Who Needs Tangible Symbols?

People who might benefit from using Tangible Symbols are individuals who lack the skills to communicate clearly using speech or other abstract symbol systems such as sign language. People who have learned to use Tangible Symbol Systems include individuals of all ages who have the following disabilities:

  • severe mental retardation
  • developmental disabilities
  • autism or pervasive developmental disorders
  • severe vision impairment
  • severe orthopedic impairment
  • multiple disabilities
  • deafblindness

Although we do not believe that there are any prerequisites to communication intervention, we do believe that there is a logical sequence of intervention. Our research (Rowland & Schweigert, 2000) has shown that individuals who already communicate pre-symbolically (using gestures or vocalizations) will more readily learn how to use tangible symbols.

If an individual does not use pre-symbolic behaviors intentionally and reliably to convey basic needs and preferences, then you should begin by teaching him or her to do so.