Community Symbol Accessibility

As I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts (Symbol Access in the Community), symbol accessibility in the community is a direction we need to move more aggressively towards. Public facilities and building should be symbol friendly. All we have to do is take it one by one and add some appropriate symbols. Doctor's offices should be symbol friendly as well. I cannot tell you how many of my students struggle with going to the doctors. Some have to go quite often. We write them social stories and certainly include appropriate symbols on their language systems, but shouldn't the office itself be symbol accessible? I would include hospitals too. We do not have to do this all at once. Little by little with each of us doing our part and it will happen. Below is a very simple example of an accessible playground that is symbol friendly. It can certainly be improved upon. We just need to get started.

8/8/12 - Update

Symbol Friendly Ideas for the Home

1. Many families are aware of how important it is to have symbols throughout the home. Sometimes this may involve labels and other times there may be topic boards (symbols for a discussion). What we need to think about more is how we organize all of this so that the rooms in the home continue to become more accessible through contextual language routines. Ex. Doors may be labeled doors but should also have open/shut attached. The refrigerator should have closed/opened, put in, and take out. Every routine needs contextual vocabulary along with the high frequency core words mentioned throughout this blog. The sink may have hot/cold labels as well as on/off, wet/dry, wash, soap, dirty, and clean.

2. Make time to go through the home with your child and explore all of the symbols. Make sure they are at the right height so the child can access them. This means you will have to move them as the child grows. Symbols need to be available outside the house as well. There is nothing wrong with appropriately attaching some symbols to a tree (tree, tall, leaves, branches, on/off, climb). If you have a garden, this is a perfect opportunity to display symbols within the garden on posts (tomatoes, red, yellow, round, plum, vine, on, off, ripe, eat, pick).

3. In the evening (when possible), pick one routine from the day and journal/communicate about what happened. Keep it simple. Use the symbols to create a short story about the routine. This will reinforce language, memory, turn-taking skills and sequencing.

4. Children need the opportunity to ask the same questions and make the same statements over and over again. This repetition and practice is a natural part of typical development. By making the environment symbol friendly and providing core words and contextual vocabulary, you are facilitating natural inquisitive thought and processing. Children need to be able to ask over and over again what is the water that a tree.....etc.

5. Remember to make your symbols as durable and as washable as possible! Also consider using the free/low cost symbol sites provided under the free symbol project page. 

10/30/12 - Update

It is important to talk about language associated with the community. Developing symbol based dictionaries is a wonderful way to reinforce language and high use vocabulary in specific environments.  The students or adult participants can assist in developing these dictionaries to be reviewed and used to highlight a specific experience. They are always a work in progress. This particular dictionary was developed by the Assistant Day Habilitation Coordinator at the Community Adult Program, Amy Downing.

10/31/12 - Update

There are simple things we can do at local stores and even banks. How many banks still give out lollipops? I know quite a few. Take a look at this idea by Amy Downing. All we have to do is provide the symbols to the banks and local stores. I bet they would be more than happy to work with us!

3/1/13 - Update

To go along with the wheelchair art theme, we should consider building inclusive art which is displayed in our public playgrounds, facilities, common and other areas. As mentioned in the 3/1/13 post on the main page of the blog, there are many ways to do this. This wheelchair art with wings is a wonderful example of what can be done. We should be actively involved in these projects!

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