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Choosing a symbol set

This unit describes some of the key issues to consider in choosing a symbol set to support AAC use

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Choosing a symbol set

  1. 1. Choosing a Symbol Set Module 1 Unit 4
  2. 2. What we will cover In this unit we will • Discuss some of the available symbols sets • Identify some of the key features of symbols sets • Suggest some of the considerations in choosing a symbol set
  3. 3. Refresher – what are symbols? Symbols are used widely in everyday life as a kind of visual language. Road signs, care symbols on clothing, or direction symbols at an airport are examples of how symbols can convey information quickly and effectively. Symbols can be read, regardless of the person's language or literacy skills. People with communication difficulties may benefit from using symbols to understand what other people are saying, as well as to express what they want to say.
  4. 4. Symbol sets Symbols are mostly available as collections or sets. Many symbol sets are available which have been designed specifically for AAC. Most present the symbol together with the word or phrase it stands for. Typically the word is printed above the symbol if the focus is on communication as communication partners need to be able to see the words because they may not know what all the symbols mean. Where the focus is on literacy, the reader may need to be able to see the symbols to help decode the written word and as emerging readers often point to words as they read, the symbol is printed above the word.
  5. 5. Examples of Symbol Sets PicSymbolstix™ SymbolStix consists of more than 12,000 symbols that are available on a number of Voice Output devices. Symbolstix symbols were created to support a website with educational materials and news of current events for people who could not read this information as text. The symbols are available through an online subscription. www.n2y.com/symbolstix-prime
  6. 6. Examples of Symbol Sets Blissymbols™ Originally devised as an international language, Blissymbols were adopted for use by people with complex communication difficulties in the 1970s. Symbols are built with systematic visual elements which have consistent meanings. www.blissymbols.co.uk
  7. 7. Examples of Symbol Sets Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)™ There are approximately 5,000 symbols in a core library. Addendum libraries of PCS and country-specific libraries bring the total to approximately 12,000 symbols. PCS is available in 44 different languages. The symbols consist of simple drawings that can be represented in black and white or colour. There are versions that have thin outlines or are in high contrast. www.mayer-johnson.com
  8. 8. Examples of Symbol sets Arasaac ARASAAC is a free portal for (AAC) Augmentative and Alternative Communication funded by the Aragonese Government. All of the symbols are free for non-commercial use and are licensed under Creative Commons. The site provides over 11,000 colour symbols and supports several European languages - black and white versions of all symbols are also available. www.globalsymbols.com
  9. 9. Examples of Symbol sets Tawasol Tawasol is a freely distributable bilingual Arabic / English symbol dictionary of frequently used words in spoken and written communication represented by images and pictograms. Tawasol builds upon the Arasaac collection. Based upon crowd sourced design and Arabic language and values, the symbols are freely usable and can be adapted to meet the needs of other language communities and needs. www.globalsymbols.com
  10. 10. Choosing a Symbol Set Symbol sets vary in several ways including: how pictorial, how guessable, how flexible, how consistent and how visually complex. Each symbol set has strengths and weaknesses and the choice of a symbol set should be based on the needs and abilities of the person using AAC. Selecting symbols for the communication environment is also important, this will include language and culture Practical issues such as whether software is available to produce printed materials, or which are available for a particular AAC system, will also influence any choice.
  11. 11. Features of symbol sets How pictorial Some symbol systems are more pictorial than others. However, abstract concepts such as ‘love', ‘mother' or ‘idea' are difficult to convey in a simple pictorial way. Symbol sets will need rules as to how such concepts are represented
  12. 12. Features of Symbol sets How guessable Where symbols are easier to guess, the AAC user may be able to recognise the meaning intuitively rather than having to learn each symbol individually. Symbols that represent objects, rather than abstract ideas, tend to ne easier to guess and often are represented in similar ways regardless of the symbol set. Other symbols are not so easily guessable, and in these need to be learned individually.
  13. 13. Features of Symbol sets How flexible Such sets of highly pictorial symbols are easy to guess, but may be less easy to apply in all contexts. Thus a symbol for 'water' might not work so well to express the message "my eyes began to water".
  14. 14. Features of Symbol sets How consistent Symbol systems which follow clear rules which combine consistent visual elements are often easiest to learn. Such consistent systems can allow children to express ideas which are not in their AAC system, where they can combine elements to convey new or subtle meanings.
  15. 15. Features of Symbol Sets How visually complex Children with vision loss find it easier to process symbols with particular design features, such as being in black and white, presented as line drawings, or in high contrast. The capacity to size symbols without loss of quality can also be important in supporting those with vision loss
  16. 16. Features of Symbol sets Selecting symbols for the communication environment Using symbols in everyday settings is recognised as a being a core aspect of establishing Total Communication. Where symbols are already in use around a setting such as school or clinic that the child attends regularly, there is great value in using the same set in implementing the child’s individual communication system.
  17. 17. Features of Symbol sets Choosing a symbol set to match the needs of the individual The symbols must support the range of words and types of word that they are and will be needed. This is particularly important for those with good language skills and who need a range of specific vocabulary items, or abstract words, or symbols for that denote grammar.
  18. 18. Summary Choosing a symbol set is first and foremost based on meeting the needs of an individual. This includes considering the design of the symbol set, the ways in which the symbols will be used and the environment in which communication will take place. Those charged with implanting AAC systems should seek to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a range of symbol sets to guide the process.
  19. 19. Points to remember • There are many symbols sets which may be available. Some are free, some must be purchased • Symbol sets can be considered in several ways including: how pictorial, how guessable, how flexible, how consistent and how visually complex. • Each symbol set has strengths and weaknesses and the choice of a symbol set should be based on the needs and abilities of the person using AAC. • Selecting symbols for the communication environment is also important, this will include language and culture • Practical issues such as how the symbols are to be used, is software available to produce printed materials, or which are available for a particular AAC device, will also influence any choice.

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