Deaf Education Home Page
Instructional Strategies Home Page

Developing Awareness That Gestures, Sounds, and Printed Configurations Can Symbolize Objects and Events

Key Words: Instructional Strategies, Deaf Education, K-12

Type: Intervention Strategies

Topic: Developing Awareness of Symbols

Focus: Severely Communicatively Impaired

Summary:

"An initial step in any augmentative communication intervention program is making certain the client realizes that gestures, sounds (both speech and other), and printed configurations (words, Blissymbols, drawings, manipulatable tokens, etc.) can represent objects and events. To develop this awareness, he or she must be able to do the following (Carrier & Peak, 1975, pp. 6-7):

1. Discriminate among the various members of the symbol set,

2. Discriminate among various classes of environmental stimuli that call for different symbolic responses,

3. Discriminate among various sequential arrangements of stimuli (declarative sentences, interrogative sentences, etc.),

4. Associate symbols and environmental stimuli (meanings), and

5. Associate sequential arrangements and meanings." (p. 212)

"The client has to be able to discriminate among the various gestures, sounds, and printed configurations that are being used as symbols (i.e., the various members of the symbol set). Strategies for developing such awareness for a symbol set consisting of manipulatable tokens are included in the Non-SLIP Program (Carrier & Peak, 1975). These strategies are adaptable for other types of symbol sets." (p. 212)

"The client also has to be able to discriminate among the various classes of objects or events ("units of experience") that can be represented by the symbols in the set he or she will be using. To do this, the client must be aware of both how they are similar and how they are different. Specifically, he or she must be aware of the attribute(s) on the basis of which individual objects and events are assignable to a class (or category) that can be represented by a given symbol. An apple, a peanut, a hamburger, and ice cream, for example, all have the attribute of being edible. They are thus assignable to a class (or category) that can be represented by a symbol such as the word "food," a gesture in which a finger is pointed to the mouth or to a drawing of someone eating. The client also must be able to discriminate objects and events for which the use of the symbol would be appropriate from those for which it would be inappropriate (because they do not possess the attribute, or attributes, necessary for assignment to the category symbolized). While an apple, a peanut, a hamburger, and ice cream can be symbolized by the word "food," a pipe, a hammer, and a chair cannot. Strategies for discriminating among various classes of environmental stimuli that call for different symbol responses are included in the Non-SLIP Program (Carrier & Peak, 1975)." (p. 212)

"A third competency the client must have if his or her communication is to be more complex than the presentation of single symbols is the ability to discriminate among various sequential arrangements of symbols. The client has to be able to discriminate among the various sequential arrangements of symbols. The client has to be able to discriminate among the various types of permutations and combinations (orderings) of the symbols in the set that are usable for encoding messages. Tasks for providing such training are included in the Non-SLIP Program (Carrier & Peak, 1975)." (p. 212-13)

"Once the client can discriminate among the environmental stimuli (objects and events) that he or she will be taught to symbolize and the symbols used to represent them, he or she can be taught how symbols and environmental stimuli are associated. That is, the client can be taught that symbols can represent environmental stimuli even when they are not present. A person has to understand this relationship between symbol and referent intuitively before he or she can learn to use any symbol system." (p. 213)

"After the client understands how individual symbols and environmental stimuli are related, he or she can be taught how combinations of symbols are related to environmental stimuli. Both the symbols with which a particular symbol is combined and its location in a series (or symbols) can influence its meaning. Ordered combinations of symbols, of course, can encode messages that it would not be possible to encode using symbols. The Non-SLIP Program (Carrier & Peak, 1975) also includes tasks that are usable for developing an understanding of this concept." (p. 213)

Reference:

Carrier, Jr., J.K., & Peak, T. (1975). Program Manual for Non-SLIP (Non-Speech Language Initiation Program). Lawrence, KS: H & H Enterprises.

Silverman, Franklin, H. (1995). Communication for the Speechless (3rd ed.) Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Grace Shanafelt/K.S.U. Student/Deaf Ed. Major