symbols are tactilely salient, three-dimensional and artificial representations
associated with people, objects, and activities and used for receptive
and expressive communication. These symbols are individualized for each
child and could be abstract or closely related to their referent.
support receptive and expressive communication for a child who is a
piece of sandpaper represents, "Time to work"
piece of cardboard with hardened glue dots represents, "Time
for a snack"
piece of plastic represents, "Time to go shopping".
for symbols should be selected based on the childs preferences
and ability to discriminate them.
textures must be salient and distinctive from each other.
textures should maintain their saliency and surface uniformity when
reduced in size or provided from a different perspective.
textured symbol should have its intended message written clearly on
it to clarify the communication intent for all communication partners.
be individualized for each childs specific needs.
can be recognized without significant active exploration.
saliency of the textures may reduce the demand on memory and orientation.
do not need to be spatially oriented or have a reference point because
the texture is uniform across the surface area (e.g., a corduroy square).
symbols are portable and relatively easy to display.
can be used with children of all ages and an accompanying print message
can be easily understood by anyone who can read.
- Textured symbols
can be presented to the body part that can discern them most efficiently
(i.e., not just to hands).
a conventional system of communication and partner may not be comfortable
symbols do not necessarily possess the attributes of the referents
they represent or have a clear perceptual relationship.
- There is no
accepted standardized system of textured symbols because they are
individualized for the child.
- A focus on
textured symbols as the sole means of communication will limit interaction
- Select a highly
reinforcing and very specific referent (eg., crackers). Introduce
the texture (eg., a square covered with dried glue dots) that represents
the referent during consistent routines (eg., at snack time). Present
this symbol every time the child can have the desired item.
- Start with
a large presentation of the texture (e.g., 8"x10") so the
child can easily touch it. Begin with an action that the child can
produce (e.g., put hand on texture).
- Give the child
the actual referent whenever he or she makes any contact (accidental
or intentional) with the textured symbol.
each texture symbol by itself. Once the child understands the meaning
of this new symbol then it can be used with others to offer a choice.
- When the child
consistently touches the symbol, reduce the size of the texture. Individual
needs and abilities will decide the ultimate size of the texture.
- Increase the
number of textured symbols to represent different referents that are
appropriate for the childs use.
- A symbol
without a referent can be used as a foil in teaching the child to
make a choice. A foil is usually a smooth flat square the same size
as the other textures. That is used to check the childs recognition
of a textured symbol. If the child selects a foil, gently guide the
childs hand to the display area so he can choose a texture that
has a referent.
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.
B. (1994). Developing textured communication symbols for communication
use. Living and Learning Together, 1, (2), 6-9.
L. (1997). Communication: A guide for teaching students with visual
impairments and multiple disabilities. Austin, TX: Texas School
for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Hagood, L. (n.d.).
A standard tactile symbol system: Graphic language for individuals
who are blind and unable to learn braille. http://www.tsbvi.edu/outreach/seehear/archive/tactile.html
F., Cougnot, P., & Bloch, H. (1997). Hand tactual exploration of
textures in infants from 4 to 6 months. Early Development and Parenting,6,
J., & Bailey, B.(1998). Texture communication symbols: Talking
through touch. [Video & booklet]. Terra Haute, IN: Blumberg
Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education, Indiana State
J., Udvari-Solner, A., & Bailey, B. (1991). Textured communication
systems for individuals with severe intellectual and dual sensory impairments.
Language, Speech, and Hearing in Schools, 22, 260-268.