nathan, sitting in a wagon, pointing off to the side
Nathan is an enthusiastic and energetic preschool student. He is interested in the people and things in his environment. When we first met Nathan, he was using single symbols to request and label items while eating and during some of his instructional activities. His symbol system was noun-based, and this appeared to restrict his communication. Eager to interact, Nathan would often jump into a situation without being invited or engage in disruptive behaviors to get attention.

When Nathan’s teacher introduced the Universal Core vocabulary, she made sure that there were multiple systems located around the classroom and even on the playground. Nathan’s teacher modeled core words throughout the school day and encouraged but never required Nathan to use the symbols. If Nathan’s behavior was disruptive, his teacher modeled how he could communicate his message in a more appropriate way by using symbols.  Nathan listened, watched and learned!

Now, Nathan uses one to three Universal Core symbols at a time to communicate with his teachers and his classmates. This has greatly reduced behavioral challenges. When Nathan becomes impatient, he uses his communication system to say what he wants. As with any student, he doesn’t always get his way, but he knows he has been heard. Nathan enjoys answering questions and making comments during group instruction, and he has now started pointing to symbols on his classmates’ communication system to help them formulate an answer. He also likes to use his communication system to remind his teacher when it is time for his favorite activities. Nathan is reminding us of the power of symbolic communication as his interaction and language skills continue to grow.