Dual-Symbol Immersion Theory

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Welcome back! We’re talking today about Dual-Symbol Immersion — the immersion in two symbol systems simultaneously, the ability to see and hear language throughout the day in all contexts. You and I know and have heard for years that to become proficient in language one must be immersed. That applies if it’s our first language. It also applies if we’re learning a second language, and Dual-Symbol Immersion Theory says it applies when it’s one language but a second symbol system.

What happens is that when a person has not developed their language verbally, they’ve not been able to develop that expressive language verbally, sometimes there’s a known reason and sometimes there’s an unknown reason for that. But when the person has not been able to develop the ability to express themselves, we bring in Augmentative Communication — a way to be able to speak in an alternative symbol system and to be able to express oneself in that symbol system. It sounds like an easy fix, but we’ve known for quite a while that it’s not a quick fix. Giving someone a form of augmentative communication means that you’ve solved the question of a mode for them to be able to express themselves — you’ve given them a way to be able to express themselves.

But that still still requires development. That development of expressive language moves from speaking in single words or single symbols to speaking in two-word combinations — speech and picture symbols or just picture symbols — on up to speaking complex sentences. We know that for speech, that first step in the expressive speech is baffling. All of those developmental stages still need to happen when that language is through an augmentative communication system. Dual-Symbol Immersion Theory which is developed by Hear MY Voice – Language Through AAC through myself, Deann O’Lenick, and Courtney Treviño (née Garcia), we’ve developed the theory to be able to realign verbal expressive language and the expressive language through an alternative symbol system. The essential element of it is immersion that to move through those developmental stages we need to hear and see that language be made visible. We need to hear the little conversations as well as the big instructions. Through that the symbol speaker will have the opportunity to develop their own skills through the developmental sequence.

It’s about language. The reason we augment is to develop language. Dual-Symbol Immersion Theory is a way to be able to explain and align the development of language through augmentative communication with the development of language verbally. For those of us who have already developed our language and have watched the verbal development of language through our own children, our siblings, our friends’ children, through the work that we do, we know that there is a developmental sequence and developmental progression. We need to be reminded of that when that language is through an augmentative communication system.

Dual-Symbol Immersion aligns us with language and language development. It reminds us that we need to speak in the language and the modality or the symbol system being developed throughout the day, throughout the environment, throughout context. Symbol-it was designed in order to make that more impossible. That’s a wonderful phrase! Make that more possible — make that easier for interested parties and family members who don’t know the speech-generating device or the augmentative communication system and for incidental communication partners to be able to speak to and speak into the development of our symbol speakers. So, with that, go ahead and Symbol-It!

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