A method of developing early communication skills, (MODECS)
by J. R. Locking

1. Form or channel of the communication

The form of the communication is visuo-motor, since this is the earliest and most effective form of early communication, apart from crying, which is irrelevant to our purpose.

2. Uses/applications of the method

The method is useful for young normal children, from one year upwards, and for older mentally handicapped children and adults. The system is applicable to any mentally handicapped individual, including 'autistic' people. It is especially designed for severely mentally handicapped individuals who do not talk, and communicate verbally at a very low level, since the communication channel used in our system is the visual motor manual one.

3. Facilitating learning and Progression from one stage to the other.

The symbolism used in the system must be totally consistent, to make learning easier for the child. The system consists of a series of steps or stages, which are more and more sophisticated ways of communication. It is as much a prescriptive curriculum as anything descriptive, and based as much on logic as on psychology, perhaps more so, although psychology plays some role, part secondary, e.g. if the relation of stage b to stage c is 'more complex, and/or more abstract than', then stage b is more difficult to achieve, and must come after stage c, and partly primary, e.g. the principle of immediate, at least prompt, reinforcement of laudable efforts.
Some children may be functioning at the bottom of the sequence, some in the middle, and some at the top. If we assess a child as being at one stage we would try to train him to progress onto higher stages. A child may progress to some particular stage but not be able to go further. The child's communicative abilities must be developed properly in one stage before we try to move him on to the next stage. So the adult must be alert to the child communicative efforts in that style and be prepared to respond to them, by giving the child what he's 'asking' for, if possible, especially if the child is only just developing expressive communicative skills in this stage.
We should give the child the means to say what he wants; he may not be able to speak and must be given other means to express himself.
At each stage the adult and the child should be communicating to each other in a similar fashion. Of course speech can always be used in addition, but if, for example, at the t.r.a. - p.c.s. stage the child is communicating expressively in pictures, so must the adult; if a child takes the adult to the toilet photo to show he needs this, the adult will show the child the photo of the swimming pool to show that he is going to be taken there.
To get the child to move from one stage to the next there are two factors.
One is the natural process where a more sophisticated method would prove less wasteful of effort, should the desire not be gratified by the adult in charge.
Next would be the action of the adult in refusing to respond to the child's request in one communication type or level and insisting that he use a more sophisticated type. For example, in t.r.a., the child might take the adult to the exit door from a room before he pulls him through it and then to the toilet. In getting the child to go on to photo use the adult will stop at the destination photo board and ask the child to point to what it is he wants. Hopefully he will point to the toilet photo himself, if not he may be helped to do so.
Of course we should make it easy for the child to progress from one stage to the other. To do this we can follow various principles.
First, the steps between one stage and the next, the change from a situation the child has learnt to cope with, has learnt to behave appropriately in, to a new one he has to learn to deal with, should be as small as possible.
Second, the different stages should be clearly related.
The stages are a series of teaching objectives, a later stage being related to the immediately preceding one by virtue of greater complexity and/or abstractness. The close relation of one stage to another, the higher to a lower, and the smallness of the difference, the increase in complexity and/or abstractness, the small additional task requirement, eases the progression from one stage to the next. For example in n.r.a. (see later), real objects, situations and actions are involved, while at t.r.a.-p.c.s. and pure p.c.s., (see later), photos are taken of the objects, situations and actions and the link is clear. At the s.c.s. stage we have schematic symbols for members of general classes and these should be as closely related to the photos, (and so objects), as possible. We may pick an important or striking feature from the real object, and so photo, and use this for the symbol. For example for 'cat' we can use a little black and white line drawing of a sitting cat, showing the whiskers. At the sign stage we might take this one striking feature from the symbol and produce this as a gesture. In British Sign Language, (b.s.l.), the sign is produced by placing the hands, with spread extended fingers, by the mouth and moving them away to the sides, so representing the whiskers.
Third, the gap between one stage and the next is quite small.
A separate factor may modify the selection process for symbols and signs. This is a possible need to communicate with other groups, perhaps sign users, with a fully developed natural language. So do we choose signs which are known to these other groups or do we stick to above principles?
It might be mentioned that an individual functioning at a 'higher' level in terms of communication, may, in certain circumstances, 'drop down' to a 'lower' level or style of communication. This may happen in emotional circumstances, or if a person is attempting to communicate with someone who has a 'lower' level or type of communication, or if two people don't share a common 'higher' form of communication. So a normal adult can communicate with an s.l.d. child via pictures, and the foreigner in a country whose language he doesn't understand or speak can also use pictures to indicate what it is he is talking about.
Even when a person has largely moved onto a more sophisticated type of communication the earlier more primitive forms are not lost, and may appear again so that a mixture of forms may occur, e.g. a child is being taught the sign for plane, and moves the adult's hand-shape, the 'plane' around in the 'sky', manually, i.e. by n.r.a. or t.r.a.
When an adult is communicating with a child he will first try a more sophisticated form, if this is not successful he can then drop down a level and try that, and so on. For example in trying to see of the child can kick a ball, in the D.D.S.T. the pychologist might first sign the request. If unsuccessful in communicating his wish to the child he might then try mime. If still unsuccessful he might then try demonstration-imitation. Finally, if unsuccessful even here he can resort to t.r.a.
The system should be employed in all situations, where possible. So it should be used in the special school, or hospital, and in the child's home. When using public community facilities, e.g. out shopping, using public transport, and so on the relevant materials should be used, according to the level of the child, e.g. p.c.s., or s.c.s., or sign.

4. Models

A variety of models will be found useful for organising the set of teaching targets or goals
Model 1
One model is provided by the ‘Ogden triangle’


(R = reality, P = person, or organism, S = symbol or statement)
In R we have descriptions of reality, at varying levels. Since they are descriptions they are necessarily S's, but what we are pointing to is the reality itself. This might consist of entities of varying levels of complexity, e.g.
In S we have statements about R. The statements might be statements of external fact, e.g.
the cat is on the mat
statements of need or desire, e.g.
I want a sweet
Another dimension or variable to consider in S is the stage of the communicative process, whether receptive processes, (decoding) or associative processes or expressive processes, (encoding), following the ITPA model.
This model involves variables
P is a variable, and can have the values Pe1, Pe2, etc. or Peter, John, Amanda etc.
R is another variable and can have the value entity, its only primary value?
The value, entity, is itself a variable, which can have these values:-
object, situation, event, and process
The value object, is itself a variable, which can have the values, book, table, etc etc
Any particular object can be regarded as a complex of various attributes, e.g.length, weight, colour etc, each of which are variables, varying in value, measured by adjectives, big, small, red, green etc.
The value 'situation' is of course a complex made up of the simpler concept of object, different objects being in various spatial relationships, above, in etc.
Relation between S and R
The relation between S and R is measured as True, or False.
Clearly, a statement which reflects a complex fact, in R, e.g. a situation, ‘the cat sat on the mat’, will be of a similar level of complexity, if the translation is a literal, and transparent one.
Relations between P and R
Here are classed things like the person seeing such and such an object or event etc.
Relations between P and S and R
Here are classed things like a person making a statement about something, or a person having an attitude to something.
Of course in the above triangle diagram S and P are also part of reality, a larger reality R', which includes R, and S, and P.
The original triangle therefore must be seen as coming under R', in a new triangle diagram, whose apexes are P', S', and R'.
This process can of course be continued, to R'', S'', and P'', and so on, ad infinitum.
The usual interpretation of ‘S’ is ‘statement’, a verbal statement, At the simplest level of S would be a single word, e.g. ‘cat’, ‘mat’.
Then, more complexly we might have a phrase or sentence expressing a spatial relationship between these, a situation, e.g. ‘the cat is on the mat’.
Still later might come expressions of more complexity, expressing an event or process, e.g. ‘the cat sat on the mat’.
Obviously these expressions in S, to be accurate, will mirror the level of complexity of the reality, in R, e.g. objects, situations, events, processes.
Now our system is primarily concerned with visuo-spatial stimuli and therefore:-
For word read simple picture e.g. of a cat, or of a mat etc
For sentence representing a complex relationship read a picture of a cat sitting on a mat.
Now consider a word ‘cat’. This refers to an animal with whiskers. The word itself however does not have whiskers, it has three letters c, a, and t, arranged in line, in that order, left to right. We might signal the difference, using quotes, by reading cat as the animal but ‘cat’ as the word.
As a sort of parallel to this we might take a picture of a cat to represent the animal but a picture of a cat with a border around it to represent the picture. Actually we really need to make the situation clearer by having the child point inside the border to mean the cat, and at the border to mean the picture.
In the early stages of the development of understanding of the child, and in primitive thinking, we know that S and R are not clearly differentiated. So the child might think that the name ‘cat’ is somehow in or on the cat, we have word magic, a belief in spells, the idea that to have the real name of something gives us power over it and all the usual drivel. Note that for the young child this idea might seem not too far fetched, when he learns the word, or name, ‘milk’, or ‘moo moo’ etc he can ask for and usually quickly get, that precious beverage. Later he does separate these in his ‘mind’, and can realise that when he utters the word he might not get the stuff, or might not get it immediately, that some people call it ‘moo moo’, some ‘milk’, some ‘lait’, some ‘nom’ etc., that the name is very variable and possibly arbitrary.
A complex example of 'relations between P, S and R' involves another very useful model for understanding and analysing the child's behaviour:-
Model 2
The concept of a plan is useful in understanding n.r.a., and all the other stages.
We will understand a plan as having this structure, whether verbalised and conscious or not:-
Detect and identify your need.
Decide on a goal.
Devise a plan.
Anticipate or face the problems/obstacles to the achievement of the goal.
Decide on a method to overcome the obstacles and achieve the goal.
Decide what things are necessary.
Decide on whether one needs the right opportunity to implement the plan.
Is the time right?
If no wait.
If yes:--
Locate and gather the means objects.
Bring them to the workplace.
Carry out the method, i.e. combine and use the means objects in various ways.
Assess whether the goal has been reached, was the plan to achieve the goal successful or was it a failure?
If yes remember the problem and its solution for future reference.
If no try again as before.
If still no success try a different method.
If still no success choose a different goal, but one relevant to the need.
When finished with objects, e.g. means objects, put them away, or throw them away if no further use from them is anticipated.
The early steps of gathering means objects from their store places, bringing them to the work area*, and combining them, is important in the expressive communication of the child. An example is the child who gives his mother the car keys: he might be asking his mother to take him out in the car somewhere, e.g. to the shops, to a play area etc. The means objects might be light enough to be carried from their store places to the place where they will be used, the 'work area', but might be too heavy for this. Sometimes, instead of taking object Oz to object Ox we will have to do the opposite, take Ox to Oz. Sometimes the child can carry light means objects to another object, which is heavy, and cannot be carried but which needs to be taken to another heavy means object. Then, if the first heavy object is sentient, e.g. a person, he may t.r.a. this object, (person) to take the light means object(s) to the second heavy means object. So the child gives his mother the car keys and pushes her to the door and to the family car.
*What is the work area?
In mime the work area is anywhere on the body.
In sign the work area is the place a hand-shape is brought to, some place near or actually on the body surface, above the waist and not higher than the top of the head. In Stokoe's system of description this is the sig?/dez?
The stage of evaluation of the plan, in terms of success or failure in achieving the goal is again, very important, either in n.r.a. or t.r.a. or other stages. Success, in n.r.a., will be evidenced by a smile, an emotional smile. You smile when you're happy, and you're happy when you get what you want, when you achieve your goal. In t.r.a. the signal is a conscious deliberate smile, on top of the emotional one. In s.c.s. we will probably encounter the familiar smiley face. In sign we have the conscious deliberate smile again. On the other hand failure is evidenced by a frown. You frown when you're unhappy, you're unhappy when you don't get what you want, when your plan doesn't work. In n.r.a. this is a natural expression, in the other stages the expression is deliberate. Or we use a graphic frown symbol.
The last step is also very important for the child in his expressive communication. In putting means objects away the child can indicate that he has finished a task, in his eyes, or that he wants the activity, which was using the objects, to stop, to be finished.
Putting things away, in their store place, can take various forms. Some examples of this are ordinary, e.g. the parent attempting to show a child that it's bedtime by putting his toys away in their box, or getting the child to do this. Others are more unusual, e.g. the child sitting back in his chair and folding his arms, the child sticking his tongue out of his mouth, to one side etc.

Model 3
Another useful model for understanding and analysing the child's behaviour is represented in the following diagram, :-


Stimulus --------------->  O   ---------------->   Response

The stimulus, (St )
This might consist of
an attribute of an object
an object or objects
a situation or situations
an event, or events, actions
a process or processes
It might involve, as well as, or instead of, objects as mere objects,
symbols, objects which are at least partly, to be regarded as symbols
The task
The task, for Pe2, as intended by Pe1, might be to
Imitate or copy what Pe 1 does or did
The task might be more complex, e.g. to carry on a normal sequence, to do the usual next things
The Response
This can be correct or incorrect
If the task is to imitate or copy, then a correct response will be as complex as the stimulus, and more, just the same.
If the Stimulus was Pe1 kicking a ball, and the task as given by Pe 1 to Pe2 is to imitate, and Pe 2’s response is to kick the ball, he is successful, his response is correct. He has understood the task, what Pe1 wanted him to do, and he has done it properly
Otherwise he fails, and his response is incorrect.

A final model we might consider as an aid to understanding behaviour is:-
Model 4
This is a model used in the ITPA test

      reception or decoding
     expression or encoding

Model 3 and model 4 are quite similar in nature and might of course be combined.
Obviously the associations could be represented visually-spatially. This could help the child to ‘find his way’, from the stimulus, and the task, to the 'correct' response, e.g.
stimulus:- (word) 'frog'
task:- Give a supraordinate class
responses:- 'amphibian', 'vertebrate', 'animal' (all correct)
responses:- 'dog', 'toad', etc. (all incorrect)
The 'associations' in model 4 are meaningful links, while the 'task' of model 3 asks us to select from these associations, so as to produce a member of a much more restricted class, possibly even unique, one which can be termed 'correct' or 'incorrect'
The associations, in model 4, are relationships between symbols as symbols, or the referents of the symbols
The task, in model 3, is the relation which must hold between S and R, for the R to be considered correct.
The stimulus, in model 3, might be an actual object, situation, event, or process, or a symbol, or set of symbols, e.g. a statement, e.g. we might present a person with a real frog, or a picture of a frog, or the word 'frog' etc.
We might note that, in learning a language, it is usual for the learner to be better in understanding, than in expressing himself. The former ability always leads the latter.
So in our, primarily visual - motor, scheme, at the highest level, we might teach the child to, for example, first understand a sign, before being able to make it himself and use it properly, and similarly for the lower levels, e.g. p.c.s., s.c.s. etc.

5. History and origins of the system

This is a very brief description of the system, which was being developed in the 1980's in special residential schools in the U.K. It was found to be very useful for children who did not speak, either as a consequence of a pure language disorder, or as a feature associated with developmental, delay, 'autism', and other conditions. Some of the children it proved to be of benefit for were children with developmental delay and severe deafness. It has also proved to be useful in accelerating the communication development of young normal children.

6. Varieties of pre-communication and communication skills, in order of appearance in development, and in order of increasing sophistication, abstractness etc

a. n.r.a.
b. t.r.a.
c. Demo-imitation and Model-copying.
d. t.r.a./p.c.s.
e. p.c.s.
f. s.c.s.
g. mime
h. sign
Let us discuss these types
First we must discuss the precursor and basis for t.r.a., i.e. n.r.a.
6a. n.r.a. (natural real action)
Definitions and descriptions
The area covered here is not communicative, at least in a deliberate and conscious manner. But since it is the basis for the first real conscious and deliberate type of communication, (t.r.a.) we will consider it here.
This term covers all those behaviours of an individual which do not involve deliberate and conscious communication to another person or other sentient being. It would include lower level communicative behaviours such as might occur in infra-human organisms.
This term includes the ability of the child to recognise which objects are nice for him, or bad for him, and to learn where these things are. The normal toddler learns that there are sweets in the cupboard in the kitchen, knows where the kitchen is, knows how to get there, and so on. This ability is nearly always present in our children. We need to let them properly explore, and become familiar with, their environment. A child must learn where the nice things are, if he doesn't know where the nice things are he can't show you what he wants by taking you to them.
Rather than simply let the child discover the features of his physical environment by himself we might of course go about this in a more controlled and systematic fashion. So we might start off by letting the child learn to master small and simple sections of the environment, and move on from there. We might also begin by accepting relatively incompetent and inefficient forms of procedure such as primitive trial and error, and then try to make this more efficient and so on.
As said above the child knows where the good things are, and gets them*. This place will often be the store place for the object, e.g. the orange juice in the fridge, the packet of crisps in the kitchen cupboard etc. The objects might be nice because they are goal objects, he simply gets them from where they are e.g. a store place and uses them in a consummatory act to satisfy a need. But it is possible that they are means objects and he might put them together in some action, which will lead to the consummatory act. In this way he is following a plan. So he might try and fail to get a packet of crisps on a high shelf, and then get a chair, put it under the shelf, climb up on it, and get the crisps. This is a trial and error type of plan, and solution. He might not even need to first try to get the crisps without a chair, he knows the solution to the problem from past experience.
The emotional accompaniments to the behaviours have been mentioned above.
*With wider experience of the world the child eventually might learn that there are store places which are more basic and more remote from him than those in the home, the kitchen, for foods, and so on. These are the shops, supermarkets, etc. to which his mother might take him when she goes shopping, often by car.
If we apply the dimensions of sensory versus motor, type of sense and type of motor action, and whether the action is positive or negative, we get this kind of organisation:-
Visual: Wanting to see, to use the eyes, 'shading' action of the hand held above the eyes, opening the eyes, wide.
Auditory: Wanting to hear, to use the ears, cupping action of the hand by the ear.
Olfactory: Wanting to smell, wafting action of the hand, producing a current of air by the nose, 'opening' the nose (flaring the nostrils).
Gross motor.
Fine-motor – manual.
Wanting object to be used in one's personal bodily work space. Bring another persons hand, perhaps with an object, to the space.
Wanting to have, and to use, object offered by another person to your hand = put out palm out hand ("Give me so and so")
Facial Expression.
Here, in n.r.a., we are of course talking about emotional expressions, such as emotional smiles and emotional frowns. These are of course not deliberately, consciously communicative, on the part of the smiler. Another example might be the expression of happy surprise.
Opening the mouth.
Visual- not wanting to see something. Look away, so eyes cannot see the particular thing. As a stronger response, where one makes the eyes not able to see anything, one might shut the eyes, or put one's hands over the eyes. One might also simply remove the source of illumination, e.g. turn out the light.
One might also of course remove a visual aid, e.g. spectacles, put them away, or even throw them away, or even break them, as more permanent measures.
Auditory- not wanting to hear something. One might make a competing sound to drown out a sound. Or try to make the ears unable to hear anything, e.g. putting the fingers in the ears.
Or one might remove an auditory aid, e.g. hearing aid, or put it away, or even throw it away, or even damage it, as more permanent measures.
Olfactory -not wanting to smell something. One might 'shut' the nose, i.e. wrinkle one's nose, or hold one's nose. The situation in which one might to do this is when there is a bad smell, and so the action could be used as a symbol for this circumstance.
Fine Motor Manual.
Not wanting to use the hands for a particular purpose, e.g. to hold an object = open the hand with the palm facing downwards. This assumes the object was in the hand, to start with. Also see removing the hands from an object, so it cannot be manipulated. At the very early stage of a plan, of the selection of objects to be used, one may not select a particular object, i.e. not grasp it and bring it into the working area in front of you. Not wanting to use the hands for any purpose, e.g. to hold anything = put (or 'lock') the hands away, i.e. fold the arms. (One is not able to use the hands for any purpose in this position). The purpose may be a specific one, and the communication will relate to that purpose. The meaning of the child’s action will also depend on the immediately preceding behaviour and situation. For example take the case of a boy of at least m.l.d. mental level, with communication problems. He had completed a WISC block design item to his satisfaction, and to indicate this fact to the psychologist he withdrew his hands from the blocks, folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. The message was that he no longer needed his hands, at least for the time being, as he had completed this fine-motor manual task, to his satisfaction.
Not wanting to use the fingers for any purpose. One might put or 'lock' the fingers away.
Not wanting to use a particular object*, perhaps after using it for a while. Remove the object from the work area, put the object away in its store place, or even throw it away. Cases include the mentally handicapped girl in a testing session who puts the psychologist's test materials away in their case to signal a desire for the testing session to end. See also not wanting another person to use his hand and a held object in one's personal 'work' area, e.g. adult offering child something e.g. to eat, or offering to put sauce onto her dinner plate. In these cases child pushes the hand and what it holds away from her plate.
An adult may see a child doing something unacceptable with an object. Then he may remove the child from the object, or move the object away from the child.
Less extremely he may encourage the child to do something acceptable, and inconsistent with the undesired action, with the object. Or the child may be using an object O1 with another object O2, in a way which is unacceptable, but becomes acceptable if Object O3 is substituted for O2. e.g. child drawing on a textbook, substitute a piece of paper for the textbook.
Not wanting to speak = closing the mouth with a finger or hand held over the lips or mouth, so one cannot cannot use the lips to talk. In t.r.a. the comunicator would hold his finger over the mouth of the person he wanted to be silent, in the more developed sign type of utterance he would hold it over his own mouth; here his own mouth would be a symbol of the other person's mouth
Another way of achieving this would be not to use, or be able to use, the tongue. This could be done by removing it from its area of use, (here the mouth), from the things it works with, (here the teeth and the lips), i.e. by sticking it out of the mouth and putting it between the lips. This behaviour is often seen in children, when they are concentrating on some task. It has this significance: "I don't intend to use my tongue to talk to anyone, I've put it away, (so I can't talk)", because I am busy doing something and do not wish to be disturbed, and don't want to talk to anyone". Note that in this case the tongue is protruded, but perhaps only slightly, and often is at the extreme corner or side of the mouth. We maintain that this is basis for the 'rude' tongue protruding gesture. In the rude version however the gesture is modified somewhat, in the 'rude' variant the tongue might be stuck out much further, (the movement is exaggerated), and the tongue is kept in a central position between the lips. Both these features imply a more conscious gesture directed towards a specific person. The gesturer is looking at this specific person and so the central position of the tongue means that the tongue is directed straight at him. So the original t.r.a.meaning of:- "I am busy doing something, I do not want to talk to anybody, everybody leave me alone", is modified to:- "you leave me alone, go away, I do not want to talk to you, or be with you at all".
Gross motor.
Not wanting to use one's feet to walk. Sit down or lie down, e.g. on the ground. In this position one cannot use the feet to walk. (Such behaviour is common in children and was seen by the author in an s.l.d. teenager, who used this tactic to resist being moved from things he wanted to stare at outside, e.g. diggers, and to avoid being made to go to class).
Not wanting to use one's legs, e.g. to put one's feet into puddles, after child has been told not to by an accompanying adult, see case discussed below. Note that in pathological cases the person might make an especially strong statement, prompted by an especially strong desire. In the determination not to use something for a particular purpose one level of strength is to not use it for anything. The object is put into a position where it is unable, for the time being, to be used for anything, e.g. folding the arms, sitting on the ground, putting one's spectacles away in their case etc. Even stronger is where the person might put the object into a state where it is permanently unable to be used for anything, i.e. one might damage or destroy the object. So a child under pressure from parents who have highly unrealistic academic aspirations for him, may break his spectacles, something necessary for class work. Even more pathological is where the individual damages or destroys his own person, e.g. blinds herself so she cannot see, shoots himself in the foot so he cannot march etc. See the case of a late teenage s.l.d. girl, who damaged the sight in one eye by persistently striking it with her hand. (By threatening to do, or actually doing, this she blackmailed her parents into allowing her to sleep with them, so preventing them from having sex. One might interpret this as the desire not to see the ‘primal scene’). More peculiarly, in the 'paleologic' of the unconscious, not to see, (or more accurately it is the stronger not to be able to see now), is also not to have seen or not to have been able to see the primal scene. By another piece of the same type of 'logic', not to see something is for the thing not to be, and not to have been. In this way the teenage girl causes her father not to have had sexual intercourse with her mother. The secondary gain here is highly supportive of this Freudian view, threats to hit herself in the eye result in her getting something she wants, to sleep in the same bed as her parents, or of one of them anyway, thus preventing sexual relations between the parents. In the myth of Oedipus he also blinds himself, but here only after he has achieved his incestuous goal, unwittingly. We could speculate that in this case the action is taken to attack the eyes, because they led to the dreadful act, by giving Oedipus the sexually tempting sight of his mother, but failing to identify this person as his mother, or his father as his father.
The functions of objects determines what situations are possible, what combinations of objects are possible and in turn what events are possible.
We can have active functions and passive functions.
For example the functions of the hand might be ---
to grasp.
to smack.
and the functions of a pencil might be ---
to be grasped.
to be used to draw.
and the functions of a piece of paper might be --
to be used to light a fire.
to be used as packing material.
to be drawn on.
to be written on.
We can predict what situation and action might occur if a hand, a pencil, and a piece of paper are combined, brought together in n.r.a., (or later, in t.r.a., what action is suggested, or requested if someone puts a piece of paper and a pencil into someone else's hand).
This can be analysed in terms of the possible, potential, functions of objects. So the active functions of the hand, the passive ---->active functions of the pencil, and the passive functions of the paper might only correspond in a few matches. One of these matches might be:-
the hand holding the pencil, and using it to draw on the paper. So this is a possible situation and a possible event or process with these two objects.
The child easily learns where are the good, and bad things in his environment. (This will be the basis for the use of place, as an organising factor in the arrangement of symbols in the store places, in t.r.a. - p.c.s., p.c.s., and s.c.s. etc, later).
The explanation of the ease of this, even for the very severely mentally handicapped person is quite simple. The number of cues to the location of an object which is always kept in the same place, in the same spatial context or position are extremely large. So, for example, the child learns that sweets are in that cupboard, in that corner of the psychologist's room, which is just opposite the gym, etc.
If the object is pulled out of its context, and its location or whereabouts is made variable, and is signaled only by one or two cues, e.g. a blue circle, the task becomes much more difficult for the organism, (mentally handicapped child, laboratory rat etc.)
(Cf the dissecting free of the response of an s.l.d. girl pulling down her knickers, from its original setting in a toilet, and producing it in a classroom, to indicate a desire to use the toilet).
Note that the typical, usual use of an object might be the meaning when a child gives the object to another person. But if the child's family members use the object quite differently the child will understand and express himself with this object in the same fashion. Then the family will understand what the child means when he presents the object to another person, but not anyone outside the family. This is obviously not useful, a private not a public form of communication.
In the experiential visual perceptual and conceptual world of the child there are, or should be, these entities, in ascending order of complexity. Objectively they are entities in R of model 1.
Attributes, characteristics, qualities, (of objects or substance).
These are such things as colour, size, shape, composition.
Size is a cover term for weight, volume, length, height, width, area. It is applicable to single objects. Numerosity is applicable to groups of objects.
Each attribute is a complex of various values, measured at one of several possible levels, e.g. nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio and so on.
For eample an object has a colour, or colours. It might be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
It has a shape, and can be 2-D, 3 D, etc. Can be circular, spherical, triangular, conical, etc.
In our discussion of the coding of hand-shapes, handgrips, and n.r.a. events our coding of objects can be in terms of attributes and their values, e.g. this ball is red in colour, (variable, non-criterial), round in shape, (necessarily, criterial), etc.
These might be seen as collections, or complexes, of attributes. An object might present as a goal object, or part of it, a means object, or part of it, or an obstacle object, or part of it, depending on the goal of the individual. A child's underpants may be a means object if they keep his lower body warm, and if he wants this. Then he may decide to wear them. They may also keep him modest, and if he wants this again he may decide to wear them. But if he wants to urinate they may present as a obstacle object, and so in this case he may decide to remove them from his body.
Various objects are means objects and involve helping a goal and function of a person. For example we have hearing aids to help hearing, spectacles to aid vision, a lever to aid various motor activities, gloves to keep the hands warm or protected from dangerous environmental conditions.
Objects have certain possible uses or functions, making them possible means or goal objects. These derive from the attributes or better the attribute values of the objects.
For example a stick might have a certain quantity or value of rigidity, (high), and a certain value or quantity of length, e.g. 4 feet. This might make it a suitable means object for one of Kohler's apes to secure a banana which is on the floor, outside the cage, and four feet away from the bars.
The characteristics of this stick make it a good artificial extension of the animal's arm when gripped, and so makes up, compensates, for the shortfall, of 4 feet. The case is quite visual, we might see the animal reaching outside the cage towards the fruit but falling short by 4 feet. We then might visualise the 4 foot stick placed with one end by the ape's stretched out hand and the other by the fruit. If done with a photo or other symbol we might scale the situation e.g. 1 mm=10 cms. Recall that some animals, in this situation, to be successful, need the means object and the goal object, the incentive, to be visible together at the same time.
The gap between the ape's fully outstretched hand and the banana needs to be filled. We can think of the gap as a negative and the stick as a positive. Think of the images and expressions,
a round peg in a square hole, a job opening, a vacancy etc
The problem in the above case is the existence of the gap The solution is to fill the gap with a suitable object, e.g. a rigid stick of the right length
Imagine someone using a screwdriver to drive a screw into a piece of wood. The person is the prime mover, the driver a secondary one, and the third object, the piece of wood, is totally passive. The person is totally active, the wood totally passive, and the driver is passive in relation to the person's hand, but active in relation to the screw. The positive form of the end of the driver, say it’s a Phillips one, has to match the negative corresponding form of the Phillips screw head, (in form and size).
We might imagine a sort of mathematics where the negative quantity has to be cancelled out by a positive quantity of the same amount to get a solution.
Then we get something like:-
The gap, in the ape case is - 4 feet, the stick is + 4 feet. If we add these we get -4 + (+4) = 0. So a solution to a problem is represented by 0.
If the stick is only 3 feet long, it is too short, -4 + (+3) =-1,
If the stick is 6 feet long, it is too long, we get
-4 + (+6) = +2
Can we say that a zero result is a solution while a non-zero result is a non-solution?
Back to the ape. We could regard the bars as an obstacle, but these are not part of the thinking. Why? If the plan was to walk to the banana in the normal way of attaining a desired object the bars would be an obstacle. But this obstacle seems to be insurmountable, the ape cannot umweg or abolish the bars unless he has access to a good metal saw, or bolt cutter, or oxy-acetylene equipment. So a different plan is envisaged, starting with the action of reaching through the bars for the desired object. Now the obstacle is that the distance of the banana from the bars of the cage is greater than the length of the ape's arm and hand. Now this obstacle or problem can be solved, by the ape, and the solution is to use a stick, of a suitable length.
Form is of course not the only determiner of function, others are composition, length, rigidity etc.
The use of the stick to lengthen the ape's arm involves, at the end opposite to the end gripped a shape similar to the pointing, prodding, poking G hand-shape. This can only be used to push, not to pull.
These can be seen as complexes of objects in various spatial relationships, in English, represented by prepositions.
These might be seen as transitions from one momentary state or situation to another.
These might be seen as sequences of events, in time.
6b. t.r.a. (token real action)
Definitions and descriptions.
Any of the behaviours discussed above in n.r.a. might be classifiable in this section, provided only that the individual is at least partly engaging in the behaviour as a deliberate and conscious form of communication to another person or sentient being. So the girl putting, or attempting to put, the psychologist's test materials away in their case, during a D.D.S.T testing session, described above, was almost certainly engaging in t.r.a., rather than mere n.r.a. For the behaviour to be t.r.a. it will have to occur in the presence of another person, and there might be other clues, e.g. the child might look at the other person as he is engaging in the behaviour, presumably to see if he is looking, and to see what his reaction is, or what it might be.
There are various types:-
Type 1: physical prompts on motor organs of the other person, (an 'imperative' type)
Reduced force
When the child is physically acting on an adult, e.g. pushing and pulling him, we will generally see less force used than would be the case if the person were an insentient, inanimate object, (as opposed to the case where the child is not physically acting on the adult when we will often get an exaggeration of the action., e.g. the (motor) response is increased in extent, rate etc.)
One person, e.g. a child, acts on the motor organs of another, e.g. an adult, e.g. by taking his hand, by pulling him and moving him bodily to the place the child wishes the other person to be, with himself, or 'throwing' his hand towards an object out of reach, which he wishes the adult to reach for, grasp, and perhaps give to the child etc.
In a sense the child is still acting on the sensory organs indirectly because of the movement; so kinaesthetic and proprioceptive senses are involved).
Type 2: use of objects presented to motor organs of the other person. This involves bringing an object into the appropriate relationship, e.g. spatial proximity, with a motor organ of the person. For example if you want a child to use some object, e.g. his knife, at the dinner table, you put the knife into his hand. A child wishing to go outside the house for a walk may bring you his outdoor shoes. The primary use of these items of apparel is to be put on, when you leave the house and walk somewhere. Therefore if a child presents you with his shoes he is asking you to put them on his feet and take him for a walk.
Type 3: use of objects, situations, events or processes presented to sensory organs of the other person, (an 'indicative' type)
This involves presenting an object, situation, event, or process, e.g. a group of events, to one of the sensory organs of a person. For example if you want a child to see, to look at, an object you place that object at a comfortable viewing distance in front of his eyes.
If we are merely presenting an object to someone, the equivalent verbal message might be given as "Here is a banana"
To assert the existence of the object, (or situation, event, process etc), we present the whole entity to the perceiver, with no extra intervening device which could limit the amount and type of information or stimulation reaching the perceiver.
Attributes of an object
Or we might be showing some attribute of the object, e.g. its color. The fact that we are presenting the object to the other person's eyes, rather than to, e.g. his ears, in itself implies that we are interested in the visual qualities, rather than any others, of the object. But how would we focus specifically on one attribute of the object, e.g. its color? We need to isolate the quality, make the person focus his attention on this one attribute, and perceive its value. How? We might think of an operation, using extra objects, which might be used to measure the attribute. We might take a little hole cut in a piece of card and put this over the object. Then we might use a card of different colours organised systematically, in a line, e.g. r, o, y, g, b, i, v and match our isolated quality with a colour on the test card. To make things easier the object should have a uniform colour.
Verbally this message would simply be expressible as
To get something which could be expressed as --
"The banana is yellow", (or better, as in some grammatically simpler languages,
"banana -- yellow")
we will first have to present the object
second present the object cut down to a mere patch of colour, e.g. by looking at a little patch of its surface through a hole in a piece of card.
Of course a quality in one sensory modality can have this isolating treatment applied to another. For example we might think about a quality of an object which is not visual, e.g. weight. If we place the object on one pan of a balance, and a weight of known value on the other, and the pans balance, then we know that the weight of the object is equal to that of the standard weight.
To assert the existence of a value of an attribute of the entity we present the entity via a limiting, selecting, reducing device. This could also be a measuring device, which will assign a value to the attribute. For example:- "this apple weighs 3 ozs". In this case we would
(a) present the apple
and then
(b) get or select the balance or scales, weights etc
and then
(c) weigh the apple in front of the person.
In (c) we are reducing the amount of information impacting on the person from the object, selecting from the possible stimuli, and type of stimuli, arising from it.
This is just like when in presenting a whole object to a person we select an object from a range of possible objects. Selection of the object(s) to be involved in an activity is an early stage in the implementation of a plan.
The type of object used in this stimuli type reduction and selection and/or measurement can be compared with that used to enhance the stimuli from an object, e.g. a telescope, or microscope.
We might present a single event, (or very simple process), to someone else. The motive might be initially indicative, to give information to another person. But the ultimate motive might be to then ask for permission to do the thing, or to carry on the process, of which the actually done action or event is an early stage of.
Take the example of eating something, e.g. a grape, (which we discuss later, in sign).
Although initially indicative, = "look, I am going to eat this grape",
the ultimate meaning might be a request for permission to continue the process, to actually put the grape in the mouth, chew it and swallow it, = "may I have this grape?"
Presentation of a sequence of events
We might be presenting a sequence of events, rather than a single event, to a person. In fact we might be intending to demonstrate a relation between these events, e.g. a causal connection, we squeeze a dog's toy ball and it squeaks. In turn we might be trying to tell the other person that a certain mechanism exists, in the toy ball, to produce this effect. The further message is that the object, or the mechanism in it, is working.
If one knows that the other person is aware of this mechanism, and that it has in the past worked to produce a squeak, on being squeezed, we can, on the other hand, demonstrate that the thing is no longer working, is broken, by trying to operate the thing in front of the person and failing, so showing that the usual effect now does not occur.
We might be presenting something very complex, a relation between the object, situation, event or process, and a person, e.g. the presenter. So we might be communicating the presenter’s attitude to the object, situation, event, or process. This is most simply done by showing an awareness of the entity, e.g. by looking at it, in the visual case we are most interested in here, and by either a smile, or a frown.
(Although these items in type 3 are indicative in their primary character, a secondary implication might be of a different type. For example we can show the child an object, which is of an indicative character, but we might in fact be asking the child to do something with it, an implied imperative.)
If person Pe1 is not 'physically' acting on person Pe2, as in t.r.a. type 3, we will often get an exaggeration of the action., e.g. Pe1's (motor) response of directing Pe2's awareness to something is increased in extent, rate etc. This is presumably partly a result of a desire to get Pe2's attention.
Presentation of a sequence of events
We might be presenting a sequence of events, rather than a single event, to a person. In fact we might be intending to demonstrate a relation between these events, e.g. a causal connection, we squeeze a dog's toy ball and it squeaks. In turn we might be trying to tell the other person that a certain mechanism exists, in the toy ball, to produce this effect. The further message is that the object, or the mechanism in it, is working.
If one knows that the other person is aware of this mechanism, and that it has in the past worked to produce a squeak, on being squeezed, we can, on the other hand, demonstrate that the thing is no longer working, is broken, by trying to operate the thing in front of the person and failing, so showing that the usual effect now does not occur.
We might be presenting something very complex, a relation between the object, situation, event or process, and a person, e.g. the presenter. So we might be communicating the presenter’s attitude to the object, situation, event, or process. This is most simply done by showing an awareness of the entity, e.g. by looking at it, in the visual case we are most interested in here, and by either a smile, or a frown. Note that there are two behaviours which are psychologically identical, in that they both involve bringing together the elements or objects of an activity, at the beginning of the implementation of a plan to achieve or satisfy some desire, i.e. the person who will use the object(s) and the object(s) he will use:-
a. bringing an object to a person to indicate a desired action on the part of the person, (appropriate for small, light objects)
b. pulling the adult to an object, for the same purpose, (appropriate for big, heavy, fixed objects and places)
For example an s.l.d. girl who, desired an end to the testing session with the psychologist, put his test items back into his case!
In another example a boy with expressive communication problems was being tested with the W.I.S.C. III and after completing an item of a manual task, the Block Design sub-test, he would lean back in his chair and fold his arms. He was, in a sense, 'putting his hands away', just as he might show that he had finished playing with some inanimate object, e.g. a jigsaw puzzle, by putting it away in its proper cupboard or drawer etc. This was done to signify to the psychologist that he had completed the task, and had no further need to use his hands, at least for the next few seconds, until the next task was given to him. The boy's communication consisted of ---
a. his signal that he did not need or wish to use his hands
b. his awareness that he worked on the design and his belief that it was correct and his knowledge that the psychologist was aware of the situation
Therefore from a. and b. the communication becomes "I have completed the task, I think successfully." (Possibly there is also an implied desire to be told if it is correct and be given recognition if it is. Also involved here are facial expressions of a positive kind).
Of course the above leaning back and arm folding, in the different context of a child not even beginning the task would mean "I am not using my hands, I don't intend to, I don't want to do the task".
Other children might turn around in the chair with their heads and eyes away from the table where the task materials are placed. This again would mean that the child doesn't intend to do the task, since he does not intend to use his eyes for that purpose; this organ, together with the hands, being essential objects in carrying out a visuo-motor, manual task.
Note also that the behaviour has a kind of backward implication, rather than a forward one. When a child gives his mother the car keys, the meaning stretches forwards to the trip in the car, and e.g. the arrival at the shops etc. On the other hand the putting away behaviour refers to the previous stage of attainment of the goal, the successful completion of the task by the child, (in his opinion)."I have put things away, things used in the activity, because I have finished the activity". This backwards implication would appear to be a higher form of t.ra. communication than the forwards type, which seems closer to mere conditioning.
This behaviour involves a negative. As another example of a negative statement in t.r.a we may cite the case of the boy who was warned by the care worker in charge of him, during a walk outside on a wet day, not to step in puddles. The boy is reported to have shown behaviour in which he stepped very high over any puddles he encountered and looked at the care worker. The boy clearly was deliberately and consciously 'saying' to the care worker, "You can see I am not stepping in the puddle!"
Another possible example, to be placed in this category, is the behaviour of completely up-ending a container to demonstrate that the container is empty
For example, an s.l.d. girl is being distracted by the presence of a plastic or paper shopping bag up on a shelf in the classroom, and might be even trying to see what is in it. Of course, like many of her peers she is highly motivated by food and the shopping bag will seem a very promising place to look for this. She is verbally told to leave it alone, but naturally this has little effect in stopping her attempts to investigate. But when the psychologist gets the bag down, and up-ends it, showing that nothing falls out, and that therefore it was empty, the girl gets the message and loses interest in the bag.
How should we analyse or interpret this?
This is a simple, quite uniform process, of taking hold of a container, perhaps placing it by another container, and gradually tilting the container, resulting in the contents running out, until the final phase where the situation is that the container is completely upended. No further contents escape from the container, and it can be seen that the container is empty.
In the shopping bag example the bag, finally, becomes completely up-ended, and so then we know there will be nothing in it. We see nothing under the bag, nothing at all came out of the bag, and so it is clear that the bag had nothing in it. Now the girl does not need to realise all of this, just that, now, the bag has nothing in it, there is nothing interesting on the table, (if that is where the bag was up-ended over)
This is enough to remove her interest in the bag
We are looking at a process, belonging to a general class, of pouring out something, especially a liquid, from a container, perhaps into another container.
Note the interest young children have in this sort of thing. They should be, and often are, given this sort of experience when they are encouraged to play with water and sand, filling and emptying little buckets and other containers.
They also will see, and should be allowed to do themselves, if possible, the same process when e.g. tea is poured out of a teapot into a teacup, orange juice poured out of a jug into their glass, and so on.

In t.r.a. the child must learn about objects, (including people and body parts), their uses and functions.
The greater the number of objects, whose 'meanings', (uses and functions), are known the larger is the child's t.r.a.'vocabulary'.
(This might be considered in both reception, [decoding], and expressive, [encoding] aspects)
So the child might learn the meanings, major uses and functions, of foot, and ball.
Putting together a group of objects, (t.r.a. symbols), to more narrowly delimit the meaning, or use/function, what is to be done, might be called a t.r.a. statement
The assembly will obviously be more complex than the constituent elements, the object-symbols.
So we might have foot + ball presented to a child, (e.g. placing a ball next to a child's foot), in t.r.a. type 2. This should be understood by the child to mean
"kick the ball"
We might restrict the stage of the process to decoding so that changes in the child's task are kept more uniform. So in this sub-section of the scheme we might increase the child's object use/function or vocabulary by additionally teaching him the uses and functions of the hand, and then we can extend his understanding of t.r.a. statements, to include
throw a ball,
as well as
kick a ball
Vocabulary and Topic
Complexity and Syntax
Combining the object 'symbols' together obviously results in an entity of increased complexity. The mode of assembly into t.r.a. statements should follow certain rules, to be meaningful. In t.r.a. the rules are perhaps not very complex, (later in e.g. sign they will be more complex)
The three types of t.r.a. are placed in their order of sophistication, we will want therefore to develop type 1 first, then type 2, and then type 3.
Note that the n.r.a. bases of the three types might be considered as consecutive elements of an activity. For example Pe2 first sees a ball, then places it by one's foot, and then makes the kicking action.
In t.r.a., if type 1 doesn't get Pe2 to do as Pe1 wants, Pe drops down to type 2, e.g. he puts the ball by Pe2's foot, if this fails to get Pe2 to do as Pe1 wants, Pe1 then physically prompts Pe2's kicking movement.
(Note this is very similar to the process described in#)
Form and Function
One might relate function and use to form
With an object not capable of change, or capable of little change, in its form or shape, the number of its possible functions will be relatively small.
Examples might be simple inanimate objects, and many animate objects, e.g. parts of the body such as feet.
On the other hand, consider an object capable of assuming a large number of shapes, and so functions. The prime example of this is the human hand.
Possible hand-shapes can be coded using the Stokoe system, (or a modification of this suitable to the particular communication system, e.g. sign language).
So for example the G (pointing) hand-shape has the functions of pointing, prodding, poking etc.
The A (fist) shape has the function of punching etc.
From these real actions, as in n.r.a., come symbolic actions, as in t.r.a., and even sign
We should perhaps teach the functions/uses of objects with fewer possible shapes, and so functions, before those with many possible shapes and functions, e.g. teach about feet, before hands
Other aspects of the Stokoe coding system are
the part of the body the hand-shape is placed at, (called the position or tab in this system)
where the hand is moved to, (called the movement or sig in this system)
These codings, to specify more completely the action, as well as being appropriate to sign, where the action is a sign, is also appropriate to mime, to n.r.a. and to t.r.a.
6c. demonstration-imitation and model-copying
An example is the case of an 18 month old child using a flat smallish toy or piece of a toy as a mobile phone, holding it to his ear and babbling into it, copying his mother and her frequent talking into her real phone.
It is a very important ability and propensity of the child for his learning and must be fostered.
Here the body or body part of one person might be used or interpreted as a general symbol of the body, or body part, and can refer to the body or corresponding body part of another person. It might be seen as a very limited type of mime 1, and it is only perhaps used imperatively. The adult uses this form of communication with the child, e.g. in the Denver Developmental Screening Test, e.g. to get the child to stand on one leg. It might be useful to ensure that such a type is available for the child's expressive communication, as well as his receptive communication.
(At any time, at any stage, it might of course turn out that the communication style or level chosen is too high for the child and one has then to drop down to a lower level. In giving the Denver the adult may have demonstrated kicking a ball, to get the child to do so, if this fails he might have to drop down to t.r.a., and e.g. place the ball by the child's foot, and if necessary physically prompt the movement of the child's foot and leg)
As for receptive communication the child might e.g. be got to put his hands on his head and be rewarded if he does so. One might start with simple actions and go on to more complex ones.
For expressive communication one might try to develop this, again by starting with simple, highly motivated actions, do and then proceeding to more complex and highly motivated ones. An example of this type of behaviour might be seen in the little boy who, rather than throwing the adult's hand up to a desired object on a high shelf, stretches his own hand up to it, perhaps with a vocalisation signifying effort, and lack of success. What is communicated here is perhaps, "Look, I'm trying to get that, but I can't reach it, I want you to get it for me". Part of the behaviour still falls into the t.r.a. category. Here the child might be seen as indicatively communicating some phase of an n.r.a. process, a stage of a plan, but what is different about this phase is that it is one where the person comes up against a serious obstacle and the plan fails. If the implied imperative is present this would perhaps move the behaviour into the demo-imitation category.
Model-copy or demonstration-imitation is of course an important part of all learning. Take for example a person learning how to make a new sign in the sign stage. Also note here the point about the demonstrator ensuring that the learner doesn't need to transpose left for right etc by standing behind the learner and putting his hands in front of him, as in showing someone how to tie a complex knot etc.
Note also the difference between copying and imitation, as distinguished in the D.D.S.T. Imitating an action just seen, which might produce a visible lasting result, e.g. a drawn circle shape, is easier than copying the finished model, e.g. circle, and therefore should be taught first.
Items can be increased in difficulty by
a. Increasing the complexity of the form to be copied
first a line, then a cross, circle, square , diamond etc
b. Making the task one of copying rather than imitation
i.e. first see if the child can draw the form immediately after he sees the examiner do it, then see if he can copy the form just by looking at the completed form, and not seeing the examiner draw it.
A possibly related behaviour is the phenomena of looking at hands, described in this site. Here it seems that the hand of a person, and especially the palm, have a more remote symbolism. Instead of representing the hand, and palm, of another person they represent the face of the other person, often the mother. For more on this go to the articles on Looking at hands:-
(Body parts as Symbolic Objects)
6d. t.r.a/p.c.s.
This stage might be considered to be a development from t.r.a. type 3. Here what is presented to the child are photo symbols of objects, situations, events and processes, (activities), rather than the objects, situations, events and processes themselves.
To use the objects themselves he must obviously locate the real objects, e.g. in their store place.
This is a hybrid because the symbols, here photos, are dispersed throughout the environment, throughout real space. They are strategically placed in certain locations instead of being e.g. collected in a book, as we will do later, in pure p.c.s.
Protecting the photos
It will usually be found necessary to fix and protect photos by putting them in a board fixed firmly to the wall, covered with quite thick Perspex. Some of the children are quite destructive and will try to pull down photos and tear them up. To make it easy to replace or add to the photo group the covers of the boards may be made to slide up or down, or swing open. One of the disadvantages of photos is that if they are in place for a long time, and what is represented changes, e.g. a room gets new carpets, curtains, furniture etc., the photo has to be replaced by a new one. The photos might be stuck to the board with 'Bluetack' or similar product so that they are easy to change, when necessary. When photos are covered in this way with Perspex one has to have a light coloured background. If a dark background is used one gets confusing reflections from the Perspex, just as, if one is looking out of a window at night, from a brightly lit room, one will just see reflections of oneself, and of the room.
In the group of special schools of which the author was principal psychologist for a number of years the photos in his system were protected by boards fixed on the wall which had a perspex sliding cover. This protected the photos from being damaged by the students, but allowed easy changing or adding to the photo array.
In the case of small normal children the author adopts a different strategy to stop little hands from damaging the photos, one much easier than using boards. He simply sites the photos high enough to be out of reach of the child. When the child indicates that he wants something the parent can lift the child up to point at a photo of something he desires, always assuming that the child is not too heavy for this!
The photos are placed in the following locations:-
1. Cupboards, receptacles and other containers.
These are labeled with photos of the contents of the container. So, for example, if certain jigsaws and other table top activity items are kept in a particular drawer, this will be indicated by placing photos of the individual items on the outside of the front of the drawer. This practice will be followed for all receptacles, so the contents of a fridge will be indicated by suitable photos.
There might be a problem with the symbolism here. Take the case of the practice of children changing shoes when they go outside, and placing the inside, or outside, shoes, in pigeon holes or boxes. We might interpret the photo, e.g. of the child's shoes in a box, to tell us what is actually in that place. This is fine if the object is there but not if the object has been removed for use. We might then interpret the photo as an instruction to put this item back in the container when you've finished using it. The system must be as simple as possible, for the lower level child to learn and understand and the following general principle should be adhered to:-
One, and only one, sign, should have one, and only one, meaning.
Here we might discuss the case where, in a residential school, each child has his own coat peg, in various places, for example in an entry hall or corridor to the gym, a public place. To cue the correct activity with regard to the peg/hook we put by the peg a photo, not just of the child's coat but of the individual child putting his particular coat onto the peg. Now the symbolism is:-
This is your peg, put your coat on it
Because the photo is static, a snapshot of a phase of an activity, instead of a moving representation of the process, it is ambiguous and could be alternatively read as either
Child C1 putting his coat onto the peg
Child C1 taking his coat from the peg
This appears to be a clearer message for the child. Note also that the photos of the child in this activity were taken with the child looking at the camera so that he can more easily recognise himself. An exactly similar thing should be done with the shoe-boxes where on each box we can put both the child's name and the activity photo of the child putting his shoes into his box or taking them out from his box. So also we could follow this process for the outside of drawers, cupboards, containing things like inset puzzles, stacking beakers, pegs and rings, etc. In the case of the child's individual tooth brush kept in the toilet or bathroom we might also signal the ownership of each brush with a tiny sealed photograph of the child, or better, of him brushing his teeth, stuck on to the brush handle.
In the case of refrigerators the point about putting things back sometimes applies, and sometimes does not. One might take something out of the fridge, take the food out of the wrapping, consume the food and throw the wrapping away. In this case we might go for the easy option of simple photos of the objects kept in the fridge. The problem of a photo of e.g. a carton of milk on the door of the fridge when there is no carton in the fridge still exists. Parents, and parent figures will perhaps just have to try to make sure the fridge is always properly stocked.

2. Destination or place photos
Destination or place photos of the places the child usually goes to, through a particular door, are placed, possibly in a board, on or immediately beside the door. (on is better to match up with other, smaller containers, e.g. fridges, cupboards etc but practical considerations may make this difficult e.g. the anti-insect inner wire mesh doors in houses in the tropics, in this case siting the photo array beside the door is necessary.
For normal very young children we may have, just above the array, this caption:-
"Places we go to through this door and the things we will see there"
since such children will speak, and later read.
These are photos of the places only, empty of people. If the photo array is on the door the photos might be arranged to reflect the relative spatial locations of the actual places. So if a place PL1 is to the left of PL2, as the child stands facing the door, the photo of PL1 is placed to the left of the photo of place PL2, and so on. In a different dimension, if place PL3 is further away than place PL4, the photo of place PL3 is placed above the photo of place PL4, and so on. These conventions exactly reflect visual experience, in contemplating a real scene, or a landscape painting. This forms a kind of photo map. The important, high reward places and/or those which the child often goes to via that particular door will of course be chosen for the group of pictures by the door. Examples include the toilet the child uses, the place where the child eats, the place where he sleeps, the play area and so on.
(1 and 2 might be thought to be similar in type as both are placed on the route to an object, place, etc. ; a room can be seen as a container of things)
A door, (or rather a doorway, the door itself being an obstacle, which must be removed, by opening it), is one means of access between one place and another.
In the case of a door leading outside the house we have an array of photos of the places the family often go to, on or by, preferably on the door. The spatial arrangement mentioned elsewhere might be adopted. These are ordinary photo views, devoid of people. The child or adult can indicate where they are going, in the case of an adult, or where they would like to go, in the case of a child. There is no means to 'say' what they will do there, or what (interesting or desirable) things they may find there, but perhaps this is not important at the moment.
But it may be very important in the case of e.g. a door from the lounge, into the kitchen. We would like to show what room lies beyond the door but also what things, important for the child might be found there, or produced there e.g. a baby's milk bottle, a beaker of fruit juice, a beaker of water etc. We have tried various options for this case
Our first version.
We simply had an array of photos of the things important for our child, a baby's milk bottle, a beaker of fruit juice, a beaker of water etc. These were photos of the objects in isolation, set against a nice plain background, a sheet of blue material. Sometimes, instead of a photo of the object, e.g. a container containing the desired stuff, e.g. a beaker of water, we simply cut off the face side of an actual container, e.g. a carton of Ovaltine. Usually of course this is colourful and distinctive, which is useful.
Here the location of the objects, (in the kitchen), is signaled by the presence of the photo of the thing on the door leading to the kitchen.
Our second version
Here we take the photo of the thing in some degree of context, e.g. a close-up photo of a carton of yoghourt, showing some of the carton's context, e.g. a little of the inside of the fridge. So now we signal the location of the desired thing in two ways, the photo of the Ovaltine carton is on the door leading into the kitchen the photo of the Ovaltine carton contains a very limited view of the inside of the fridge.
In this version we had two ways of indicating whether there was actually any of a desired object in the kitchen.
a. We backed the photo of the desirable object with a larger piece of white paper. We hung this by a short piece of string or cotton from the door. Then to show there is some of the object in the kitchen, that it's on the menu, we turn the photo face out. To show there is none of that thing, that it's off the menu we turn the photo to the paper side, the blank side.
b. Here we take a photo of a container which holds the thing, e.g. a carton holding sachets of milk tablets, in a full state and in an empty state. Then we stick the two photos together back to back so that we can present either the full state side or the empty state side, by turning the photo complex on its short string
Note that the use of both sides of a card is a concrete, visual version of a situation which has two values,
x exists in the kitchen, we have x
x does not exist in the kitchen, we don't have that
These two are the only possibilities, either we have it or we don't. This is the ordinary language use of the 'either -- or' situation, the exclusive 'or', not the logical 'either -- or'
A similar idea is used in the graphic concrete way of showing the child the consequences of some of his actions.
If you do, or don't do z, then y will, or will not happen
This sort of bribery or blackmail is a very useful method for training a child
This may be regarded logically as
if, and only if, x, then y
e.g. if you put your toys away in their box you can watch TV for a while before bedtime
And again it is equivalent to
the common usage of either --- or, (not the strictly logical one), i.e.
either z or y, but not both
e.g. either you put your toys away or you don't watch TV
or more fully
either ((you put your toys away) and (you watch TV)) or ((you don't put your toys away) and (you don't watch TV))
This would be represented pictorially, in p.c.s., by a photo of the child putting his toys away, and then watching TV, stuck to the reverse or blank side of a photo of the child not putting his toys away and then not watching TV.
The first, putting toys away and then watching TV. This is really a sequence,
one event or process P1, putting toys away
will be followed by
P2 watching TV
In line with our decision to represent successive events or processes by photos or symbols placed one above the other we will put a photo of P2 above P1, on one side of a short strip of card, and a photo or symbol of ~ P2 immediately above a photo or symbol of not P1 on the reverse side.
The child must look at this graphic representation, understand its meaning and act accordingly.
So far so good.
But the idea of not- x is quite abstract, how do we represent this as easily as possible for the child?
(Note: this discussion might be better treated as p.c.s., in the p.c.s. section.)
Our third version
Here we add a general view of the kitchen, to bring the display into line with the photos placed on or by other doors. The relationship between the general view photo and the object photos is rather problematic?
But this addition is very useful, my young son does point to the photos of the things he wants which come from the kitchen, (stuck on the door leading to the kitchen from the lounge) but he also points to the general view photo of the kitchen, (also stuck on that door), when he just wants to go into the kitchen. This is often to go to his shoe box and have shoes put on his feet, and then go outside for a walk, or a ride in the car maybe.
In view of this the view of the right hand wall of the kitchen must include a view of his shoe box and its lid photos.
Our fourth and current version
Here we adopt the following approach, to properly integrate the two systems, the general view photo of the kitchen, and the array of photos of things desirable to the child.
We use three photos of the kitchen, all blown-up two or three times, with the camera at the eye height of the child, and in the vertical orientation.
One is taken from the doorway between lounge and kitchen, looking straight ahead.
A second is taken in the middle of the room looking orthogonally at the left hand wall. This will show the activity photos or activity photo sequences on that wall, and the fridge door and the photos of its important contents on the fridge door.
A third is taken in the middle of the room looking orthogonally at the right hand wall. This will show the door leading to the outside of the house, the place/destination photos on or by the side of the door, and the child's outdoor shoe box.
(The left hand view will be stuck on the door to the kitchen, immediately adjacent and to the left of the forward view, while the right hand view will be stuck on the door immediately adjacent and to the right of the forward view)
It might be thought that in this method we lose the advantage of having a general photo view of the room, here the kitchen, separate from the individual photos of desirable things to be got from the room, e.g. milk, yoghourt etc., where the child can simply 'say' that he wants to be in that room, for another purpose. But of course this is not the case.
Then the child can point to activity photos or the fridge contents photos, to show he wants something to eat or drink. He can also point to his shoe box image, or to the door image, to show he wants to go outside. He can even show where he wants to go by pointing to an image of one of the destination photos.
It would be useful to indicate whether there was actually any of some ingredient, or desired ready-made object in the kitchen, e.g. in the fridge. We had two ways of doing this, as described in our second and third version.
The child could indicate the image of an end goal photo in an activity photo sequence on a wall of the room e.g. adult holding a beaker of fruit juice, just before he brings it into the lounge to give to the child. But the adult might indicate to the child that there is none of that, no fruit juice in the kitchen, it is not 'on the menu', by pointing to an image of some sort of device described in our second version above. Then the child would have to choose an image of a different end goal photo.
We may also mention stairways.
These allow one to go from floor to floor e.g. from downstairs to upstairs, or vice-versa. At the foot of the flight of stairs might be placed photographs of the places one can get to by going up the stairs, i.e. a view of the floor it leads to, and of the doors to the rooms which lead off it. At the top of the stairs we would have photographs of the places one can get to by going down the stairs. To avoid confusion it is helpful to place photos so that the photos of e.g. the upstairs are more easily and naturally seen when one begins to go up the stairs, and similarly for the case of going down the stairs. With some architectural arrangements of stairs this is relatively easy to achieve. In the case of a stairway, or set of these, which lead to a number of different floors we might employ this type of symbolism, which seems quite natural and consistent with the rest of the system. In the board at the foot of the stairs, (on the first, or ground floor), in the bottom row we will place the photos of the places on the next floor up, e.g. the first floor. In the next row up, in the board, we'll place the photos of the places on the second floor, while in the top row, (if there are four floors, we'll place photos of the places on the third floor). For the return journey, going downstairs, we will have to proceed similarly, but with this complication. As well as the stairs leading downwards to the lower floors they lead more remotely to places outside the building. The boards relating to the downstairs journey might therefore need to be more complex than those relating to the upstairs one.
Lifts or Elevators
As another means of accessing places on different floors of a building, these also might be labeled pictorially.
Long routes and critical, choice points
If the route from place PL1 to PL2 is long and, or there are many critical and choice points e.g. doorways and stairways and landing etc. we will need replication of destination place photos along the route. As well as being necessary to label the route this will also obviate the need for staff to take a copy of the photo of the place the child is going to with them to periodically remind the child where he is going. This might be necessary, especially if the journey is a long one. Note that as well as needing to label the outward journey, we need to do the same for the return journey.
As an added refinement to the symbolism of the system one could represent how far any particular place is from some place or destination, by the size of the photo of the place or destination fixed at that point on the route. So if one is at place PL2, far away from place PL9, the photo of PL9 (fixed at place PL2), will be small. As one gets closer to PL9 the photo of PL9 will get larger.
This is, of course, a concrete representation of a person's perceptual experience. For the moment however we might ignore this possibility and go for the simple procedure of keeping all place photos of a fixed size, six inches by four inches.
3. Activity Photos.
We take and fix up photos of the children engaging in the activities which regularly happen in, and are characteristic of, a particular place. For example we have placed photos so:-
photos of class activities put up on the wall of a classroom,
photos of cooking or washing up dishes etc. put upon the wall of the kitchen,
photos of a specific child sleeping, tidying his bed, getting dressed etc put upon a wall of his bedroom
and so on.
Note that this type of activity photo is closely related to the type of activity photo discussed under 1 above. The activity photo by an object, has reference to just this object, to a very restricted area of space, but the activity photos placed on the wall of a room and so on are somewhat more general and refer to the whole room or other place they are in. The process by which the more specific case leads to the more general one is similar to the process whereby t.r.a. - p.c.s. leads to pure p.c.s.
Just above the activity photo array, we may have this caption,
"Things I can do here"
The point of this is first to help the adult caring for the child to understand what the system is about, and second to interest the normal child who will learn to speak and read.
Objective vs subjective views
Note that there are two ways of taking activity photos, resulting in an objective view or a subjective view. In the first an ordinary photo of the child is taken. This might include the child's body and his face, perhaps a front view. It's the view of the child someone other than the child will usually get of him. In the second, one tries to obtain the sort of view the child will get of himself. This will not include his face, (unless he is looking in a mirror), but might include, as well as the external environment, a view of his arms and hands, his legs and feet etc.
There are advantages and disadvantages in each type. In the subjective case, the view is helpful in showing someone how to perform a certain action, e.g. how to tie a certain type of knot. Another advantage is that this view would meet the objections of some parents to having their 'autistic' children photographed. A disadvantage emerges if we develop the picture system to a point where the child may specify which particular person he means, by placing a sharp clear photo of a specific person onto the fuzzy blurred face photo of someone engaged in an action. This obviously cannot be done for this type of view. In the objective case an advantage is that we can perform this process. In group activities the child gets an objective view of the others engaged in the activity which he is engaged in. Also, in pointing to an activity photo of someone else engaged in an activity, he does apply the activity to himself, since the usual, and default, meaning of such a point is that the child wants to do the activity himself.
Observe that activity photos tell us that a certain activity has occurred in that place, but more than this: that the activity is acceptable, at least at certain times. It does not tell us that the activity is actually occurring, that a person shown in the activity photo is actually doing that in the place pictured, if we use an objective view. To show that an activity is actually taking place, involving a particular person, we need a different convention.
3a. An activity is actually occurring, a person is actually in a certain place.
We sometimes want to tell a child that a certain person especially important to him, e.g. his mother, is in a certain place, e.g. the kitchen. To do this we may select a certain activity which is not too specific, and which therefore can be taken as a symbol of mere presence in a place. We might choose standing, and photograph the person standing in the room. As usual we will take the photo with the camera at the child's eye height. In line with our current mode of integrating the general view of the room, with clear pictures of what important things, (for the child), can be found there, and what activities are carried out there, but which are not necessarily actually taking place there at the time the child looks at the photo we will take a forward view of the place, e.g. kitchen, at the doorway leading into the room, at the child’s eye height. We will use the camera in the vertical portrait orientation. Then we will get the person to stand in the room, perhaps in the middle, and retake the photograph as before. We will print both photos, blown up perhaps two or three times. We will cut out the person's figure photo. Then protect the photos with something like 'Fablon'.
Then we stick a clear plastic pocket to the general view of the empty room in a position which makes the figure look natural when it is placed in the pocket. Obviously when the figure is in the pocket, the meaning is that that person is actually in that room.
As well as this general forward view we may need to take photos giving clear views of contents photos in the doors of containers, e.g. a fridge, and good views of activity photos on a wall of the room. This may require a view of the left wall of the room, where there may be activity photos, and of the right wall, where there may be place/destination photos, by or on a door leading out from the room, maybe to the outside of the house, both in vertical orientation. These two photos will also be blown up to the same degree as the forward view. The left wall photo will be placed adjacent and immediately to the left of the forward looking photo, while the right wall photo will be placed adjacent and immediately to the right of the forward looking photo. The group of three photos will be fixed on the door leading to the room, e.g. kitchen, on the side in the other room, (which leads to the room, e.g. kitchen)
Then the child can 'say' that ---
he wants to go into the room, e.g. kitchen.
he wants something ready made in the room, e.g. in the fridge, e.g. yoghourt, a picture of which is on the door of the fridge, and whose image he may point to.
he wants something which is made in the kitchen, e.g. a prepared baby's milk bottle, by pointing to an image of an activity photo e.g. showing a parent holding the milk bottle and about to bring it into the place where the child is, and where he will drink the milk.
As well as this the parent can say that a certain person is in the kitchen by putting that person's cut-out photo image into the transparent plastic pocket stuck on the forward view of the kitchen.
4. Sequences of photos describing the successive stages of a plan.
Just as in single photos of objects, people, places and activities, the criteria by which the adult selects pictures to be displayed include
a) obviously, as in the case of single activity photos, the plan and the component activities therein must be appropriate and relevant to the place in which it is displayed. So, for example we will have a picture sequence describing the steps of a recipe, e.g. to make a cup of tea, to make beans on toast, etc. up on the walls of the kitchen, in t.r.a. - p.c.s. (Later, in pure p.c.s. the photos will be collected into a photo recipe book, and in s.c.s. the book will be a symbol recipe book)
b) pictures relate to the interests of the child, to his goals. There is no point in displaying the recipe for cooking tripe if nearly all of the children the scheme is designed for are revolted by this food!
c) pictures are selected by the adult to be related to acceptable behaviours of the child. As said elsewhere we don't include a photo of little Jimmy hitting little Mary in the activity photos in a room. Similarly we might not provide the child with a picture recipe for a meal which, although tasty for him, might be highly unhealthy.
d) the picture plan is selected by the adult to be most efficient and best for the child, taking into account his abilities.
How does the child use the picture sequences?
As with any plan, the child will first select the goal he is interested in, e.g. drinking a cup of tea. He will look through the sequences, at the last activity picture of the sequences, and choose the one he wants.
Then he must take into account his present actual situation, and try to match this with a picture in the sequence, either perfectly or as near as he can get. He must change his actual situation into what is represented in this picture as efficiently as possible. When that is achieved he merely proceeds along the sequence, doing whatever is illustrated, and producing the successive illustrated situations.
In the case of the kitchen the first photo should be the situation of the actual kitchen, with the child simply standing there. This is something the adult must provide. If the plan is making tea, if the process pictured involves the child using a particular kind of apparatus to boil the water, obviously that apparatus must be present in the kitchen, ideally in the same place as it is shown in the picture.
5. Photos of the interior of rooms
We take a photo of the interior of the empty room and display it by the outside of the entrance door to the room. This shows the viewer of the room who uses the room and what they use it for, via the image of the activity photo display. Often, to get a clearer view of the activity photos, we may use two photos:-
a. a general view of the room taken from the doorway.
b. a close-up view of the activity photos array.
Photo b. is placed above photo a. to reflect the fact that, as you stand by the door, b. is further away from you.
A photo is taken of the empty room e.g. classroom, as an attempt to portray the room only, and not to make a statement about who is in fact in the room. If we took a photo of the occupied room, e.g. classroom, with the pupils in it, this might give the impression that these people were in the room and they may not be. But perhaps this doesn't really solve the problem since the photo could be regarded as meaning that the room was empty, and it may not be. One solution to the problem would be to have a photo of the empty room and, by the side a photo of the occupied room. A shutter could be arranged to slide from side to side so as to expose only one photo, the one depicting the actual state affairs. This begins to get complicated however and perhaps we might adopt the practice of taking a photo of the room interior which shows only a fairly close up view of the activity photos on the wall of the room, and not much of the floor space. This could then be ambiguous as to whether the class members, children and adults, were actually in the room or not.
General Points
By means of this hybrid the transition from pure t.r.a. to pure p.c.s. is eased.
Coloured photos are far more attractive and interesting to children than schematic symbols, simple black and white line drawings. Even children of quite low intellectual ability can respond to the former, at a simple level, e.g to indicate what food item they would like.
Permanent, or least long-term, placement
The fact that the photos are always in place, at the right place, is helpful in getting staff to use the photos all the time. Staff members don't need to search for them for use; they are already there in place. The place of storage of a photo is identical with the place of its use.
Placement by real objects.
Photos placed by a real object relate the photo to the object, so that e.g. by a door we place photos of places you can get to, and usually do get to, by going through that door.
Activity photos are placed away from doors, they relate to the whole room.
The photos are of children and or adults engaged in the activities appropriate to the room or other place. So for example we have photos of children swimming, placed on a wall of the swimming pool, a photo of children doing class activities on a wall of a classroom, etc.
Height of shot and height of placement.
It is a good idea to take the photo with the camera held at roughly the average eye height of the children who will be mostly using the photos, so, for example, we should take the photo of the interior of the room, (4), with the camera held so as to give the child's view. When fixing the photo we should also place it at this height. In this way the correspondence between actual and photo views will be made closer. However it will often be the case that if the child can reach the picture he will pull it down. If we adopt the system of keeping photos in boards he will be unable to do this, if the photos are merely stuck on the wall we might have to place the photos at a height so they are out of reach of the child, and we may have to lift the child up to know exactly what the child is pointing at, OK if he is small, not OK if he isn't!
Individual versus general, more public rooms.
In the residential schools each child had his own bedroom. So all the activity photos for that room were of the same single child engaging in the activities characteristic of, and acceptable in, that place, e.g. sleeping, making the bed, getting dressed or undressed etc. The general view of the interior of the room, and perhaps a close-up of the group of activity photos above it, placed by the outer side of the door, (like 4 above) would show that:-
a. it's a bedroom, by looking at what activities are shown
b. it's Mary's bedroom, it belongs to her, by seeing that the child doing the activities is Mary
In a more public place e.g. a gymnasium where gross motor activities occur, many different children may use the place. It is possible just to use specific children in the photos, at this level the photos are only ever used to express a desire of the child. If child C1 points to a photo of child C2 doing some activity, it always means that child C1 wants to do that activity himself, not that he wants C2 to enjoy it! However it is possible to blur the images of the faces of the children engaged in the activities in activity photos in the more public places, to make them refer to any child.
Size of the photos and separation in the board.
The standard six inches by four inches size is used for the photos, the separation between the individual photos being one or two inches.
To distinguish the photos, (and symbols also, perhaps later, the pictures in the child's environment and form them into a system we might give all our pictures a border of some type and colour e.g. blue or green. This is important if adults fill the walls of rooms with pictures, to 'make it look nice'.
The border will cue the child that he might point to a photo of a container of orange juice, which is on the door of a refrigerator, or on the door leading into the kitchen, and be given this drink. If he points to a photo image of a gorilla on a wall-chart of wild animals, not part of our system, he must not expect that we will give him a specimen of that species of animal!
Borders might also be used as cues to the status of the image. A picture with a single border will be taken to mean the thing pictured; a double border to mean the picture of the thing, and so on. Alternatively we might have the child’s point inside the single border of a picture as a request for the thing pictured, but a point to/at the border as a request for the picture. When might a child want the picture rather than the thing pictured?
Selection of photos
The adult's selection of the range of photos to take and put in place is an expression of the possible communications that are predicted, accepted and perhaps encouraged, for the children and adults in a certain place. Which photo is pointed to, which choice, request etc is made within this range, is up to the individual adult or child example. For example in class one child does sometimes pinch another child, but we will not take a photo of this and put it in the activity photo board on the wall of the classroom!
(Such things do happen, and the child may want to be able to say that this happened, e.g. to her, and this is why she is upset, but at this stage we only wish to show acceptable behaviours. We might recall experiments by Russian psychologists done many years ago showing that verbal expressions of negative injunctions were misunderstood by low functioning children as positives. Such expressions of untoward events must be left to a later stage, e.g. to s.c.s.)
The order of taking and placing photos
In both t.r.a. - p.c.s. and pure p.c.s. there is an optimum way to do this, so that the photos are as accurate as possible in representing the place. This is:-
1. Take the activity photos for a particular place, print them and put them in position on a wall of the place, away from a door.
2. Take the contents photos for a particular container, e.g. cupboards, fridge, etc. print them and put them in position on the door of the container, e.g. the fridge door.
3. Now photograph the room, or other place, from a doorway into the room or other place and use this as a destination or place photo, which is placed
a. outside the room, by the door which lead into to the place, e.g. room.
By this means the photo of the place is more accurate because it shows things actually in the place, e.g. a set of contents photos on the doors of cupboards etc, a set of activity photos. Now one can see, in the place photo, not just what place it is, but what things can be found there, and what activities can be done there. This means that an early, elaborate communication might be possible.
a. By pointing to the place photo the child can show what place he wants to go to or the adult can show the child where he wants him to go.
b. By pointing to an image of an object in the place, or to an image of a photo of something in a container, placed on the door of a container, e.g. a fridge door the child can ask for that thing, e.g. a yoghourt carton in the fridge
c. By pointing to the image of an activity photo in the place photo the child can show what he wants to do in that place or the adult can show the child what he wants him to do there.
d. By pointing to a door in the place/room the child can 'say' he wants to go to a/the place the door leads to. With a door to the outside of the house the child can 'say' he wants to go to an outside place; with a destination/place photo board by or on the door the child can indicate that he would like to go to a specific place, e.g. a local supermarket, the swimming pool etc.
This means of course that the place photo has to be big so that the images of the activity photos on walls, and contents photos, and destination photos by or on doors are large and clear enough to be easily seen. This means that the place photos should perhaps be larger than 6" x 4".
To aid visibility and decoding we might also make the actual contents, activity, and place/destination photos larger than the normal 6" x 4".
Updating photographs
It is of course necessary to update photographs and replace the old photographs, (which in t.r.a. - p.c.s. are put up on walls, by doors etc.), when there is a major change to the appearance of a place. This might occur if the place gets new carpets, curtains, decoration or furniture etc. The first two may not be of relevance in the institute, where such soft furnishings are not used, (although as said elsewhere, these items might be desirable, to reduce the noise levels in classrooms etc.). But it is possible that the walls might be repainted, and if this is in a different color one would have to re-take the photo of the place and replace the old one with this.
Use of the photos
The child may point to any of the photos to express a desire, e.g. to the toilet destination photo, to the photo showing the contents of a drawer or cupboard, to one of the activity photos on the wall of a room, and so on. In addition the adult may point to a photo to show what he wants to happen, or, because of his different status to a child, what will happen.
This is the means of indicating the photo, and therefore the thing represented, of indicating what the child wants.
The point may be initially quite crude, a whole flat hand touch point, but later may be refined into an index finger distance point.
The point is chosen for the child's expressive communication, in t.r.a./p.c.s. so as to put most of the burden onto the child’s reception, his decoding of the photo. We know that in learning a language, understanding easily outstrips expression, the ability to speak the language.
Clearly the point, especially the whole hand point, is a preliminary act to the manual act of grasping a desired object.
So the default and earliest meaning of a point to an object, situation, activity etc or picture of these is "I want this", later it might develop into a simple "this".
The point to a picture of a thing is of course to be interpreted as a request for the thing pictured, not the picture itself. If we have a picture of a picture of an object, situation, activity etc it is still the object, situation or activity which is wanted, not the representations.
To move on to a situation where the child might ask for the picture itself we might teach the child to signal this by pointing to the extreme edge of the picture, while a point to somewhere inside the picture can represent a desire, or reference to, something represented in the picture.
The child's home
Here we adopt a similar system. The precise format will depend on the architecture of the particular house. So we put photos of the things that the child might ask for, on the doors of cupboards, drawers, refrigerators and so on. We put a photo of the kitchen on the outside of the kitchen door and perhaps also, above this, a close-up view of the door of the fridge, to show the contents photos, if the kitchen is a separate area. If there is an upstairs, and the bedrooms are on this floor, photos of the upstairs rooms will be placed at the foot of the stairs, in a position where they will be more likely seen as the child climbs the stairs. His bedroom will be among these photos and so, when he is tired, he may take his mother to these photos and point to his bedroom photo. When he wants a shower or bath, or if the mother is taking him for a shower or a bath, and this room is upstairs, the photo of the place, which is fixed in the same group as the bedroom photo, may be indicated.
An important group of photos will be placed on or by the side of the door which leads out of the house. This will include all the places the child goes to from the house. Examples are the shops, the school, houses of relations and friends, and so on. By pointing to one of these photos the child can indicate a desire to go to the place represented, or the parent can tell the child she is going to take him there. This information from the mother should be given just before they go out, otherwise the child may not connect the point to the photo and the going out.
At the top of the stairs might be a board with photos of the places, e.g. rooms, one can get to on the ground floor by going downstairs. These will be sited so they will naturally be seen as the child goes downstairs. The child could indicate, for example, that he wants to go down to the kitchen. If a close-up photo view of the activities board for that room was shown above the first photo he could show he wants to drink something. Alternatively the photo of the kitchen door may be shown, and a close up photo view of the contents photo shown above it, e.g. the refrigerator with drinks photos, amongst others, on the door. Likewise he could first, show that he wants to go down to the hall by pointing to that photo, and second, may also point to a close-up view of the destination/place board by the side of the exit door from the hall, placed above the general hall view, to show he wants, for example, to go to the shops.
(We see that the aim of the system is to provide the means for the child to indicate his wishes with a minimum of gross or fine motor activity, no matter how complex the message.)
Introduction of time and its representation into the system
Thus far we have only considered place and its representation
Now let us consider time, and its representation
The sequence of stages for this understanding might parallel those for space
Time is the organising concept for events, therefore we are talking about events. These are represented by activity photos. Take the case of eating dinner, or any meal. This may be represented by a still photo of e.g. the family sitting at the dinner table, eating dinner. (Note that the photo does not show a child running around the house eating his dinner, the accepted behaviour is sitting at the table and eating. Photos in the system represent activities which the child may want, or be required to do, in ways acceptable to the adult(s) in charge.) This is a symbol of the events, really process, of eating, and is represented by a still 2-D photo.
These activity photos are held in boards on a wall of a room, in t.r.a./p.c.s., or in a book, in p.c.s. pure.
In t.r.a./p.c.s. a group of photos of activities appropriate to a place e.g. a room of a house, might be made and displayed in a board put up somewhere on a wall of the room. But as a previous step we might place each activity photo close to an object importantly used in the activity, especially a large, fixed, or relatively immoveable object, e.g. we might fix the eating-lunch activity photo on the wall close to the dining table.
Case 1
Take the case of eating lunch. There is a photo of the family eating lunch at the dining table, in the photo-board on a wall of the dining room. (This is best placed so as to be visible to the child as he actually eats lunch, so that he will learn to associate the activity with the photo. A subjective view of eating lunch would make the similarity even closer, and therefore the association even easier)
How do we introduce the dimension of time into this?
1. Most primitively we might only display the photo at lunch-time, or meal times in general, if the photo is not clearly a picture of the specific meal taken at noon. At other times the photo is covered. Here time is not represented but the dimension itself is used. This is a sort of n.r.a./t.r.a./p.c.s. hybrid. N.r.a. and t.r.a. deal with the here and now, this place, and this time, now.
2. We might represent time, at a simple level, by our photo-clock timetable.


What about the place/destination photo-board on or by a door leading out of the house?
These show places outside the house that we may and sometimes do go to.
While we may show activities appropriate for a room of a house with photos on a wall of that room, what do we do in the case of activities in a distant location, e.g. playing in the play area in the local park?
And how will we show when we go to that place, especially if it is a regular event, as in going to school on weekdays?
This might be quite a large display and there will be no room for timetables, as part of t.r.a./p.c.s.
It would seem necessary to use a timetable in a little album, as part of the pure p.c.s. system.
3. Or of course we can use the normal type of timetable, in this p.c.s. case a photo timetable.
Here the child has to get the actual time, (day or hour), from somewhere else, e.g. a calendar or clock, match this up with a day or hour in the timetable and then read what activity he should be doing.


These are, I think, important and allow the child to get an objective view of himself similar to the one which he will get from a photo of himself. These should be placed in all rooms. In doing activities the child might glance in the mirror and get an external view of himself carrying out the activity, which may help him to properly interpret a similar photo of himself, or others, doing the activity.
Note that it is possible that the child is not even at the mental level at which he recognises himself in the mirror. This can be tested for by the mirror recognition test. If he cannot recognise himself in the mirror he will not recognise himself in a photo and perhaps some sort of training intervention might be attempted to bring him to this stage. The mirrors should be full length and, if there is any possibility of accidents, made of safety materials. One would imagine that this training would importantly include demonstrating that the child’s bodily and facial movements parallel those of his reflection in the mirror. As usual one might begin with simple movements and later progress onto more complex ones.
For a graphic illustration of the system click on
(Note however that the design is rather different in this illustration, that system precedes the version in this paper. I think that the design described here is superior.)
6e. p.c.s.
Here the child might use books containing the photos he needs. He will be encouraged to carry these about with him, perhaps attached somehow to his belt, etc. For convenience the photos might be of a smaller size than those used in the t.r.a./p.c.s. stage e.g. 2 inches by 3 inches. The photos, which were spread out over the environment in the previous t.r.a./p.c.s.stage, are now brought together, often in book form. There might be a number of different types of book or way of collecting them.
At this stage the child must be able to be responsible for the safety of his communicative devices, and be sure to have these with him, when needed. A child operating at the t.r.a. - p.c.s. stage, who might damage the photos if they were not protected, is obviously not at this stage, even if only because of his destructiveness.
The destination or place photos are brought together to form a portable photo map.
With this the child can ask to go somewhere, or be told to go somewhere. One might arrange the place photos in book form or perhaps one can form them into a map, which can be folded up or opened out. Of course one has to consider the motor abilities of the child and he may need help in this. Notice that at this stage the child, to see how to get to a particular place, has to see which place photo shows where he is at that time, and orientate the map himself. This was not necessary in the previous stage.
The child might have activity photos bound together, or put on a strip, as a photo timetable or schedule, that he can follow throughout the day, or for the duration of the process. These photos might be stuck on to the strip temporarily with Velcro and removed as the activities comprising the process are completed.
At break, snack, and meal times a photo menu of different foods and drinks can be used, giving the child the choice of what to have. He can express a preference by this means. (The same sort of thing can, and should, be done at the much earlier stage of referring to the objects themselves, i.e. at the t.r.a. stage, and at later stages, e.g. s.c.s.)
Later in life outside in the community he can use photos of the foods he wants, so he can use the photo menus which some restaurants have.
It is good practice to communicate to the child in the way that he communicates to us. In this case we could use his photos but there is another issue here. This is that the adult should demonstrate in his behaviour that the child's method of communication has status. This might mean that the adult should carry around with him his own communication books, and even communicate with other adults in this way, in the presence of a child. This acts as a kind of model, of acceptable and even high status behaviour. (See similar remarks which are made about sign, at a much later stage).
6f. s.c.s. (symbol communication system)
Relationship with the previous stage
The difference from, and advance over, p.c.s. is that here the symbols, the 2-D pictures, are more schematic and represent members of a wider, more abstract class.
By adding features to these however we can make the symbol have a specific reference, like a photo. The photo of Amanda represents Amanda only, not some other girl. In contrast the symbol for girl, a schematic, generalised figure, represents any member of the generalised class, 'girls'. But to this picture we can add some distinctive features, e.g. Amanda's brown eyes, and dark brown hair, of a certain length and style. This is like putting two Euler, or Venn, circles, together, and the overlap or intersection is the class of girls who have these characteristics. If the characteristics are very distinctive, especially if the class is also delimited by the situation or context, e.g. to girls in this particular school, then the class might only have one member, e.g. Amanda. This procedure relates the stage to a higher stage, that of sign, and its use of name signs, where e.g. a girl in the group who habitually wears large hoop earrings, is referred to by making this sign. In this case proper names are not used. This must be a real advantage with the s.l.d. child, who, although he may come if his name is called, could be doing this very much as a dog does, on a low level, possibly only responding to the tone of voice, and by no stretch of the imagination can be said to know his name. Even more preposterous is to translate the spoken into a written name, and add this to the general symbol of a child, and expect the s.l.d. child to understand this, as referring to a specific person!
The same principle could be used for s.c.s., as here, or for p.c.s.
6g. mime
Relationship with the previous stages
This type can clearly be related to, and can be seen as a development from, n.r.a., and t.r.a.
A similarity is that in all these forms all of the communicator's body is used, and areas close to the body, as 'the work area'.
The main difference is that in t.r.a. the communicator uses actual non-self objects, as well as all of his body, and that all these have symbolic significance.
In mime however, apart from the communicator's body, no other objects are used, at least not as part of the communication, these objects are represented by the mime's actions, they are 'imagined'. 6h. sign
Relationship with the previous stages
A difference and advance over s.c.s. and p.c.s. etc is that the signer has to make his symbols, whereas in s.c.s., p.c.s., etc. this perhaps is not usually the case, the communicator usually just selects the symbols he wants, (involving recognition)
A difference from mime is that parts of the body below the waist are not used. Therefore body parts and shapes above the waist, and the movements of these must be used to represent parts of the body below the waist, and their movements, e.g. the flat hand can represent the foot, index finger and middle finger and their movements can represent the legs and feet and the gross motor action of walking.
Of course body parts,and their shapes, especially the hands, can also represent other objects and their actions, e.g. a certain handshape representing an aeroplane.
We can divide this into various types.
type 1
Here a handshape might form a picture, possibly very schematic, of an object, (and possibly form part of a represented situation or event etc)
For example a fist hand shape, 'A' hand in the Stokoe system, can represent a person's head
This type can clearly be related to, and can be seen as a development from, s.c.s.
type 2
This type involves the hand formed into different shapes appropriate for holding and using different objects, and which therefore can represent these objects
For example we have the hand shape appropiate for holding, and therefore symbolic of, a tea-cup, handshape 'F'
This type can clearly be related to mime
The similarities are that both do not involve actual objects, (apart from the communicator's body)
The differences, include the feature that in mime the whole body is used, while in sign only the top half of the body is used. This makes it necessary for greater symbolism to be used, e.g. for one part of the signer's body to represent another part, either of his own body or of someone else's body, e.g. the fingers of the hand to represent the legs, as in the famous symbol of walking (in b.s.l, this is the sign involving the V (two dots or very short vertical lines on top) handshape)
type 3
In this type the hand traces out the shape of an object.
Examples of this type are
'house', the hands draw the outline of the roof and side walls in the air
'room', the hands draw the plan of a room. i.e. a rectangle
'ball', the hands draw the circular section of a ball
It is clearly related to communication through drawing
These considerations make it clear that the correct graphical structure to represent the relations between these different stages is more complex than a linear one. Still this will suffice for the moment.
Two additionial aspects of the communication, are
the body part the handshape is placed at, termed the position or tab, in the Stokoe system.
the body part the hand is moved to, termed the movement or sig, in the Stokoe system.
So we have the sign for eating, or for food, where a B handshape is placed at the mouth, (with two little repeated movements towards the mouth). This is virtually mime, and with a simple single substitution, of an actual piece of food for empty space, we get n.r.a., and t.r.a.
type 4 - Pointing
This is a common feature of sign, (as well as of p.c.s., s.c.s., etc.)
The handshape used, in the Stokoe system is 'G'
A point to oneself can mean 'I' or 'me', (note incidentally the lack of a differentiation between the pronoun in the subjective or objective case, as in some oriental languages, there is no distinction, the context must make this clear.
A point to another person can mean 'you'
A point to an object can mean this particular object, or another member of the same class of objects, e.g. a point to a part of one's body can mean this particular part of the signer's, or another person's body, (this latter feature recalls demonstration I)
Note that the point is obviously derived from the reaching out to grasp an object, in n.r.a. and t.r.a. The first deliberate communicative points are whole hand points, (handshape '5', or perhaps 'B'), which is probably the hand shape involved in the reaching behaviour in n.r.a. and t.r.a.
Later, as the child becomes more sophisticated in this behaviour, he will adopt a more precise forefinger point, (handshape 'G')
type 5 - Arbitrary signs
The best example is the 'please' sign, which I had issues with for a long time. However the child quicly learns that if he makes this sign he often gets what he wants, hopefully not because the adult is happy that he is being polite, but because it alerts the adult to the fact that the child wants SOMETHING, and prompts him to try to find out just what that might be.
An interesting possible analysis of this, in P.C.S., might be rendered as:-
If Fred gets an ice-cream he will be happy;
if he does NOT get an ice-cream he will not be happy, will be unhappy
Translating this into an either-or proposition we will have:-
(((Fred gets an ice-cream) and (Fred is happy))
((Fred does not get an ice-cream) and (Fred is not happy)))
As before the sense is, 'but not both', as in the ordinary English usage rather than the logical one.
These two alternatives are mutually exclusive, and exhaustive, they are pictured and put on the two sides of a card.
As said before the idea of not getting an ice-cream raises some problems.
Note that this looks complex, and so is the situation described. It might at first be understood just in a global way, just like the 'please' sign. Later he may see, and use it as the complex message it really is.
Type 6
There is at least one sign that has, as a more primitive ancestor, something quite different from n.r.a. and t.r.a. This sign is very interesting for our work and constitutes a link between our papers on 'looking at hands' and the present article on the development of communication. This example is from A.S.L., and is described in "The Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing", (R.Butterworth and M.Flodin, Putnam Publishing Group, N.Y. 1991.)
From page 110 we have this entry:-
Cross, grouchy, grumpy, moody, sulky.
Hold the right open hand in front of the face with palm facing in. Bend and unbend the fingers a few times and assume an appropriate expression.
Memory aid: The movement suggests tension of the face.
The sign is quite evidently related to a type of behaviour, observed in SLD individuals, which we have called h.r.b., (hand regarding behaviour). While it appears that some of the earliest and most primitive forms of deliberate and conscious communication fall into the imperative t.r.a. category, it might be that just as early is the phenomenon of h.r.b. This latter however is not used, (at least originally), for deliberate conscious communication with others, but for private gratification, for satisfaction of certain desires, in fantasy. The first form is shown in early childhood, at M.A. 2 or 3, while the second, h.r.b., might only be found in SLD individuals. (However as said elsewhere I have now seen the behaviour in normal individuals)
The suggestion is that this sign is based on a natural tendency or imagery, perhaps unconscious, which however, is only overtly expressed in individuals functioning at a very low intellectual level. The sign must have developed under the influence of such unconscious bases.
What sign language?
Where possible the natural real sign language of whatever country the system is used in should be used. The author does not advocate the use of simplified artificial sign systems copied from real living sign languages, and tortured into a form which matches that country's spoken language.

7. Hybrids

We mentioned hybrids above, as in the t.r.a./p.c.s. hybrid. But many others are possible, and are often used by the child, and can be used by the adult. So we can have a t.r.a./s.c.s. hybrid, or the child can use a t.r.a./sign hybrid, e.g. prompt the adult's 'aeroplane' hand shape to move around in the 'sky' etc.

8. Complex Relationships

As we said the stages represent changes in more than one dimension, e.g. in complexity, level of abstraction, etc etc. So the relationships between the stages are poorly represented by a linear sequence as above. To get a better idea of the real distance between stages we need a diagram showing more than one dimension. This can also indicate different possible paths of development of the skills represented by the stages. This will become more and more necessary as we consider more and more stages or types of skill.
Such a diagram might be

        t.r.a. ---------------------------               |    
               ----------                |               |
          |              |               |               |
          |              |               |               |
          |              |               |               |
          |              |               |               |
          |              |               |              
          |              |           (3 D symbols)   (3 D symbols)   
    (symbolisation       |               |                              
      of objects)        |               |               |          
          |              |               |               |                                                
          |              |               |               |
          |              |               |               |
          |           (2 D symbols       v               v
          |          in real space)                                 
          |              |            puppets         puppets    
          v              |            realistic      generalised            
                         |               |               |
         mime            |               |               | 
                         |               |               |     
          |              v               |               |
          |                            (third          (third      
          |        t.r.a.- p.c.s.     dimension        dimension            
          |                           symbolised)      symbolised)
    (upper body part     |               |               |
     rep lower one)      |               |               |
          |              |               v               v 
          |              |                  
          |              |             movies          movies
          |              |           realistic        cartoon      
          |              |               |               |
          |         (2-D symbols         |               |
          v          in symbolic     (temporal     (temporal      
                       space          relations     relations        
         sign            |           symbolised)    symbolised)
                         |               |               |
                         |               |               |
                         |               v               v
                         ------------> p.c.s. -------> s.c.s. 

We have refined the scheme to deal with one hybrid or compound, that of t.r.a. - p.c.s. Note however that other hybrids are possible, e.g. t.r.a. - s.c.s. It might be however that some of these stages might be omitted in teaching.
Of course some connections are not indicated by arrows. For example we might develop s.c.s., and then go on to sign, since sign represents a likely advance over s.c.s. in that in that form of communication the symbols must be constructed and recall is involved, rather than recognition.
However one can argue that sign, in containing an element of a), or b), as far as the representation of time is concerned, is easier than s.c.s., since in this latter time must be represented as in c). One might think it more likely that the sequence should be
cartoon movies ------>sign------>s.c.s
The decision as to which of two stages is easier, will of course be facilitated by splitting the stages into sub-types, e.g. t.r.a. into t.r.a. type 1, t.r.a. type 2 and t.r.a. type3.
And, or, considering the above examples, of s.c.s. and sign, we might take the topic into consideration, and proceed from sign to s.c.s., if we are dealing with time, but from s.c.s. to sign, if we are dealing with any other material. It might be, again, that the issue will be affected by whether we are dealing with receptive processes, or expressive processes.
We see that some stages, probably all stages, can be reached, i.e. developed, from more than one previous stage. An example is cartoon movies, which could be reached from generalised puppets, or from realistic movies.
Do we choose one of these avenues, and if so which one, or do we use both?
If we choose one, does the one we choose vary with the individual child?
a) When a dimension is itself and does not represent anything else this is the easiest thing.
b) When a dimension represents itself, but to some scale, e.g. where 1" = 100', this is more difficult
c) When a dimension represents a different dimension, this is much more difficult, of course
As regards space, in t.r.a. - p.c.s. the situation is closer to a), while in p.c.s., and s.c.s., the situation is that of b)
As regards time, in p.c.s. and s.c.s., the situation is that of c), e.g. if picture of event e2, or situation s2, is to the right of the picture of event e1, or situation s1, then event e2, or situation s2, comes after event e1, or situation s1.
Naturally if we are representing objects, places, and situations, there is no need for a movie, our static pictures, in t.r.a. - p.c.s., p.c.s., and s.c.s., will be quite sufficient
Only when events, e.g. movements, are involved is there a big advantage for a movie, e.g. a short movie clip
If we are considering receptive processes, the above ranking of order of difficulty is certainly correct.
What about expressive processes? If course our children are not movie makers, but neither are they photographers or artists. To make things as easy as possible for our children we have tried, where possible, to limit their expressive response to a point.
So they are quite able to point to a symbol, or a photo, and probably to select a short movie clip, as representing something which happened, or is happening, or will happen, or that they would like to happen.
Of course another factor is the ease with which the staff can set up a system of communication and teaching for the child. To go into movie clips is perhaps beyond the resources of many people dealing with s.l.d. or 'autistic' children so we we will probably be skipping this stage

9. Coding.

Some ideas concerning a possible coding system.
1. We might start with the system devised by Stokoe to codify and describe A.S.L.
2. This must be supplemented by codings for the actual objects used in nr.a., t.r.a., etc.
3. But isn't this the wrong way round, we end up with a more primitive form being described by a more elaborate coding?
The answer to this is that the Stokoe coding is incomplete if we only consider the coding for handshape, and movement, and position(s) on the body.

The b.s.l. or any other dictionary obviously has to consider the meaning of the sign, we have to code this too. The signer or person signed to, has to add a mental, symbolised aspect, e.g. an imagined object, whereas in a lower stage the object might be actual. The coding would have to differentiate between an actual object, a simpler feat, and an imagined one, a more complex, and/or abstract, difficult feat.

More on coding