3-Dimensional Symbols, AAC and Literacy

This document started as a webinar given by Deanna Wagner, hosted by LoganTech, on 5/19/16.

Main Points for the Webinar:
üAll have Rights to Communication & Literacy
üObject Communication Symbols
üSchedules, First/Then Cards
üTactile Communication Symbols
üLiteracy Supports with Tactiles
üCore Words with Tactiles

All students have a right to communication and literacy. Reading/writing/listening and speaking experiences all influence each other as students develop. For those students who are nonverbal and also have significant visual challenges, it may be necessary to add a 3rd dimension to the letters and symbols in order to increase their ability to attach meaning to the symbol.

Using a picture or an object to represent a preferred item is one way of supporting students in making requests. It is important that we remember, however, that making a request only assists that person in communicating one specific intent/purpose. All people communicate for a variety of purposes. Sometimes their behavior is non-symbolic and unconventional (such as using idiosyncratic gestures or body language).

Use the Communication Matrix to systematically explore how your student is currently communicating. It is free and available in both English and Spanish. www.communicationmatrix.org

Post from Karen Erickson in the Communication Matrix Community Collections
  • At the Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, we have just finished the first year of a communication intervention study focused on building early symbolic communication skills among students with complex needs including sensory loss. Our year 1 results are exciting. A group of 72 children (ages 3-21) made statistically significant improvements in both complexity and range of communication. One of the biggest challenges we encountered was the commonly held (mis)belief that we have to start with concrete referents. This collection focuses on conceptual versus concrete vocabulary for students with complex needs.

In order to support development of more traditional/conventional symbolic communication, we need to model a variety of communication forms/intents and then show these students how to access that same system.

Here is a goal based on ideas from Linda Burkhart: Within natural contexts throughout the day, the student will learn to use an increasing number of communicative functions or intents expressively with his communication system. Examples of communicative functions and intents:
  • Request objects
  • Request action
  • Request activity
  • Request a turn
  • Reject, protest, complain
  • Respond/acknowledge
  • Inform, share, or show (draw attention to something, like a photo)
  • Clarify or specify - for example in the case of something is wrong
  • Comment on action/object
  • Express an opinion
  • Ask a question

Visual Processing -- input from Kathy Danials-Balzano, SLP at Foundation for Blind Children 5/20/16

As with typically developing language systems, we utilize every sense that the body has to learn and attach names to items, activities and people. We see, hear, touch, smell and often taste these items everyday all day long which helps us create an associated attachment and memory for these items and labels. Many of our children that have a cognitive delay or a sensory loss don’t have the opportunity to experience the intensity of learning like this. We have to bring the world to them in a way that concretely makes sense to them.

A frequent analogy that we use to equate the process of learning while you have some sort of sensory impairment is like trying to hear, see and learn when you’re underwater. It presents with a much more complicated way of learning. Learning through real objects, real activities, real actions and consistent presentations paired with the labels, even with abstract labels (words), is highly important to assist the child to attach meaning to language. We learn through doing, experiencing and interacting with the things in our world. As we experience them on a highly frequent repetitive basis, we learn to connect these experiences with words, situations and people. We frequently make the assumption that others perceive information as we individually do. We can utilize our senses and past experiences to look at a picture and infer what that picture is or represents. When our vision, hearing or other sensory system is impaired, if we don’t have a history of exposure or experience with these items or have our experience with them in a different context, we are unable to accurately recognize, generalize and perceive the information which leads us to misinterpretation or disregard for the picture/word/language associated with it. What we can perceive and interpret as something, for many of our children they can make no sense of it at all from a flat 1 dimensional surface. This is why it’s important to utilize real objects to create a relationship between the object and label. We experience the real object, with the activity and with the person we’re working with to create that memory and attachment.

Object Communication Symbols
Object Symbols.jpg

According to the TechACCESS of RI, a good object symbol communication system will utilize object symbols that:
◦ Present high visual contrast between the backing and the object
◦ Incorporate auditory input and texture whenever possible
◦ Are markedly unique (in color, texture, and sound) when compared with the other object symbols in the set
◦ Are durable, both in terms of backing material and method used to affix object symbols to the backing.

Tangible Object Cards (TOC) from Adaptivation uses objects that are securely fastened to durable 5"x7" plastic cards. Each comes with a removable blank 2" x 3 1/2" card to which you can add your favorite communication symbol or picture. TOC cards come as a Core set of 20 cards. Save by purchasing the //Tangible Object Lex Bundle//, or the Tangible Object ProxPad Bundle for use with voice output.

The teacher can help the student manipulate the card so that it passes over the activation area of the ProxPad (when set for proximity activation) and the student hears what motivating activity will happen next or to confirm what choice they made. This system is not terribly functional for teaching other purposes of communication (e.g., protesting, giving an opinion, asking a question).

At Foundation for Blind Children, teachers (and SLPs) create tactile symbols by adding textures, objects or partial objects to black card stock, along with a PCS symbol (Mayer-Johnson).
Photo May 18, 8 30 55 AM.jpg Photo May 18, 8 30 27 AM.jpg

Here is an example of how another teacher (and blogger), Miss Sarah, uses object symbol cards in her classroom, moving them from one bin (it's time for) to another bin (I am finished with).
bins.png external image p1040102.jpg?w=225&h=300
For “meal time,” she attached a real plastic fork identical to the ones the students ate with. For students who used a feeding tube for meals, she used an extra feeding tube in place of the fork to make it applicable to them.

Tactile symbols are also used/developed by the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Check out this (and other) video examples on their website.

First/Then Cards
Linda Hodgdon, M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is internationally known as a pioneer in developing the use of visual strategies to support communication for students with the communication, behavior or social skill challenges that are common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). http://usevisualstrategies.com

Here is a video from the Watson Institute, showing how to implement this visual support. With a little imagination, you can visualize how the symbols could be enhanced with partial objects or other tactuals for our students with limited vision. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5odC5acaBQ

Be sure to check out these links from Carole Zangari's PrAACtical AAC blog:

APH Tactile Connections Kit
When students can visually process or physically manipulate smaller cards, the ProxTalker can also be used for first/then contingencies and schedules. In this case, we have used the APH Tactile Connections Kit. These tactiles have a bold background color and distinctive shapes to help build categorization/language skills. Personalized tactile enhancements are then added for differentiation within categories. For example, symbols for people can use a yellow card with a pointed edge that looks like a castle to contrast with social messages placed on a blue background with a circular indentation. The color categories are described in the manual that comes with the Kit. Moving beyond just schedules, link to these strategies for more emergent literacy applications from pathstoliteracy.org.
APH Tactiles.jpg proxtalker.jpg external image image.jpeg?itok=ZAvNmyWi


Objects, Tactiles & Literacy

Remnant Books as Topic Starters
Place real items in memory books (e.g., ticket stubs, lock of hair).

Check out the Angelman Syndrome Foundation (ASF) Communication Training Series by Caroline Musselwhite and Erin Sheldon. Here is a video specific to this topic:
Writing: Remnant books and personal experience stories - YouTube

Name Symbols
Check out this wonderful idea for building phonemic awareness on the pathstoliteracy website:
external image tactile_symbol_system.png
“What would it sound like if everyone’s name started with a /p/ sound? Let’s listen…”
Wait for the belly laughter and watch as the students’ fingers brush across each tactile representation of their peers “Darren, Megan, Zane, Madison, and Bryan” and instead they hear, “Parren, Pegan, Pane, Padison, and Pryan”

Tactual Books
Start-To-Finish Literacy Starters (STFLS) Tactual Book Directions
These PDFs include shopping lists and page-by-page instructions for adding tactuals to the Don Johnston STFLS books.
-- This from Dr. Gretchen Hanser (5/17/16) --
When I was at the CLDS, I added braille to the symbols using a Braille labeler. Some of the (Teachers of Visually Impaired) TVIs felt like it wasn't optimal, others thought it was OK because it was for incidental learning and the that focus was on communication-not reading the symbol.

I added the embellishment to the actual symbol part (not the text) using other tactuals (for example: adhesive back felt, fun foam, puff paint etc). I chose the tactual based on the intent of the symbol. I used the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired as guidelines. However, I had to make some of my own because there were no symbols for what we needed for literacy. I was looking for symbols to be used for shared reading---we were using more core vocabulary--not nouns. There are a ton of noun tactuals out there- they are far easier to make with tactuals, but for back and forth communication- clearly limiting.
I made the symbols mounted on black foam core board. There are individual symbol fab directions up on the center's website. I am sure things have changed now--but this is what I did back then for the Deaf-Blind Model classrooms. I did have TVIs advising me too.

TactileTalk Toolkit
TactileTalk Toolkit (Attainment Company) includes **GoTalk NOW Plus** app, TactileTalk in-app Communication Book, 30 pre-made TactileTalk Overlays, and TactileTalk Guidebook. Several objects are organized on a transparent sheet with borders and other symbols made with a special tactile paint. These sheets function as overlays for an iPad screen, corresponding to preprogrammed pages in the **GoTalk NOW App** using the TactileTalk Communication Book. Students feel the object for reference and tap the screen for corresponding voice output. For example, tap by the bells to play “I’d like to listen to music”. An accompanying TactileTalk Guidebook helps you integrate tangible symbols into the school day, and provides examples for use with students of varying disabilities. http://www.attainmentcompany.com/tactiletalk-toolkit

District 75 Educational Tag Set – add tactile enhancements
The set includes100 pre-programmed small tags with pictures and sounds right out of the box:
◦the well recognized District 75 "Give me 20" AAC Vocabulary: 20 new words including: need, hi, bye, help, want, more, stop, no, yes, there, finished, bad, good, me, do, here, bathroom, I, you, wow
◦26 upper case letters
◦26 lower case letters
◦7 mathematical symbols
◦21 numbers from 0-20

external image IMG_0314_grande.jpg?v=1424795850

Adding tactile enhancements -- This from Faye Gonzales, TVI at Madison Elementary School District (5/17/16) --
If you are really wanting to add Braille, you should never recreate the Braille with any other medium other than a braille writer, because the dots will not be spaced in the correct way or of the correct size to fit under a fingertip and will be much harder to read. For Braille specifically, use sheets of clear sticky back paper and braille on that, then cut and put on top of whatever you have made. The clear sticky back paper is an item that a TVI can get via Federal Quota through APH. For other tactile elements such as raised letters/lines, etc, puffy paint gives the most consistently formed line AND allows you to use a color/bright color if the user has low vision, but takes overnight to dry. Hot glue is great for something you need to use immediately as it dries in a few minutes, but it takes practice to get a line that is of consistent size. You have to be really good with the trigger. If you want to use a glue gun and the user has low vision, get glue gun sticks that are colored and intended for decorative purposes instead of the regular clear glue. Honestly I use a glue gun myself and have several different colored glue sticks.

Core Vocabulary -- 3D Printer Tactile Symbols from CLDS

All students need access to the top 40 most frequently used core words. To address the need, CLDS (Center for Literacy and Disabilities Studies) is developing tactile symbols that can be printed on a 3D printer. These are currently in development and are likely to change as we learn more, but CLDS decided to share them because they understand that the need is not limited to the students in their project. Here is a picture of the symbols:
external image Top-View-Example-3D-Symbols.jpeg
http://dlmpd.com/instructional-resources/#ffs-tabbed-13 links to the 3D printer file.









Writing: Remnant books and personal experience stories https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXdjxj2IQJY





Tactile Strategies for Children Who Have Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. Chen & Downing, 2006. AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind, 2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10121. (also available as eBook)

SAM: Symbols and Meaning: Guidebook, Assessment and Games Book, Print https://shop.aph.org Product Number 7-08854-00

Tactile Connections, Guidebook, Symbols for Communication https://shop.aph.org