Total Communication


Things to know about Symbols

  • Speech in isolation can produce tension. Tension lessens the chance of clear speech and frustration increases. More successful speech occurs if children can be encouraged to verbalise the symbols.
  • Using symbols increases language stimulation and gives a purpose for communication. Skills will transfer when speech becomes functional.
  • Behavioural problems: Symbols can clarify boundaries visually, but are often not considered until behaviour is out of control.
  • Literacy skills: ‘reading’ the symbols left to right. Written word can be printed above the symbol, to change the emphasis.
  • Developing memory: Lists, messages and instructions can be given to a non-reader, increasing independence and understanding.
  • Syntax: Correct phrase and sentence formation can be practised, as symbols give non-readers the visual component to language that readers have.
  • Writing: composing stories, making choices and recalling events
  • Assessment: symbols can be used to assess a child’s understanding of educational targets.

Take into consideration:

  • Is the child developmentally ready for recognizing photographs/pictures of objects and associating them with the real object?
  • Will symbols be motivating to the child?
  • Who will use them with the child?
  • Who is the facilitator, to make the resources and ensure use?


Symbols versus Signs

  • Only one reliable movement is needed to use a symbol system
  • No recall is necessary as they are always present
  • Words with symbols act as a bridge to reading
  • The listener can read the word that is with the symbol – accessible to wider range of people than signs
  • Visual presentation aids word order in sentences, sequencing and passage of time, as in timetables.