Fast FAACt Friday: On Symbols and Reading
When we provide literacy experiences to pre-readers, a question emerges: Should we add symbols to the text? For those of us who have been prAACticing for awhile (you know who you are, friends), there has been a shift in our thinking.
Early on, we tried to add symbols to the words. Our thinking was that doing so would enhance the client’s ability to learn to read.
A few years ago, we re-examined that belief. Here’s why.
- Many times, our clients didn’t really know the symbols anyway. Symbols for frequently used words (like of, some, and know) are not at all transparent. So the notion that the symbols would help them understand what they were reading often didn’t pan out.
- We want the learners to (eventually) develop their reading skills and be able to read conventional text. The symbols distract attention away from the print/text. If we want the learner to acquire conventional reading skills (e.g., letter-sound correspondance, decoding, site word recognition), they need to pay attention to the printed letters and words. Adding symbols diverts the focus from the text.
There are still times when adding the symbols makes sense. If learning to read conventionally is not a priority for the long or short term, we may decide to add symbols to the printed words. We’re not ready to give up on conventional literacy skills for most AAC learners, though, so generally we stick with print and forgo the AAC symbols.
Bottom line: Text emmbellished with AAC symbols doesn’t seem to help our clients develop traditional reading skills.
If the goal of the activity is communication, the AAC symbols are essential. But if the goal is literacy, reconsider whether the symbols truly help the AAC learner.
For more information on this and other things related to literacy and students with AAC needs, see this great article by Karen Erickson, Penny Hatch, and Sally Clendon.
Erickson, K., Hatch, P., & Clendon, S. (2010). Literacy, assistive technology, and students with significant disabilities. Focus on Exceptional Children, 42(5), 1 – 16.
Filed under: PrAACtical Thinking
This post was written by Carole Zangari