Object, Photo, or Picture Symbols

What is a Symbol?

  • A symbol is something that stands for something else because of a taught association or because of resemblance to a thing, activity or concept.
  • A symbol can be a gesture, sign, object, photo, product label, black-and-white graphic or color graphic.
  • Augmentative and alternative communication systems use symbols.

How is a Symbol System Used?

  • Symbols represent the real object in the environment or the abstract idea that is being discussed.
  • Example of teaching a symbol system: An individual touches a toy car on a choice board. The individual is not given the toy car (the symbol) from the choice board, but rather is given what the toy car represents, e.g., a ride in the car, or toy cars from toy box.

Unaided Symbol System

Aided Symbols System


Object Symbols

Photo Symbols


Picture/Graphic Symbols

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to modify
  • Sometimes very abstract and have to be taught

Inexpensive or free objects or picture/graphic symbols

  • Objects from dollar-type stores
  • Objects found in home or school
  • Product labels
  • Logos downloaded from internet sites
  • Toy cartons

Free Resources

General Search Engines (click on Image tab):

Free Programs to Make Communications Boards and Free Symbols Sets:

Graphic Symbols:

Free Spelling Communication Boards:

To find out more about what symbols are and how to use them effectively for communication and education, visit Widgit Software  or  the YAACK Homepage. For communication strategies for children with autism, visit the homepage of Joanne Cafiero, PhD, Augmentative Communication Specialist.

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