The use of pictograms for people with disabilities

You come across icons everywhere. When you see an icon, you often immediately know what it means. This way you know exactly what the rules are in traffic and in a restaurant you immediately know which toilet is intended for women and which toilet is intended for men. To you it probably doesn’t seem important to use pictograms, but for many people with disabilities the use of pictograms is very important.

What is an icon?

A pictogram is a drawing, usually in black and white. This drawing is trying to tell you something, it is depicting something. You come across a lot of pictograms in traffic, but also in the library and in other public buildings.

Good tool

For parents, teachers and supervisors of people with an intellectual disability and/or autism, the use of pictograms is a good tool to make something clear. This is because people with an intellectual disability and/or autism often have disorders in language and concept acquisition. Problems with auditory short-term memory and concentration are also common in these people. Processing verbal instructions is therefore difficult for these people and therefore the use of pictograms (or symbols) is a good tool to make something clear.

Why is using icons useful?

Icons can make something clear at a glance. Some people have difficulty reading or cannot read, but icons still allow them to see what is meant.
You can also incorporate pictograms into a step-by-step plan. A fixed routine is very important for people with an intellectual disability or autism. You can clarify the step-by-step plan with icons. Pictograms can be understood by everyone. If you want to make something clear in a place where there are people who can read and people who cannot read or have difficulty reading, it is therefore useful to choose to use pictograms.

Icons to indicate tasks

Icons can also be used to indicate tasks. This is often used in institutions where people with intellectual disabilities live or work. There is often a sign showing the names and/or photos of all employees or residents and stating the days and/or times. Magnets or stickers with pictograms make it clear who has to do what task and when. Anyone can understand this and it can be seen at a glance.

The first-then method also works very well when assigning tasks. The first-then method often involves making a card with the word first written on the left and the word then written on the right. Below this, icons can be used to indicate activities. The then activity can be a next task, but it can also be a reward. This method is often very motivating.

Choice boards

Choice boards are tools that provide choices of desired activities and rewards. Icons can also be used with selection boards. The icons then depict the activities. When the person has finished an activity, the icon associated with the activity can be removed from the selection board.
If you also use a choice of reward with a choice board, you can also have the person choose a reward and hang it on the board (as an icon). The reward will be an extra motivation to carry out the activity, especially if it is an annoying job. A reward can be an activity, for example watching television, but it can also be an object (gift) or something tasty.

Picto agenda

The picto agenda from PictoWorks is a large, green agenda that many people with intellectual disabilities use. Because days, months and times are indicated with pictos, it is also possible for people who cannot read or have difficulty reading to keep an agenda. The picto agenda also contains stickers that depict many different activities and moods that can be stuck in the agenda. Supervisors at day care centers and residential facilities often use the picto agendas to write a daily report. The agenda also serves as a means of communication between supervisors from various facilities and the parents of the owner of the agenda.
Whatever method you use, using icons, also called pictos, can be very useful for many people!

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