Multimodal Communication in Early Intervention

Multimodal Communication in Early Intervention:

Successfully using Signing, Symbols and Apps to help children become better communicators

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On the weekend I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of Early Intervention Educators at the ECIA CONFERENCE in Brisbane.

Here is a summary of what we discussed. My key message was to integrate the use of signing, symbols as well as apps (on the iPad) to help develop and extend the communication skills of the students in their classes.

Check out my entire presentation on Slideshare, by following this link:


Speech Development

As a very general guideline, speech sounds develop as follows:

Early sounds: p,b, t, d, m, n, w, vowels

Crucial sounds often in error: s, z, k, g, f, l, h, blends

Harder sounds: sh, ch, j

Last sounds to develop: r, th, v

I encourage all early educators to take a fun and proactive approach to sounds. Make speech sounds in mirrors, in play-based contexts, stimulating those sounds and sound imitation skills.

Signing: Signing can support students with unclear speech. If they sign as they speak, it may help us to understand those words they are having difficulty saying.

Symbols: You can easily create low tech symbol cards to target words and sounds.

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App suggestions:

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Direct App links:

Articulation Station

Articulation Castle


Oral Language

In Early Intervention environments, there are many opportunities for encouraging oral language development: developing and extend vocabulary; listening and following directions; developing and extending sentence length, etc.

Signing: Signing can support oral language development, as it can provide an extra visual cue for words in sentences.

Symbols: Using symbol-based activities are great for developing oral language.

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App suggestions:

Oral language – interactive

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Direct App links:

Cookie Doodle
My playhome
Clicky Sticky


Toca Boca:

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Direct App links:

Toca Boca Tea Party
Toca Doctor HD
Toca Hair Salon 2
Toca Kitchen
Toca Tailor
Toca Tailor Fairy Tales
Toca Kitchen Monsters
Toca Train
Toca House
Toca Boca Store
Parenting’s Birthday Party Playtime

Oral Language – Structured

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Bag Game
Speech with Milo – Sequencing
Special Words


Sentence Builder


Communication Systems

Combine Signing, symbols and Apps to support students with little or no speech.

Links to websites:

Apps for AAC list

AAC webinar series

Signing: Using signing to support or as an alternative to speech is a very important tool for young children with little or no speech.

Symbols: Use low-tech symbol tools such as : Aided Language Stimulation boards, Communication books, PODD, PECS.

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A small selection of Apps for AAC:

TouchChat HD – AAC
Sounding Board
SpeechHero AAC


Early Literacy

Links to websites:

Spectronics blogpost

Spectronics Online Early Literacy Series of Webinars

Signing: Finger spelling of the alphabet may support literacy development for some students.

Symbols: Use symbols to create literacy based materials.

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App suggestions:

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Direct App links:

First Words Deluxe
Kids Crosswords
Montessori Crosswords
Alpha Writer
Word Wizard
Monkey Word School Adventure
Simplex Spelling Phonics 1
Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables
abc PocketPhonics
Starfall ABCs
rED Writing – Learn to Write
Intro To Reading by Oz Phonics
Oz Phonics 1


Behaviour Tools

Symbols: Use of symbols to provide positive behaviour support is very powerful in the classroom. Here are some examples.

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A Small selection of Apps for Behaviour include:

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Direct Links to Apps:

Visual Routine
Token Board
Sharing Timer
Calm Counter


Create stuff

All early educators should create their own materials to support the communciation development of students in their classrooms. From schedules, to chat books, to personal histories, to social stories, and everything in between!

Signing: Create personal sign dictionaries, of key signs to use with the students, or with images and descriptions of a student’s sign variations.

Symbols: Keep using Boardmaker, Symwriter and other symbol based programs to create resources for your classroom! Check out these websites for ideas and symbol resources:

App suggestions:

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Direct App links:

Book Creator
PuppetPals HD


Get more Signing information here:



Using Multimodal communication strategies of signing, symbols and apps, can help students in our classrooms become better communicators! Here’s what you have to do……….








Thanks for stopping by today!


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About Amanda Hartmann

Amanda is a Speech Pathologist with over 17 years experience. She has worked within educational settings, and currently divides her time between her busy private practice and as an Inclusive Technology Consultant with Spectronics

Amanda is a Key Word Sign/Makaton Presenter, an official Proloquo2Go trainer and an official expert TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box. She is also a certified Apple Trainer and regularly runs iPad workshops to help schools integrate iPad technology into the classroom, for all learners.

Amanda has a special interest in supporting and developing communication, literacy and learning for a wide range of diverse learners, often through the use of visual tools, sign language and technology. She has spent many years providing therapy support and teacher/parent training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for students with complex communication needs, due to disabilities such as: Cerebral palsy and other Physical impairments, Visual impairment, Hearing impairment, Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Intellectual Impairment, Angelman Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others. She also has specialist knowledge to support the literacy learning of students with learning difficulties, language impairments and other diverse learning needs. She is passionate about providing interactive and engaging presentations to educators, parents and therapists.

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