The History of Makaton

Odoo image and text block
Margaret Walker 

Makaton was devised in the UK by Margaret Walker, Kathy Johnston and Tony Cornforth – working with deaf mentally handicapped residents at Botley Park Psychiatric Institution in the late 1960s. It was observed that without a communication system residents were vulnerable and frustrated.

Margaret decided that only the key words in a sentence would be signed (this was the first time this strategy was used). Linguists confirm that in every language there is a threshold or core vocabulary. The 300 concepts that were chosen for Makaton  were in fact a core vocabulary. 

In 1976 the first Makaton training workshop was held. Soon it was being used for children with communication difficulties and today is the most widely used system in British schools. In 1985 graphic symbols started to be included and the first Makaton symbols (black and white line drawings) were published.

Makaton was updated and revised in 1996 to reflect the UK's modern multi-cultural society.

Makaton has been adapted for use in over 40 countries.

  • 1972/3

    Original research resulting in the design

    of the Makaton Core Vocabulary

  • 1976

    Makaton Core Vocabulary established First Makaton Training workshop heldThe Makaton Vocabulary Development Project (MVDP) established as a non-profit organisationMakaton Symbols Working Party founded

  • 1978

    First Makaton Tutor Training Course

  • 1980

    Work started on Makaton Resource Vocabulary

  • 1981

    The Makaton Language Programme began to be used overseas

  • 1983

    The MVDP became a Registered Charitable Trust

  • 1985

    Makaton Core Vocabulary Symbols published, enabling multi-modal use of signs and symbols

  • 1996

    Makaton Core Vocabulary updated, enlarged and revised Makaton signs and symbols published for the computer Makaton website established

  • 1999

    Makaton now used in over 40 countries

  • 2000

    Number of qualified tutors in UK reaches 800

  • 2004

    Makaton is added to the Oxford English Dictionary

  • 2007

    The Makaton Charity established and MVDP transferred to The Makaton Charity

  • 2010

    Number of licensed Makaton Tutors reaches 1000

  • 2015

    First 11 South African Regional Tutors trained