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Living with Deafblindness

Key Word Sign

Key Word Sign is a simplified signing system that uses manual signs, natural gesture and facial expression to support the interaction, communication and language development of those who may have difficulty with attention, language comprehension and expression, speech development and speech intelligibility.  Previously in Australia know as Makaton, this visual communication support system is used with children and adults who have communication difficulties.

Key Word Sign uses a core vocabulary of specifically selected words / signs, comprised of concepts considered to be the most useful for children and adults with communication and language difficulties. Additional signed vocabulary is added to suit the individual needs of the user. In Australian Key Word Sign, each word (concept) is matched to a hand sign borrowed from Auslan, the native language of the Australian deaf community.

The main features of Key Word Sign include

  • sign the main words but say the whole sentence
  • use natural gesture and facial expression
  • uses some finger spelling
  • signs come from the official sign language of the region

The communication partner of the person who is deafblind may use the signs to communicate a message to the person with deafblindness and/or to support the understanding of a spoken message. Some people with deafblindness may also use Key Word Sign to communicate their own messages to others. Key Word signs can be modified to tactile forms if the person with deafblindness does not have enough functional vision to see the signs.

In Australia, Key Word Sign was known as Makaton until around 2010. Makaton is a trademarked term with its origins in the United Kingdom. Officially, it is a term no longer used in Australia.