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Learning at Home - COVID-19 Symbol Communication Resources

Posted by Gillian McNeill on the 22nd April, 2020

We are into another week with learners out of school and are hearing of parents of children and young people with additional support needs, seeking resources to use at home. Therefore, in this blog I’d like to focus on symbol resources for learners with communication support needs, to communicate about and around COVID- 19.

How can I support my child to use symbols?

The value of using symbols is that they provide a means for non-verbal children to communicate and participate in their everyday life and learning. In addition, symbols can be used to support a child to understand the language and communication of others. Some children with symbol-based communication in place already have access to the words and language that they need to talk about aspects COVID-19 and how it impacts them. An interesting blog from AssistiveWare suggests ways to use AAC to talk about the coronavirus.

Other children may not have used symbols, simple introductory information for parents from the Widigt website may be useful. Another parent friendly blog from Cardiff Teacher, Sarah Lachlann-Dean, provides information on using symbols at home, which includes a home communication book created with Widgit symbols to download.

For children who do not have access to symbols or the symbols they now need, read on…

Which symbols should I select?

There are 3 main symbols sets most commonly in use throughout the UK, these are:

The CALL Scotland Symbols for All website has information on other symbols, free to use, as well as information on symbol software for creating resources. When choosing a symbol set, we suggest selecting resources from the same symbol set already in use. This consistency will help a child to learn and then use them.

How can I get started with symbols for my child?

This simple 5 step guide is aimed at helping parents to get started:

Where can I find symbol resources?

Here's our list of top resources, although there are many more emerging each day...

Symbols for All (PCS & Widgit) - communication and teaching resources in an accessible format for learners with additional support needs, with information on symbol software and alternative free symbol sets. Also, newly available CALL Scotland Coronavirus chat board download for using with the free SoundingBoard App for iPad (and available as a PDF for printing). This has been made using free ARAASAC symbols and comes with recorded speech messages, it's editable if you wish to make changes.

North Lanarkshire Schools Resources (PCS) - free and varied symbol resources created by a team from North Lanarkshire Schools, accessible through their Glow blog, FaceBook or Twitter.

Tobii Dynavox (PCS) - a large collection of resources for Coronavirus Communication Support, including pintable resources, symbols for communication apps/software and learning materials - 90-day trial of Boardmaker Online for creating resources, 60-day trial of the AAC App Snap Core First and At Home Learning resources. Some symbol resources require you to first sign up for a free ‘Tobii Dynavox’ account.

Smartbox (PCS, SymbolStix & Widgit) - Coronavirus Super Core resources in two formats, electronic (for using within the Grid 3 Super Core vocabulary) and printable symbol grids.

Widgit  - new coronavirus symbols and charts, with free access to Widgit Online symbol software using code: WIDGIT30.

Techcess (SymbolStix) - symbol grids for users of Mind Express software with free 60 day trial available, type corona into the search box to find resources.

Liberator (Clarity) - resources include parent guides, sample lesson plans, communication boards within their AAC Language Lab, which has an extended free trial period of two months. 

AssistiveWare (SymbolStix) - developers of the AAC App Proloquo2Go App, who have provided a temporary license for existing Proloquo2Go users that have lost access due to school closures.

Smarty Symbols - online platform with Smarty Symbols for creating communication and other resources with a free 30-day trial.

News-2-You (SymbolStix) - collection of SymbolStix based resources including pre-made and personal communication options, with free access to SymbolStix PRIME during COVID-19.

ConnectABILITY (PCS) - website of the online community based in (Canada), with a simple free tool to create photo/symbol resources – PCS (limited number).

Online course - £30

An Introduction to AAC: Getting started with communication technology

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