Bridging Function of Tangible Symbols

Learning to use Tangible Symbols may lay the foundation for the later acquisition of more abstract symbol systems. Here are some examples:

Tangible Symbol Example Boy Tangible Symbols

  • Adam, who has vision and hearing impairments, initially used three-dimensional symbols. Later, he progressed to using two-dimensional symbols.
  • Sarah used to have sight and had learned to use picture symbols. When she lost her sight, she quickly switched to using three-dimensional symbols, made from parts of familiar objects. Later she began using thermoformed symbols, which are thin, plastic impressions of her original symbols that are very portable. These are more abstract, since they carry less information.
  • Catherine's speech was not developing as expected, but she quickly learned to express herself using picture symbols. As her confidence developed, she began speaking, especially in conjunction with her use of the picture symbols. Eventually Catherine learned to use speech without the support of the Tangible Symbol system.
  • Gina had a long history of using manual signs in an imitative fashion, but without apparent meaning. After she had became a competent communicator using Tangible Symbols, she began to use manual signs in a more meaningful fashion.
  • Alberto, who had a diagnosis of autism, had usable vision but was very dependent on tactile information. He would use his fingers and mouth before experimenting with anything. A tangible symbol system was created for him which combined three-dimensional and two-dimensional information in each symbol. His system of photos with small three-dimensional elements attached allowed him to request things he desired throughout his day. Later on Alberto began to develop speech, but he still needed his tangible symbol system. As we encouraged him to use his speech more, his need for tangible symbols declined. Eventually he began to use speech as his primary means of communication.