Locations in the classroom and around the school should be labeled in whatever format is most meaningful to the individual student, including braille, large print, picture symbols, objects or tactile symbols, or some combination. While braille and print labels are straight-forward, it is important to think carefully about tactile and picture symbols. The symbols that are selected should be meaningful to the individual child and should be reinforced during exploration and an activity. For example, if the symbol for "bathroom" is a piece of smooth tile, it is important to be sure that the child feels the tile in the bathroom and that you talk about it together and refer back to the symbol.
Object symbols can be embedded in a piece of tri-wall or triple corrugated cardboard to make them easier to distinguish. Students should have repeated exposure in order for them to be meaningful. Members of the child's family should be actively involved in discussions with school personnel about which items in the environment should be labeled and what symbol should be chosen. When possible, try to use the same symbols across locations (school and home), so that the concept will be reinforced in all settings.
In the photo on the left, each child's locker has been labeled in multiple formats, using large print, braille, and an object symbol that is unique to each child. If object symbols are chosen for an individual child, they should be used everywhere that her name appears, such as at her desk, by her cubby, at her seat in the lunchroom, etc. The photo on the right shows a picture symbol, print and braille labels, and an object symbol for OT (Occupational Therapy).
There are many ways in which literacy can be incorporated into Orientation and Mobility (O & M) and it is important for all members of the team to be involved in the planning process. Together look at which locations should be labeled, such as the child's locker or cubby, the child's desk, the bathroom, areas in the classroom (book area, music area, etc.), and areas around the school where the child goes (the gym, library, cafeteria, etc.)
For more information about tangible symbols see the Tangible Symbols Webcast.