Tangible Solutions for Individuals With Dual Sensory Impairments Many individuals who have dual sensory impairments may learn to communicate through gestures, but do not progress to communication using abstract symbols such as spoken words or manual signs (Rowland & Schweigert, 1989; Rowland & Stremel-Campbell, 1987). These individuals seem to stumble over the concept of a one-to-one correspondence ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2000
Tangible Solutions for Individuals With Dual Sensory Impairments
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Charity Rowland
    Oregon Health Sciences University, Oregon Institute on Disability and Development, Portland, OR
  • Philip Schweigert
    Oregon Health Sciences University, Oregon Institute on Disability and Development, Portland, OR
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Articles
Article   |   December 01, 2000
Tangible Solutions for Individuals With Dual Sensory Impairments
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2000, Vol. 9, 3-4. doi:10.1044/aac9.4.3
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2000, Vol. 9, 3-4. doi:10.1044/aac9.4.3
Many individuals who have dual sensory impairments may learn to communicate through gestures, but do not progress to communication using abstract symbols such as spoken words or manual signs (Rowland & Schweigert, 1989; Rowland & Stremel-Campbell, 1987). These individuals seem to stumble over the concept of a one-to-one correspondence between an arbitrary sound (a spoken word) or motion (a manual sign) and its referent. Some years ago we conducted studies on the use of a conceptually concrete symbol system that we called tangible symbols (Rowland & Schweigert, 1989, 1990).
Tangible symbols maybe either three-dimensional (objects) or two-dimensional (pictures) and they have the following properties:
  • They bear a clear perceptual relationship to a referent (that is, they are iconic), making lower demands on cognitive abilities than do abstract symbols. The relationship between the symbol and the referent is obvious to the individual user, since it is based on the user's own experience.

  • They are permanent, making lower demands on the user's memory than do speech and signs, which must be pulled out of “thin air, ” or the user's recall memory. Tangible symbols need only be recognized out of a permanent display of symbols, thus utilizing recognition memory, a more basic cognitive skill.

  • They are manipulable. They may be picked up and handed to someone or placed next to a referent. Thus, a literal exchange of information is possible through the communication act.

  • They may be indicated through a simple motor response such as touching, pointing, picking up or eye gaze, placing low demands on the user's motor abilities.

  • Finally, three-dimensional symbols may be useful for people without sight, since they are tactually discriminable.

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