It’s likely most people would agree with the statement that one of the core purposes of education is to develop students with the abilities to understand and respond to information.

Students arrive in our schools and classrooms with disparate skills and abilities, different social experiences, dissimilar instruction and other discordant factors. But educators and therapists are called upon to fulfill the core purposes of education.

As educators, specifically educators of children with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities, we seek and discover pedagogical tools to assist in our continual effort to meet the diverse needs of the ever-changing student population.

Symbols have emerged as essential teaching and learning supports for some students in achieving the goal of understanding and responding to information.

Put simply, a symbol is something that represents something else). People often use the words symbol and icon interchangeably as both terms often represent other objects or concepts. A few examples of symbols are figures, signs, representations or images.

Use of symbols on technology and devices may be relatively new, but human history is filled with examples of people connecting vision and language for written expression.

Symbols are useful supports across environments to cross language barriers, provide additional context for conveying meaning, or to close gaps concerning experience or culture. Symbols help students develop as communicators and readers empowering them to understand information, voice opinions and make choices. When carefully selected to have meaning and relevance, symbols are assistive.

Role of Symbols in Communication White Paper

Download our white paper to learn more about how symbols can assist individuals with unique learning needs.

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About the Author
Anne Johnson-Oliss has spent more than 20 years in the special education field as a teacher, supervisor, sales and marketing professional and business leader. In addition to teaching at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, Anne has authored five books and is an experienced presenter at national and international forums. She earned a Master of Education degree from Wright State and holds several certifications in education and business.