Use of symbols
Within this website symbols are used. These are taken from the ‘Talk for Scotland Toolkit’ which was developed by an earlier Communication Forum Scotland project group.
The use of symbols can be very helpful in communicating information and supporting people’s understanding. However, whilst a symbol such as a stick man or woman is commonly recognised as representing the toilet, not all symbols will be understood in the same way. It is important to be consistent in the use of a symbol and to support its use with a word or short sentence. In this way the symbol is given a meaning that can be shared and understood generally.
Symbols are most effective within a leaflet, poster or information sheet when used to illustrate the content rather than trying to represent every word with a symbol. The use of clear and concise language is equally important. The symbol needs to tell us what the information is about and then we can get support if we need it to understand the detail of it.
The symbols we use on this website are called Bonnington but there are a range of symbol sets including Boardmaker and Widgit symbols. Just as we speak many languages there are many forms of symbol communication.
Our modern world relies on our ability to communicate with each other. Much of this communication is based on the use of symbols.
Symbols are images or patterns that are used to convey a certain idea. Road signs, mathematical signs, and flags are all examples of symbols; they all stand for something else.
Although we all use symbols it seems many of us are ambivalent about them. When a person needs a symbol or a picture to support their communication needs then a judgement can be made that the person’s communication is childish or inferior. The use of symbols and pictures can be misinterpreted as a sign of limited cognitive ability and the person using them can be responded to in an unhelpful and patronising manner.
When a person has a learning disability and uses symbols to communicate the skill and creativity required to make sense of and communicate in this way should not be underestimated.
The different symbol sets
The Widgit Symbol Collection and the Mayer-Johnson PCS Symbols
The standard version of Writing with Symbols 2000 version 2.6 comes with the Widgit Symbols and PCS symbol sets.
Together these sets give access to some 11,000 different meanings or concepts. It also gives you a choice of style of symbol to suit different users.
The Widgit Symbol Set has an extensive library of black line drawings. This set has a strong schematic base including vocabulary with grammatical elements for literacy.
PCS symbols by Mayer-Johnson
The PCS Symbols are ‘illustrative’ which means that the images tend to be pictorial. These symbols are available as coloured images and as black and white line drawings.They are ideal for communication aids.
Makaton Signs and Symbols
The Makaton Vocabulary Development Project also publish symbols and a set of graphics to compliment their manual signs. These are available as an alternative set of graphics with Writing with Symbols 2000, or can be added to the standard version (above) to give the maximum choice.
“My colleagues and I in Fife often use Photosymbols on accessible infomration as we find that our adult clients with LD find these more adult and acceptable to them than some of the other symbol systems”.
- Speech and Language Therapist, Fife