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Find out more about communication methods and read inspiring stories about the people that use them.
Learn what objects of reference are, who uses them, how they help to communicate and how to get started.
An object of reference is a whole physical object, or part of an object, that you hold or touch to represent or identify:
Objects of reference are helpful if you have one or more of the following:
Objects of reference are also helpful for parents, family members, friends, therapists and school and support staff communicating with people with complex disabilities.
Sometimes, depending on your disabilities, when you know how to use objects of reference, you might be able to move on to signing, or photographs and symbols.
Objects of reference help you to:
“We regularly supported a lady to go to the swimming pool and we used her personal symbol on her locker door This meant that after swimming she could trail her hand along the lockers to find her own belongings. It just gave her a little more independence.”
You learn to use objects of reference much as you learn to use spoken words – you always use the same objects to mean the same things.
Over time, a connection develops between an object and what it means.
It’s good to start with a few objects for activities that happen often or for people you see all the time, such as family members.
Regular repetition with a few objects makes it easier to make the connection between the object and its meaning.
It also makes it easier to get the whole idea of connecting meaning to objects.
If you have complex disabilities and use objects of reference, the objects need to be:
If you use objects of reference to communicate with someone with complex disabilities, the objects need to be:
“Tilly uses objects of reference to request a nursery rhyme at the end of a virtual pre-school group. She looks carefully in her bag of objects of reference but always chooses The Wheels on the Bus!”