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A Comparison of graphic symbol learning by children without disabilities across two instructional strategies.

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Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the impact of two instructional strategies on graphic symbol learning in preschool children without disabilities.

Method: This study compared abstract graphic symbol learning in children without disabilities across two direct intervention conditions: an aided language stimulation context and a mand-model instructional approach. Eleven children participated in a group intervention focused on using a specially designed static display communication board with 20 lexigram symbols accessed using a V-pen™ to provide digitized voice output. The intervention programme was scripted to ensure consistency in vocabulary presentation and to match the quantity of symbol-word exposures across learning conditions. Symbol-word learning was measured using a post-intervention assessment. Qualitative analysis of the intervention session transcripts was also conducted.

Results: The results indicated that learning to use abstract graphic symbols to communicate is very challenging for young children and that learning occurs gradually across multiple dimensions. Results suggest that an aided language stimulation strategy may be more supportive of early symbol learning than a mand-model strategy.

Conclusion: Results suggest that the ability to generate graphic symbol output is underpinned by knowledge across three dimensions (phonological, visual-graphic and locational knowledge), proposed as a ‘pyramid of graphic symbol knowledge’.


Yvonne Lynch    
Central Remedial Clinic/Trinity College Dublin

Martine Smith    
Trinity College Dublin


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