Tips from the Field

This is a place to share your ideas on all aspects of using tangible symbols in the real world, including:

  • how to create object and picture symbols
  • how to display symbols
  • how to make them available in different contexts
  • how to encourage their use

If you'd like to contribute new ideas, please e-mail your information to . Try to be clear and concise. You may attach pictures. Please also indicate whether you give permission to include your name and/or e-mail address so that web page visitors may contact you.

If you'd like to get in touch with one of our contributors, simply click on the name to send an e-mail.

"My son Josh has used a variety of communication supports in the pool, at the beach, in the tub and shower.

  1. Using a T-shirt transfer, iron a communication board onto a white tank top and wear it in the pool
  2. Double laminate a communication board and using either plumber's glue or aquarium glue, affix the board on a kickboard or other appropriate flotation piece, or to a Styrofoam tray.
  3. Print out a communication board, roll it and insert it into a clean, empty and dry 2 liter soda pop bottle. Cap securely.
  4. We have used the double laminate, water proof glue and affixed communication boards onto the very inexpensive garden kneel pads, too. They are so lightweight, have a handle, and float too.
  5. We have recently visited some wave pools where kickboards and other pool toys are not allowed. Luckily, I wear a communication T-shirt so this was not a problem.


"I have a family who needs to make EVERYTHING visual for their daughter. It will all be low-tech, and mom owns Boardmaker but I'm helping supply the ideas. Here's what I've been able to tell her so far:

  • Placemat
  • Pillowcase
  • Kickboard (for swimming, extra lamination, etc.)
  • Garden kneeling pad even for in the house while playing
  • Refrigerator magnets for foods/kitchen vocal 

"When teaching AAC graduate of my students designed a topic board to support communication pertaining to swimming/pool activities on a kickboard. The key is strong lamination! I think you could also design smaller topic-related choices/communication needs and have them laminated in a 3-5 mil laminate - and then put them on a ring/key chain fob. That could be worked into a knot on a floatation device."

"Use magnets on the fridge for requesting things in the fridge. I've also had parents put a strip outside the pantry with snack choices. The symbols for all the possible choices are kept on Velcro strips inside. Placemats at the table for dinner conversation and requests. Task strips for guiding household routines for dressing, toothbrushing, getting ready for school. A symbol area by the door to let the child know if its a school day (bus) or not (home symbol). Symbols to represent desired TV shows. Special toys kept in special places, where requests were needed to access them."

"I used the cabinet strategy at work - similar to the strategy for representing the foods in cabinets. I had all kinds of materials inside my cabinet and put 2 long Velcro strips with all the symbols representing the items inside the door. I would then provide a "visual schedule" of the activities we would be doing. I loved it one day when one of my students got out of his chair, opened the door, scanned the symbols on the inside of the door (all the actual objects were right there on the shelves!), picked what he wanted and gave it to me! How cool! He opted for the symbolic request versus taking what he wanted off the shelf!"

"Since there are lots of swimming pools in Florida we have developed the "Florida Manual Communication Goard." This consists of a kneeling pad (for gardeners) which is lightweight, usually has a handle, and it floats! You can sometimes find them at the dollar store or a hardware store. We create a communication board, laminate it well, and attach with adhesive back Velcro to the kneeling pad. You could also use clear packing tape to make it sturdier. This concept works well for those kiddos that like to throw things too!"

"I develop a lot of quick starts for devices and have developed a set of what I call Assistive Technology Lifesaver Cards. They are brightly colored half sheets of paper with tips and tricks on topics such as BoardMaker, implementation ideas, use of visual supports, etc. Let me know what kinds of things you're looking for."

"We have an indoor pool and required the 2 individuals who needed communication to use the doughnut flotation device around the waist to which we double laminated picsyms. For free swimmers, we created a communication corner they had to swim to in order to bring back a block with a symbol on it. We later let the blocks flow in the water bud had to color coordinate them according to the topic of what they wanted. The "boogey boards" work well though some did not want to use them. Using picsyms in the locker room proved less of a challenge."