Signs and symbols


What are signs and symbols?

  • A sign is an action or a gesture that you make with your hands, body and face as you speak.
  • A symbol is a picture that you use to help communicate.
  • Signs and symbols do not replace talking – they are always used at the same time as you talk.

Why do we use signs and symbols?

  • Signs and symbols help children’s attention and listening skills
  • They help children to understand and learn new words and concepts.
  • They help children to get their message across.
  • They help children’s independence.

How do signs and symbols help?

  • They are visual, so help children who like to learn visually.
  • They last longer than spoken words, to give children more time to process and understand what has been said.
  • They draw attention to important key words they hear.
  • Adults slow down their talking when they use them, so children have more time to process and understand what has been said.
  • Using them with all children means all children and adults understand and use them so they can talk and communicate together.


You can find more information on signs and symbols on the Makaton website.