The use of graphic symbols in inclusive primary schools:
an investigation of symbol practices and beliefs of teachers and therapists.
Graphic Symbols

In this website you will find information about a research project on graphic symbol use. The project is co-funded by the Republic of Cyprus and the European Regional Development Fund of the EU through the Research Promotion Foundation of Cyprus. On the home page you will find a summary of the research project, while  there are also several links that provide more specific information on the various definitions of graphic symbols and information on some of the available symbol sets and systems. In the near future the website will be updated to include information on how graphic symbols can be used by both teachers (classroom teachers, Teaching Assistants, Special Education Teachers) and Speech and Language Therapists based on the outcomes of this research project.

Research Summary


Since the mid-1980s, graphic symbols have been mainly used to support pupils with communication difficulties and were usually found in special needs schools (Mizuko and Reichle, 1989; Grove and Walker, 1990; Abbott and Lucey, 2005). However, it has also been suggested that graphic symbols can support learning, as they can help pupils to more easily access the curriculum and participate in classroom activities.  The use of graphic symbols for communication, learning, accessibility and other purposes are now examples of symbol practices that can be found in mainstream schools (Abbott, 2000; Detheridge and Detheridge, 2002; Pampoulou and Detheridge, 2007).

However, there is currently limited research exploring symbol practices in mainstream schools, and more specifically, the collaboration - if it exists - among teachers (classroom teachers, Teaching Assistants, Special Education Teachers) and Speech and Language Therapists in the implementation of graphic symbols in mainstream schools. This research project aims to contribute to the research in the field of symbol practices in mainstream schools; the research questions proposed herein, formulated after a thorough literature review of the topic, are as follows:

  1. Symbol practices: how do practitioners use graphic symbols in mainstream schools?
  2. Practitioners’ beliefs: what are practitioners’ beliefs about graphic symbols?
  3. Collaboration among practitioners: do practitioners work together in using graphic symbols with their pupils and, if so, in what way?


The data for this investigation will be taken from four information-rich case studies based in four mainstream primary schools.  These schools will be recruited through a postal survey (questionnaire) sent to two Local Authorities in England and to all state primary schools in Cyprus. To be included in the study, practitioners must work in a mainstream primary school and use graphic symbols.  The aim of the sampling process will be to select four schools as individual case studies, in which practitioners from each professional group (teacher, Teaching Assistant, Special Education Teacher and Speech and Language Therapist) are willing to participate.


The knowledge acquired through this research will contribute to the development of a theoretical framework of symbol practices and beliefs to which future research and all related stakeholders interested in graphic symbols can refer.

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