object or part of object used to refer to a person, place, object, or
provide a concrete means of supporting conversational interactions and
A cup is used to mean "Snack time, go to the table"
diaper is used to mean " Lets change your diaper"
A backpack is used to mean "Heres the bus. Time for
section of straw signals "Snack time"
The cardboard toilet paper roll signals "Lets go to
of chain from the swing signals "Its recess. Go play
whether the child has the physical ability to actively explore and
manipulate objects to determine whether object cues are an appropriate
communication support for this child.
object cues that the child can manipulate and that have a close
tactile relationship to their referents.
the use of miniatures since their relationships to referents are
possible, choose small objects or parts of objects so the communication
system is more portable.
the intended message clearly on the object or display to clarify
the communication intent for all communication partners.
object cues should be displayed so that they are accessible to the
child and used consistently by communication partners, (e.g., in
a calendar box, on a communication board, in a binder separated
in categories, or as a landmark for the place to which the object
and handle objects with the child (see Mutual
Tactile Attention) and engage in nonverbal and verbal conversations
about activities that the objects represent. For example, show the
child the chain from the swing; touch it together; act out swinging
and invite the child to feel your actions. Sign SWING tactilely. Notice
the child's reactions and respond.
cues provide a concrete and static communication method that may
be easily understood by the child who needs support in understanding
abstract symbols, such as speech or sign language.
object cue makes relatively low demands on the childs cognition,
memory and representational skills. Initially, the object cue can
be the same object that is used in the actual activity so the child
will understand its meaning. The child just needs to discriminate
it from one or more other tangible
use of an object cue requires a simple motor response, such as pointing,
touching, picking up, showing, or looking at it to make the message
size of the object can be reduced over time to a small part of the
object to increase portability.
use of object cues is not a conventional communication method so
everyone who interacts with the child may not use them consistently
or in the same way.
use of whole objects may not be portable.
and complex messages cannot be communicated solely through the use
of object cues.
the appropriate object or part of an object to refer to a person,
activity, or item can be very challenging.
to Offer Objects
the best way to offer an object to a particular child and the child's
preferred position for examining objects. Some children will examine
objects placed on a tray or on their laps. Other children with physical
disabilities may prefer to examine objects placed on their chests
while they are lying on their backs.
an object by touching it to a body part (e.g., arm) that is less
sensitive than the childŐs palm. Watch for a response. If needed,
repeat the offer and accept a negative response (e.g., a push away).
Offer something else. The rejected object can be offered again later.
introduce a new object, hold it in your hand and place the back
of your hand under the child's palm. Slowly rotate your hand with
the object so the child will come into contact with the object gradually.
This way the child can choose whether to remove his or her hand
from the object, just touch it, explore it in your hand, or pick
introduce something with a large surface (e.g., a book with textures
or braille or a large object), put your hand on the surface and
encourage the child to place his or her hand on top of yours. Slide
your hand back gradually so that the child's hand comes into contact
with the surface. Move your hand gently to explore the surface,
thus guiding the child to do the same. This way the child is learning
through tactile modeling
and can choose the amount and length of contact he or she has with
objects that are interesting for the child to explore tactilely
(e.g., contains discrepant textures or shapes, has moving parts
that can be manipulated, provides some feedback based on the childŐs
not force a child to take an object or overuse hand-over-hand manipulation.
This may lead to prompt dependency. Continuous physical manipulation
communicates that "you need my help" and "I can make you do this."
Cues represents a synthesis of information from Project SALUTEs
focus groups, National Advisory Committee, staff activities, and a
review of relevant literature such as the following bibliography.
Here for Examples
Y. (1990). Object symbols: A communication option (Monograph
Series No. 1). North Rocks, Australia: The New South Wales Institute
for Deaf and Blind Children.
D. (1995). Understanding and developing communication. In D. Chen
& J. Dote-Kwan, (Eds.). Starting Points: Instructional strategies
for children whose multiple disabilities include visual impairment.
(pp. 57-72) Los Angeles: Blind Childrens Center.
J.C. (1999). Non-Verbal communication: Cues, signals and symbols.
M.R. (1977). Confrontation between the young deaf-blind child and
the outer world. How to make the world surveyable by organized structure.
Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger.
J., & Treffry, J. (1982). Deaf-Blind infants and children.
A developmental guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
B., & Riggio, M. (Eds.). (1999). Remarkable conversations. A guide
to developing meaningful conversations with children and young adults
who are deaf-blind. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.
C.F. (1989). The discriminating nature of infants exploratory
actions. Developmental Psychology, 25, 885-893.
L. (2000). Teaching children who are deafblind. In S. Aitken, M. Buultjens,
C. Clark, J.T. Eyre, & L. Pease (Eds.), Creating a communicating
environment (pp. 35-82) London, England: David Fulton Publishers.
P. (1989). Object manipulation and exploration in 2-to5-month-old
infants. Developmental Psychology, 25, 871-884.
C., Schweigert, P., & Prickett, J.G. (1995). Communication systems,
devices, and modes. In K.M. Huebner, J.G. Prickett, T.R. Welch, &
E. Joffee (Eds.), Hand in Hand: Essentials of communication and
orientation and mobility for your students who are deaf-blind
(pp.219-259). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
C., & Schweigert, P. (2000). Tangible symbol systems (Rev.
ed.). Portland, OR: Center on Self-Determination, Oregon Health Sciences
University, Design to Learn Products.
C., & Stremel-Campbell, K. (1987). Share and share alike. In L.
Goetz, D. Guess, K. Stremel-Campbell, (Eds.). Innovative program
design for individuals with dual sensory impairments (pp.49-73).
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
H.A. (1989). Infants manipulative exploration of objects: Effects
of age and object characteristics. Developmental Psychology,20,
Institute. (1993). Using tactile signals and cues. [Video].
Logan, UT: HOPE.