What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.

Friday

Picture Symbol Resources

This listing was last updated: 8/2018

(More resources are listed on my Pinterest boards "Visual Schedules to Live and Work By", "Social Skills and Stories" and "Visual Strategies Worth Seeing".)

Picture symbol boards are graphic representations of spoken and written language. They serve as an alternative to conventional language for both receptive and expressive language. 


There are various software/apps/online programs with a library of Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) or SymbolStix, the two most recognized sets of symbols, available on the market today. These programs will help to create printable visual supports and/or interactive activities to help support learners of all ages. 

For a symbol set comparison, please see Spectronic's chart

This posting is a list of websites compiled into a resource listing for all of us who rely on picture supports as there is just way too much time invested in recreating the wheel. Many of the following links are absolutely fabulous sites and others provide useful handouts and tools for us to continue to get educated to efficiently plan and effectively teach children with this powerful tool. 

This is a list of resources that are provided by various schools and organizations. Many are provided in PDF format, which means they cannot be adapted but it also means you can print them without having Boardmaker software and yet they may use the PCS designed with the use of Boardmaker. Enjoy!!!

Already designed for you to use:
  • Ace Centre has a section titled, "Developing and using a Communication Book" provided a few pages worth taking a peek at. The purpose of this site is to sell a book but there's a downloadable 320Kb PDF file in the menu on the right that contains five sample pages from the communication book.
  • Amy Speech and Language Therapy provide PDFs of various communication boards for "Adults who may not be able to communicate using their voice.  These type of boards are extremely important to arm yourselves with when your loved one experiencing such is in the hospital and cannot communicate."  She also offers a variety of boards for children. AAC:  Communication Boards for Adults includes Communication Boards for Hospital Stays, Bedside Communication Board, Alphabet Board and Yes/No, Accident and Emergency Communication Board, (Also many children AAC Communication Boards available)
  • AugCom has materials relating to AAC generated by various people who were willing to share. This site is part of the Speaking of Speech site which is very rich in many areas of speech related materials.
  • The Autism Helper provides free visuals to use in the home. 
  • Autism Teaching Strategies - Talk to Sister, Talk to Dad, Talk to Mom
  • Over 700 children's books already adapted, with lesson plans, and vocabulary lists The Baltimore City Public Schools.
  • The Boardmaker Idea Book is a great resource to give you ideas and get you started creating materials using Boardmaker.
  • The Call Scottland has created a large number of resources for you to use as wish, including story and symbol packs, games for all and symbol topic boards. These resources are either .zip or PDF format. 
  • Chapel Hill Snippets has developed various books for you to take advantage of, along with various wonderful PowerPoints.
  • CoreVocab 13 is a very rich site, full of information, with many communication boards to print out and/or adapt, including a communication flip book provided for download either through PDF format or Boardmaker format. It is worth exploring their full site but be such to check out this great communication book 
  • Dade School offers PreKindergarten…TheRight Beginning (Love, Love, Love this site.) Explore the various pages for the Art Area, Block Area, House Area Toy Area, Baking Cookies, Birthday Party and many more. Have fun!! This is a wonderful site for using an Aided Language approach with your little ones!
  • Do2Learn has been around for a long time and they just get richer and richer in their supports. You will get lost on their site for hours. It's okay as it is well worth the time. 
  • English Visual  Images provides a variety of pre-made boards, using PCS, from a variety of behavior, communication, and schedules.
  • Florida Diagnosis and Learning Resources System has resources available that include books, behavior supports, reading supports, and many, many, many more. Look in the Boardmaker file!!!
  • Jefferson Parish Public Schools Speech-Hearing-Language Services gives you 100s of speech pathology activities and resources made in Boardmaker.
  • Live Speak Love (may be expired) provides you with Visual Behavior Supports.  Be sure to peruse her site for other supports. She has them embedded in various blog postings.
  • Miami Dade has many Boardmaker downloads. This is probably my favorite! The Miami-Dade County Public Schools website has activities using picture symbols, including activity boards, communication boards, and songboards. Boardmaker software website has picture symbols for more than 800 book titles, which require Boardmaker software to open, and MS Word documents with story comprehension questions.is required to open the activities but it is wonderful in that now you may adapt the boards to fit specific student needs.
  • N2Y provides a few resources using the SymbolStix icons. 
  • Orange County Public Schools has a nice collection that includes some activities and manipulatives for younger preschool content areas. 
  • PictureSET is my absolute favorite place to get pre-made boards. Boards are in 6 categories and from there, there are tons of goodies available. They are available in either PDF format (cannot be manipulated/changed) or Boardmaker format. This is a go-to site!
  • Practical Autism provides you with hundreds of "free printables".  They are arranged by category and have a description for each page. Easy preview option.
  • Polk County Public Schools provides their boards in both PDF and Boardmaker format. Be sure to scroll down and open each category as there is a wealth of resources to explore on this site.
  • Speaking of Speech is very generous in providing us with downloadable materials to support language. They are organized by topic. 
  • The Spectronics Activity Exchange is a collection of activities designed for a range of software programs – and for a range of purposes. Activities can be downloaded and used within programs such as Boardmaker, Clicker, Communicate: SymWriter and many more. 
  • Need a social story in a hurry? Check out this listing on Autism Inspirationsresources.
  • Juanita Pritchard has put many great ideas into an easy to find and use website, entitled, Special Student Services, which is full of lesson plans integrating Boardmaker materials throughout. This is an ever-changing website so be sure to bookmark this one.
  • Victories 'n Autism provides a variety of Schedules, Behavior Charts and Task Checklists developed in Boardmaker, provided in PDF format for your instant use. These are beautifully developed by Laura Molluer, M.Ed. who is a Behavior Specialist.  
  • Visual Communication Aids and Resources offers downloadable visuals aids for learning
More Icon Supports
Here are some sites to explore for more visual supports the Boardmaker PCS and SymbolStix.
  • ARASAAC offers graphic resources and materials to facilitate communication. This works really well if you need pictures on your iTouch or iPad to use in communication programs. It has the ability to turn any (free) symbol into a billion languages. They are offered in both black and white or color. (A tip: if using with iPad, create a link on your iPad screen to it so you can get free, no royalty graphics for various apps like Pictello and Go Talk Now. Find the symbols you need, save to camera roll and use!)
  • ConnectABILITY is built for people with a developmental disability and their support networks. The site is organized by age group to help you find the information you need. This site has 4 sections: kids, youth, adult, and senior. The visuals engine will 
  • Do2Learn uses their own picture icons but again, they are worth exploring. They have a variety of picture communication cards, games, songs, worksheets, and more in the Free Areas section. It also provides strategies on how to use visuals for classroom organization. This is a great site with information and resources as well as free printable picture symbols and charts to use for visual schedules and steps within tasks. This site was originally designed for children on the Autism spectrum and children with learning disabilities but has wide application to any children who might benefit from the use of visual supports for learning. 
  • Jane Farrall has developed boards for specific books to use in Guided Reading. These are primary level books.  This is a great resource! 
  • help you build visual supports and sequences for the person you are building it for. 
  • The Imagine Symbols website has picture symbols that can be downloaded and incorporated into stories or lessons. (I am leaving this in as I am hoping it comes back up!!) If you do have Boardmaker, they still have great ideas!
  • GivingGreetings has both free and low-cost products for families for visual & communication supports. A variety of communication boards, visual signs that are pre-made for family activities. There are some unique things to point parents to consider telling other family members about that may be useful and meaningful gifts.
  • Kids Pages Flash Cards provides a lot of printable pictures- language cards. This is a great resource for SLPs and would be wonderful to use with ESL students. 
  • Lesson Pix is a subscription site but has a great section for a trial that will allow you to throw together some great worksheets in a hurry! This is a web-based program that allows users to create picture symbols and a large variety of other materials for learning. With LessonPix, you cannot create your own board designs, but they offer a ton of pre-made activities. You can try this for free. The purchase is $36 a year
  • Linda Burkhart provides a listing of copyright and fair use pictures that can be found on the Internet to add to your communication systems. She reminds us that, "There are many places to find pictures online that can be used for communications systems and educational materials. Please keep in mind that images on the web are protected by copyright. Unless specifically labeled as Public Domain, copyright laws do apply. Please read the copyright sites listed below for a good discussion about the Fair Use of copyrighted material for use in education and multimedia."
  • Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities offers many stories supported with icons.
  • Pics for PECS is a CD that contains nearly 3000 images that you can add to MS Powerpoint, MS Word, or just about any other program. $40
  • Photosyms provides digital photographs designed specifically for making communication supports.
  • Picture Recipes, provides simple recipes with or without picture supports for each step. (Go to the bottom of the recipe for the button "Picture Recipe".)
  • Practical Autism Resources has a page FULL of free printables that are in PDF format and categorized for ease of finding what you need.  You absolutely MUST visit this page! 
  • Success Stories are personalized children's books.  Customize the illustrations to the child's appearance based on gender, hair style and color, eye color, skin tone, glasses, and method of communication.  Alter the text to personalize the story's content. The collection of children's stories addresses emotional, social, safety, and communication skills to foster character development.
  • Visual Support Engine provides you with templates that you can then add your own pictures to. Either copy/paste from the Internet or take your own photos and plug them in.  
  • Widgit – Symbol Inclusion Project is a collaboration between Widgit Software and Warwickshire IDS (Integrated Disability Service) on the use of symbols to support inclusion and curriculum access. Free and low-cost symbol based skill packs available for download.
  • Widget Symbols at Home pack contains a set of 20 flash card files relating to feelings and emotions, numbers, playing, playgroup, safety, shopping, colors, times of day, days of week, mealtime, behavior, food and drink, recycling, activity labels, hand washing sequence, notices, transport, dressing up, getting dressed and places to go.
  • Widgit – Symbol World resources is an online symbol newsletter with downloadable articles and stories.
  • Wild Rumpus SchoolHouse has provided free worksheets, printable books and resources for parents and teachers of early readers. "These are books I created to help my little ones who were struggling with word boundaries, sight words and alphabet skills."
Icon Support Software Programs worth Considering: 
  • Boardmaker has been around for a long time. They provide Picture Communication Symbols, also known as PCS, often confused with PECS. (See listing regarding PECS for more information.) They offer many products, you just need to figure out which one provides you with what you need. 
  • Communicate: In Print 2 is a desktop publishing program for creating symbol-supported resources for printing.
  • Matrix Maker Plus has been "specifically designed to be the simplest and most affordable software for making communication overlays and educational resources. With an easy to use intuitive interface, you can start creating and printing straight away with no need for training."
  • Overboard is "for creating printed communication boards, schedules, reading/writing activities, visual supports and speech enhanced dynamic display (AAC) solutions. Includes 5,500 communication symbols, 250+ communication device templates, and a link to 150,000+ images and symbols from Microsoft's clipart library. With speech output and page linking."
  • Picto4Me offers a free AAC Communication Board Editor, Player software, and image search engine service. Available in Chrome also.
  • PictureIt  has "over 10,500 Literacy Support Pictures, the flexibility to customize materials and vocabulary designed to support all curricula in English or Spanish."
  • Pix Writer  provides "Literacy Support Pictures to support all subjects in English and Spanish. Write reports, stories, journal entries, letters, lists and demonstrate comprehension." (There are some helpful handouts on the SunCastle website.)
  • SymbolStix Prime is a "web-based symbol search engine that gives you access to the most complete and current symbol set available anywhere. A SymbolStix Online subscription gives you unlimited access to over 12,000 symbols for non-commercial use in any application or materials."
  • SymbolStix was "originally designed and developed by News-2-You, Inc for use in its internet newspaper and online curriculum, SymbolStix depicts activities and people as lively, vibrant stick figures, drawn with a distinctive flair to create “stick figures with an attitude”. The set consists of approximately 11,000 symbols."
  • The Widgit Symbol Set "consists of over 10,000 colorful, simply-drawn symbols, which each illustrate a single concept. The symbols have been designed specifically to support literacy and are used in many countries worldwide to support a variety of learners, including students with special needs, early learners, and those who do not have English as a first language."
Just a few ending words:
Take a look at the site No Boardmaker, No Problem posting by SuperPowerSpeech Blog, shares how to put boards together using PowerPoint and Microsoft Word. 

And just in case there aren't enough resources here, try this amazing list at "Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs" or Hindie Dershowitz's List. 

More resources are listed on my Pinterest boards: "Visual Schedules to Live and Work By", "Social Skills and Stories" and "Visual Strategies Worth Seeing".