Colourful semantics is proving very successful to our children who are on the autism spectrum.

Our therapist’s have been using Colourful Semantic with a range of children at their homes and schools.

We have been experiencing great success rates using this approach to help develop our clients spoken/signed vocabulary and sentence structure .

“Colourful Semantics has been proving successful with our clients who have difficulties on the Autism spectrum. We have found that the children have responded really well to the colour coding system, which has allowed the therapists and other adults to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structures”.

The most successful way to motivate our clients has been to use favourite TV characters or topics of interest, for example many of our children like CBeebies tv characters, so we have used these as our orange pictures and have began to make up sentences about them.

See our resource section where we have made available all the free colourful semantics downloads of popular characters.
Generally there appears to be two standard responses to colourful semantics;
  1. Those children who tune into the colour coded system, in which case we would introduce the coloured boxes quickly so the child becomes used to sorting the colours of the pictures, whilst the adults reinforces the vocabulary and the sentence structures.
  2. Those who tune into the actual photos and therefore we would introduce the colours more gradually, concentrating more on the content of each picture and the smaller joining words.

Colourful semantics can be presented in a fun and structured way, making it easily accessible to clients with Autism and specific speech and language difficulties.

We use various methods to get things started;

  • Pulling pictures out of a bag, hat, box – this builds the suspense and keeps the child’s attention focussed.
  • We get involved in actions when introducing the yellow pictures, reinforcing the words and signs
  • We use recordable message cards – (See our Special Direct resource review) to record sentences that we have made
  • We encourage our clients to take photos with us, that can be used in colourful semantics so it becomes more meaningful land functional.

We have started to add an additional photo box to the earlier sentence boards, so that the children can pick the coloured pictures which describe a photo. See our downloadable colourful semantics resources for a copy of these.

We have found this approach easy to incorporate into the school setting and to use with a range of children.

“When I worked in a speech and language unit in Leicestershire, we had children who were unable to write a sentence let alone half a page. With the use of colourful semantics, we encouraged children into make coloured picture strips to describe a book they had just read as a class, or to describe an activity they had just done. Initially the children would just stick in the coloured pictures in order to record their ideas. They would soon begin to copy write the key words from the pictures and gradually they would begin to write in the little words such as ‘the, and, under the’. Before long the children were able to write sentences on their own, using the colourful semantics as just a prompt. Colourful semantics can really scaffold emerging literacy skills and help the child gain confidence really quickly.”

We will continue to make available new resources that we have found helpful to our clients. If you have any comments or ideas about using colourful semantics, please do email us your experiences so we can share them on the site.

We are also happy for you to ask us questions about how to implement the approach, but just remember we can not give specific advice about a child unless we have seen them first.
Sarah Needham
Director and Speech and Language therapist
August 2008

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