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Symbol-Infused Play for Young Children with Complex Communication Needs

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This presentation will discuss the importance of symbol-infused play to the development of communication and language in young children with complex communication needs (CCN). Three early stages of play development in typically developing children will be described: Social Play (Stage I); Exploratory Play (Stage II); and Functional Play (Stage III). This information allows us to better understand the challenges experienced by children with CCN such as those with cerebral play, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders. With this knowledge, strategies can be devised to improve children’s active participation in play; their ability to understand and produce symbols related to play activities; and expand language during activities with supported joint attention. Examples of adapted play materials, seating and positioning aids, augmented language input, and visual scene displays for early play, communication, and language will be demonstrated.


Beth Breakstone    
Penn State University
United States

Janice Light    
Penn State University
United States


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