Tumble is the man xx

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 15, 2017 / 3:19 pm

      It changed our lives Vicki, just hoping more early years and pre-school settings start to integrate it into their everyday, as it could benefit all children, not just those with SLCN. Thx for reading lovely xx

  4. November 16, 2017 / 5:59 pm

    We are big Makaton users. Our middle son, David is particular has it as his primary means of communication. We are lucky to live near Singing Hands which was really helpful too. I quite often post around the #wetalkmakaton sign of the week as a way of raising awareness – they always pick something topical so it’s a fun way to generate content too. #ablogginggoodtime

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 17, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      Singing Hands is wonderful too. Great that you are big makaton users too – it’s a godsend isn’t it? I will check out #wetalkmakaton sign too. Thx for reading and commenting x

  5. November 16, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    Ooh I’m all goosebumps reading this. I have a personal bugbear when any (mostly non child owning) people slate JF aka Mr T. His shows have normalised so many disabilities and made being disabled more mainstream. So many children can teach us a sign or two (and not just flicking the bird when they’re a pesky teenager).
    My Mum came into our primary school back in the 80’s to teach Makaton, and I can still remember how to sign the basics – it should be standard in schools.
    It can’t have been easy Susie -thanks for shedding a little light on communication problems in little ones, and for such a beautifully positive angle. mwah.
    x MMT
    Thanks for sharing at #coolmumclub too

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 17, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Amazing that your mum was so forward thinking by introducing Makaton back in the 80’s as it must’ve been a really new thing back then. Thanks for your lovely comment. It has been very tough at times but he’s the happiest little boy and gets such wonderful support at school so we are very lucky. xx

  6. November 17, 2017 / 11:44 am

    I am keen to use this with my youngest. It’s too early to tell how he’ll develop with communication, but I think there are so many benefits. I’m so glad you and your wee one found it so helpful.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 17, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Makaton really opens up communication whatever the age of the child – it’s a wonderful tool. Thx for reading x

  7. November 17, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    I was told the same thing about my oldest when he wasn’t talking by 2 years old. He just screamed alot in an excited voice whenever he watched his shows (back then it was Winnie the Pooh and Blues Clues). He did eventually speak but that’s another story. I’m so glad there is a program out there for parents to learn and teach their children sign language:) #ablogginggoodtime

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 17, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Makaton has been a wonderful channel of communication for our little boy and took a lot of frustration away from him. And we’ve a lot to thank Mr Tumble for. I’m glad your son found language and speech as it can cause so much angst when it’s not coming at the same time as their peers. Thx for reading x

  8. November 17, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    I would really love to learn Makaton properly. We have used bits and bobs of it since our two were little and it has been so useful, we’ve definitely been able to understand each other more from it’s use! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  9. November 17, 2017 / 11:59 pm

    Such an inspiring journey you’ve had with your little boy. Had me gripped from beginning to end. Found via #blogcrush

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 18, 2017 / 1:17 pm

      What a lovely comment. Thank you. He makes it so easy as he really is such a joy. x

  10. November 20, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    Thanks for linking up with #blogstravaganza
    I have done baby signing with all 3 of mine. My youngest is addicted to Mr Tumble!

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 21, 2017 / 6:43 pm

      Great that makaton has worked for you and your children too. It’s such a wonderful means of communication for babies. Thx for reading x

      • November 21, 2017 / 9:29 pm

        Zach keeps signing pebble but I’m not sure he knows what he means but Mr Tumble did it this week 🙂 popping back from #coolmumclub

        • Susie | So Happy In Town
          November 24, 2017 / 5:01 pm

          Good old Mr Tumble – there are some signs which are common sense but also some rather obscure ones! I don’t actually know the sign for pebble! x

  11. mackenzieglanville
    November 21, 2017 / 11:25 am

    Communication really is key, we need to understand what our children are feeling and thinking and they need so desperately to communicate with us, I am so glad you found this program and that you are sharing it here. Such an inspiring read. Thanks for sharing with us #ablogginggoodtime

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 21, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      It really changed our lives and most importantly our little boy’s. Hopefully this post can raise some awareness of makaton for other children with communication needs. Thx for reading and commenting x

  12. Mainy - myrealfairy
    November 22, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    Makaton is such a brilliant communication method and is great to use and adapt, I’ve used this and other specialist methods for a long time and I love the freedom it brings with it. It can just turn a person around and start a very positive journey forward.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 24, 2017 / 5:00 pm

      Hi Mainy, Makaton really has turned our little boy around – it’s been a godsend for the whole family. Thx for commenting x

  13. November 22, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    I only know Makaton from watching Justin Fletcher too. I’d love to learn it properly! Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 24, 2017 / 4:58 pm

      We love Justin! He’s done so much for children with Speech, Language and communication needs Lovely to meet you today! x

      • November 25, 2017 / 10:33 pm

        Lovely to meet you too! Hopefully see you again at another local event! x

  14. November 23, 2017 / 10:03 am

    We learnt makaton at sing and sign classes and it was invaluable. I will do it again with the next (if there is one). I wish we had continued using it but we both got a bit lazy. When we visited the Kidtropolis event recently, George met a chase character and obviously they don’t speak because the voice would be different to the show, so when we left and George hi fived him, Chase signed thankyou. I was so impressed. To many, they probably didn’t even notice it was a sign but I know that would mean a lot to certain children.

    Thanks for linking up to #KCACOLS

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 24, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      We’ve always loved it when we see characters or other children signing because like you say, others wouldn’t know what it was, but we see it straight away. It’s still not recognisable to many but hopefully that will change and it will become more universally recognised. Thx for your comment lovely xxxx

  15. Lucy At Home
    November 23, 2017 / 2:50 pm

    We did a Makaton Class with my youngest when she was little. It was amazing to see how much she could communicate even though she was too young to talk. So I can definitely see how it could be a life-line to older children who are struggling a little.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 24, 2017 / 4:52 pm

      It is an amazing tool for children to use when they cannot access language because speaking is something many of us take for granted, but when you are unable to use language, the frustration must be huge. Makaton lessened that frustration for our little boy so much. And I was thrilled to be a #blogcrush this week – very flattered. Thank you. x

  16. November 23, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    My son struggled to talk for many years, not really gaining useful speech till he was around 6 years old, and we used Makaton with him even though he struggled to sign back to us due to physical disabilities. I remember the excitement the first time he signed “more” to us. Even now, when he is stressed and anxious and unable to speak due to that, he will sign “home” to let me know he has had enough. Makaton is brilliant. #KCACOLS

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      November 24, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      That’s wonderful to hear – it’s such a valuable resource for children who struggle to talk. I remember when my son first signed mummy, it was wonderful! Thx for reading and sharing your experience x

  17. December 5, 2017 / 7:17 pm

    We use a mix of Makaton and baby BSL with my 21 month old and it’s amazing how much it has brought his speech on, from less than 10 words the months ago to over 40 now. It also means we can understand him more when he’s not using words, or differentiating what a certain sound means. And yes, I now love Mr Tumble!!

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      December 10, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      Fantastic that your little one has been using Makaton and BSL – it’s such an amazing resource. Thx for reading x

  18. December 21, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    Wow Susie – this post has been added to the BlogCrush linky AGAIN! Congratulations! I love the idea of you all creating new signs that are just known by your family – like a secret club that you’re all a part of! Fab! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge if you haven’t already 🙂 #blogcrush

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      December 24, 2017 / 11:38 am

      Thank you – so honoured to be added again to BlogCrush linky – I’m just glad that makaton is getting heard about. xx

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