re you developing visual or communication supports for an individual?
Does the individual have a visual support or a communication system that doesn’t seem to work all the time (or at all)?
Are behaviors a concern?
Have you had the same IFSP / IEP / ISP goals for more than a year?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, an assessment or re assessment of the individual’s Level of Representation may be beneficial.
How To Identify The Right Symbol To Use When Designing Communication Support
When designing and/or determining an appropriate Augmentative/Alternative Communication System or identifying symbols to use in visual support Level of Representation must be identified to allow an individual to successfully obtain and provide information at a successful symbolic level.
Level of Representation refers to an individual’s level of symbolic understanding; their ability to utilize increasingly more abstract symbolic information to represent something else.
In normal development we see this beginning with an infant’s understanding that ‘bottle’ means eat and ‘blanket’ represents sleep. As experiences expand and cognition develops, so does an individual’s ability to understand and make use of increasingly more abstract symbolic information, beginning with the use of actual objects (the bottle and blanket) to Object-Symbols (tangible symbols with shared attributes of the activity; Object-Symbols look like, feel like, smell like, sound like or taste like the activity), to photographs, then computer generated line drawn symbols and eventually the printed word.
When intellectual development is delayed or impaired, an individual’s level of symbolic understanding may be also be delayed. In order to effectively support an individual and provide receptive information that can be successfully used, without the aid of additional verbal cues/prompts, a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s Level of Representation is critical.
There are three steps to evaluating an individual’s Level of Representation:
1. Determine the individual’s Level of Communication – a Speech-Language Pathologist can assist you with this.
2. Observe and evaluate what the person attends to and uses in their everyday environment.
-When verbal cues are not provided, how does the person gain information within their daily routine?
-What visual information does the person use within their daily environment and community?
-Does the individual look through books or magazines and point to pictures?
-Are favorite community symbols recognized?
-Can the individual provide you with items or picture of items when named?
-Do they recognize snack packages or do they need to see the actual cookie or chip first?
-Does the person bring you items to you? If so, what are they, real items, magazines with photographs, books with pictures, etc.
3. Set up a structured assessment to evaluate the individual’s ability to use visual and tactile information to complete tasks.
Can the individual…
-Pick out items when named?
-Match and sort items by attribute (color, shape, size, textures, weight)?
-Match objects to objects, objects to pictures, pictures to pictures? -Pictures to words?
-Use packaging or partial packaging for making choices?
-Functionally use line drawings/pictures?
The LORAC (Level of Representation Activity Checklist) provides helpful support in structuring the way you looks at an individual’s ability to use a variety of items.
BRITTENY’S SIMPLE, FUNCTIONAL RULES FOR DETERMINING LEVEL OF REPRESENTATION
-Determine a Level of Representation that will allow an individual to be successful in using their communication system/ visual supports quickly.
Our first responsibility is to provide an individual the ability to communicate their basic needs, wants and wishes. If the Level of Representation being used requires many years of training before the individual can use it we are not adequately supporting the individual’s communication needs. That does not mean you should abandon teaching more complex, abstract systems, but rather, make certain you are addressing immediate support before developing more advanced systems that require long term development.
-Determine a Level of Representation that will support and assist an individual ON THEIR WORST DAY!
-Teach a Symbol before expecting an individual to use it. (Read more about The A, B, C’s of Teaching Symbols.
-To facilitate and encourage learning, first identify Symbols that are important to the user (e.g., basic needs, favorite activities/items).