Monday, September 28, 2015

Constructing Dual=Representation Symbols

There are many advantages to creating Dual=Representation Symbols to support your Animated Step-by-Steps™. Dual=Representation Symbols are symbols with back-to-back representations that straddle two different symbolic levels. I routinely create two types of Dual=Representation Symbols: Picture Symbols paired with Photos and Picture Symbols paired with PrintedWords for use with my Animated Step-by-Steps™.

Dual=Representation Symbols for Mary Wore Her Red Dress (SymbolStix)

For poems and songs it’s often the time dependent repetitive line and the slot-filler items that are rendered as Dual=Representation Symbols.

You will recall from a previous post (06-15-15 The Poem as a Mini Play) that Dual=Representation Symbols can be assembled into flip books.  

For crafts, recipes and science projects I usually create Dual=Representation Symbols for the materials/ingredients.

Here are a few examples of how Dual=Representation Symbols can be used with Animated Step-by-Steps™:

During Cooking  
(using PictureSymbol=Photo when making Brownies)

“ Beth, can you please get the brownie mix out of our big bag” …  “Brownie mix” (showing the photo side of the brownie mix symbol to serve as a reminder of the assigned task)

After Beth successfully retrieves the requested item from the big bag, the teacher flips the card to the picture symbol side of the card. “Thank you, Beth. You found our brownie mix” (showing the picture symbol side of the brownie mix symbol while simultaneously showing the real box of brownies, side by side).

During a Therapy Room Art Project  
(using PictureSymbol=Printed Words when making Butterfly Puppets)

“Yazie, we need to get some pipe cleaners for our Butterfly Puppets.”  “Pipe cleaners, please” (showing the picture symbol side of the pipe cleaners card).

Upon successfully retrieving the pipe cleaners from his zip lock bag, Yazie is stimulated with the flip side of the card. “Well done, Yazie.  You were sooooo fast." You found the pipe cleaners. You have a red and orange pipe cleaner” (showing the printed word side of the pipe cleaners card now paired with the real pipe cleaners).

During a Small Group Center Activity
(using PictureSymbol=Printed Words during a Mary Wore Her Red Dress extension

The class was exposed to the Mary Wore Her Red Dress Animated Step-by-Step™ activity on the interactive whiteboard during morning meeting. Later that morning Brittany and Marian are engaged in an extension activity involving Dual=Representation Symbols at an activity center.

A symbol line is created on a board covered with Tempo Display Loop fabric (a velcro® receptive fabric). Sometimes the song is sung using the picture symbols as the guide … sometimes the symbols are flipped to the printed word side of the card.  The color and clothing Dual=Representation cards are rotated through slots in the symbol sentence. You might even have a paper doll cutout with a full array of clothing items in every color that allows Brittany and Marian to sequentially dress the Mary cutout as they sing. A velcro®-receptive fun cube can be used to determine the color of the next clothing item. After a color has been used in the symbol sentence, that color card is re-attached to the fun cube with its printed word side showing  ("That color has already been used."). This strategy provides great incidental learning for literacy. To heighten engagement you can even velcro photo faces of the girls on the paper doll. Sometimes the cutout doll has Brittany’s photo face; sometimes it has Marian’s photo face. 

You will recall from a previous post that you already have Dual=Representation symbols for all the students in your class (08-17-15  Using Dual=Representation Symbols to Randomize Turns). 

This extension activity is a great example of students having fun ‘playing teacher’, using materials that support both AAC and literacy.

Advantages of Dual=Representation Symbols

Dual=Representation Symbols have several advantages over single representation symbols. They allow you to work at the child’s current/appropriate level of representation, while having ‘at your finger tips’, a higher level of representation that can be effortlessly provided for stimulation. They also reduce the number of symbols that need to be stored! Instead of storing three sets (Picture Symbols, Photographs, Printed Words),  you are now storing two sets (PictureSymbol=Photos, PictureSymbol=PrintedWord).

So what is the most efficient way to create Dual=Representation Symbols?

Regardless of the symbol set you have chosen to use, I recommend that you always work from a template. A template ensures that symbol size and font choice/size will be consistent across all the Dual=Representation Symbols that you create over time. This is especially crucial when you have several stake holders within an organization creating content to be used by several students. My templates for Boardmaker PCS symbols and n2y SymbolStix always use text place holders i.e. XXXXXX. Staff are encouraged to double click on the xxxxx’s then type over the xxxx (rather than deleting the text) so that the font and size remain consistent within your organization. I primarily use Comic Sans bold due to the simplicity of the text (the ‘a’ letter looks like a printed letter rather than the more complex ‘a’ but there are many great options available. Just make a decision within your organization then try to remain consistent.  

When I add symbolic representations (picture symbols, photos, printed words) to the template, I always position the paired representations side-by-side for reasons that will soon become apparent during the construction process.

After using a template to create the Dual=Representations here are the steps for creating Dual=Representation Symbols that will last at least 5 years.

Step 1: Print out your page on card stock (heavy weight paper).

Step 2: Trim off the excess paper.
Do NOT cut the individual symbols apart!

Step 3: Fold the ‘cut out page’ down the middle.

Step 4: Apply glue (glue stick works best) to the back of the folded paper.
Be especially careful to apply glue to the entire outer edge then apply
some glue to the middle. Firmly press the sticky folded halves together.

Step 5:  Now you can cut the symbols apart. You now have cards with
back-to-back  representations.

Step 6:  Laminate the symbols leaving sufficient space (about 1/2 inch
between each symbol. If you are using a large automatic laminating
then stop the machine to load the next row. Don’t try to load symbols while the machine is running  … you simply waste too much laminate. When you cut out the laminated symbols be sure to leave a 1/8 inch border  of laminate around each symbol. If you cut them flush they will eventually separate with  continual use. A flush cut is also very prone to being damaged by fluids seeping into the printed paper.

Step 7:  Apply a narrow strip of white adhesive male velcro to the top and bottom edge of the symbol.  Both sides!  This will allow you to use the Dual=Representation Symbols on the velcro receptive fun cube ( If the need for Dual=Representation symbols is great within your organization consider buying a ‘wheel’ of male velcro that is 1/8” wide ( It does save a lot of time.

I think you would agree, Dual=Representation Symbols are an easy way to allow students to perform at their current level of representation, while providing some incidental learning at a slightly higher level of representation. Yes it’s a lot of work but if you have a great need for differentiated instruction within your school or program, dual=representation symbols (although not the sole solution for AAC) will give you a lot of programming flexibility.

…’til the next post …. (New posts every Monday)

© 2015 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator

Picture Communication Symbols (Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox) & SymbolStix (n2y) used with permission.