Total Communication


Objects of Reference are objects that are systematically and consistently used with a person to represent people, places, objects and activities. They are used alongside the spoken word.

They can be:-

  • Whole object – A cup to represent “drink”.
  • Parts of objects – A piece of a seatbelt to represent “car seat” or “going on a car journey”
  • A miniature version of the object – A toy train to represent “A real train”
  • An item that smells, feels, sounds or looks like the actual object, event or person – a small container of perfume specifically used to represent the person that uses it.
  • An item that has no obvious connections to the activity but through using it cautiously and frequently can come to represent the activity – e.g. Lego people to represent school assembly.

They should be:-

  • relevant to each individual
  • the same objects used on every occasion
  • presented immediately before the event or activity they represent
  • used every time the activity takes place or the person/object is encountered
  • presented in the same way every time
  • kept near the person during the event it is representing


Objects of Reference can be used to support:-

  • receptive language/understanding
  • memory and sequencing of events
  • signalling the beginning of a new activity
  • choice-making
  • requesting items and activities
  • story-telling and recalling events
  • expressive language

More Information

See below for more information: