Examples of Visual Communication Systems

Makaton is an augmentative communication system that uses signs and/or symbols to support the development of basic communication and everyday vocabulary. In addition, it can help develop language and literacy skills.

This multi - modal approach to using Makaton has been found to promote the development of basic communication skills in pupils with communication and learning difficulties.

The early skills that are necessary to support the development of signed and spoken communication are:

  • Attention
  • Eye contact
  • Turn taking
  • Early gestures such as pointing

The Makaton vocabulary was designed to provide signs and/or symbols for the everyday needs and events that occur in life. The early stages of the Makaton vocabulary cover a pupils immediate needs and are proven to be the most frequently used.

Makaton is always used with normal grammatical speech and has been shown:

  • To stimulate sound production and early words
  • To help pupils combine two or more words into phrases or sentences
  • To help some pupils to develop reading skills by using the symbols with speech and/or signs

The essential feature of Makaton is the core vocabulary. The core vocabulary consists of 450 concepts and is a small vocabulary of essential everyday
words needed for effective communication. The concepts in the core vocabulary are arranged in eight stages, starting with the simplest and earliest concepts and progressing to more complex concepts at stage 8.

The resource vocabulary will consist of over 7000 concepts when complete. It is arranged in topics and the signs and symbols can be selected to boost the core vocabulary according to the pupils needs.

The topics in the resource vocabulary include:

  • The National Curriculum
  • Animals, transport and vehicles
  • People
  • Buildings and places
  • Growth and development
  • Religion and customs

Using signs helps the pupil to understand the spoken words and may help them to develop speech.

It ensures that we speak slower and give a clearer message to the pupil. For every sign in Makaton there is a symbol match.

The whole vocabulary should be taught to parents, teachers and others, but the pupil is only taught the signs relevant to his needs. As the pupils’ experience and communication skills broaden, the resource vocabulary can extend their language.

The core vocabulary can be used successfully with other communication programmes, such as Hanen, Portage and The Derbyshire Language Scheme.

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Last updated: 28 October 2015

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