Symbols, fans and sensory bottles


There are plenty of options available, explains Lisa Spann.

Communication aids can be an essential tool for children with disabilities, enabling them to communicate more effectively and interact with the world around them. They come in various forms, from simple fans to talk with teddy kits, all with benefits for children with disabilities, including:

Helping children who struggle with verbal communication to express themselves more effectively, whether through pictures, symbols, or words.

Increased independence and self-reliance, as they can communicate their needs and wants more effectively.

Facilitating socialisation and interaction with peers, allowing children to engage in conversations and activities more easily.

There are various types of communication aids available in the marketplace, and some popular options include:

Fans. The use of fans is a popular way to help children communicate. Fans are extremely useful for children who are learning social cues or have limited speech or are non-verbal. Each fan is generally themed for a specific topic, emotion, or event. For example, a positive social rules fan is a visual tool to gently instruct your child in a positive way in relation to social rules such as encouraging understanding of taking turns and asking first. A danger alert fan helps an individual understand and learn to identify various dangers including images such as ‘sharp’, ‘hot’ and instructions such as ‘Stop’ and ‘No’.

Large posters are an easy way to support children to understand the rules by making them visual and positive. There are options that are display only or wipeable ones allowing children to select an option, for example to express how they are feeling today.

A bag of soft toy buddies, each with their own expression, can be a great way to help children unlock their emotions. These can help with understanding the world, personal development as well as talking and listening.

Talk with Teddies is another great solution for helping children communicate their feelings, emotions and understand social rules and acceptable behaviour. Children on the autism spectrum find transition and change hard or find it difficult to understand the unspoken social rules.

Many children are visual learners, or have difficulty with understanding and communication, yet we tend to use our voices to give instruction or ask for compliance.

Through the use of visual symbols in a variety of resources, we can enable a child to express themselves more clearly and, at the same time, develop a wider range of vocabulary for communicating feelings, emotions and needs.

The Talk with Teddies kits help children understand concepts in a visual and tactile way. Using a variety of Widgit symbols supplied or by using your own, the bears can help children understand social rules, boundaries, make choices, know what is happening next or simply to play games. The bears can take away anxiety and fear and allow children to hold on to them and use them as fiddle toys.

Handheld mirrors are also great solutions that can be used for reflection, self-observation, role play and symmetry. They usually come in different sizes or styles, but with the same objective.

Many of the simpler communication aids can also be of great value in inclusive mainstream settings,particularly as an increasing number of children are causing concern due to delayed language skills. The aids can support children who may be experiencing difficulties in finding the right words to explain how they are feeling and they can also support teachers and other staff as non-verbal prompts to guide positive behaviours.

Lisa Spann
Author: Lisa Spann

Lisa Spann
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Lisa Spann is the Head of Fledglings. Fledglings has been supporting families with SEN for 25 years and is the not-for-profit shop of the charity Contact.

X: @Fledglings
Facebook: @FledglingsCharity


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