3D Symbols


Three-dimensional (3D) symbols designed to represent select core words. Each tactual symbol includes a unique raised element, the printed word and braille.


1. Download the STL (STereoLithography) computer-aided design (CAD) files.
2. Send to a 3D printer.

Which 3D symbols do you start with?

Start with the following 3D symbols:

These three words are flexible enough to use across environments/contexts to meet a variety of needs. They can be used with enough frequency across the course of the day that students with visual impairment and significant cognitive disability can learn to use them.

How do I teach students to use the 3D symbols?

We start by identifying activities that involve movement (GO), student enjoyment (LIKE), or student refusal or displeasure (NOT).

Each time one of these opportunities occurs, we place the 3D symbol for GO, LIKE or NOT in the student’s dominant hand and say (or sign if the student also has hearing impairments) the word. When the opportunity is complete, we remove the symbol.

For example, each time the student is going to move, use the opportunity to teach GO.  Some examples of movement include:

  • Moving around the school – It is time to GO to media.
  • Moving from one position to another – It is time to GO into your stander.
  • Moving from one place to another – It is time to GO to group.

We look for any signs of pleasure to teach LIKE.  For example, when the student smiles in response to a song, we teach LIKE (I think you LIKE that song).  Other examples include:

  • Laughing while swinging in PT – I hear you laughing. You LIKE to swing.
  • Smiling while tasting ice cream – I see that smile. You LIKE ice cream.
  • Increased breathing rate after hearing a favorite adult’s voice – Are you excited to see Ms. M? You LIKE Ms. M.

We look for signs of refusal or displeasure and use them to teach NOT.  For example, when the student vocalizes in protest to a new position, we teach NOT (You do NOT like this).  Other examples include:

  • Turning head to refuse a drink – You do NOT want a drink.
  • Scrunching up face in response to an odor – That does NOT smell good.
  • Fussing when getting ready to go home – You do NOT like this.

When do I introduce the other 3D symbols?

We do not begin to introduce additional symbols until the student is beginning to reach for or otherwise indicate some beginning understanding that the three initial symbols have meaning.  This does not mean that the student has to use or identify them independently, but we want them to show some emerging understandings before we start to introduce more.  When we do go beyond the first three, we must have some system for organizing them so that students can begin to find a desired symbol and adults can continue to model and support learning at the rate that is possible with a focus on the first three.

Some basic rules to consider before going beyond the first three:

  1. Are adults in the environment consistently using GO, LIKE, and NOT throughout the entire school day? Until students are getting dozens of opportunities to learn and use these three words every day, don’t add new symbols.
  2. Is the student demonstrating emergent understanding that the symbols GO, LIKE, and NOT carry meaning? If the student is not demonstrating some expressive understanding and use, don’t add new symbols.

When you are ready to add new symbols, have a plan to organize and teach them every day.  Symbols that are not used dozens of times each day, can’t be learned.  Unlike children with vision, students who are using the 3D symbols don’t have incidental opportunities to learn the symbols just by looking for a known symbol on a communication board.  Students with significant visual impairments and significant cognitive impairments are dependent on us to provide opportunities to learn.

Additional Symbol Download Links

STL file format: