Song signifiers

Want to know a bit more about song signifiers…what they are?…how best to use them? Take a few minutes to check out this video, and it will help you get a better idea…

Intensive Interaction

Intensive interaction is an approach for sharing enjoyable and meaningful interactions with children and adults who have complex communication needs.  It involves using the learner’s own movements, body language and vocalisation to take turns and share attention with each other.  Intensive interaction can be used to develop our learner’s communication skills. In this video you can hear the song signifier, as well as seeing both an object signifier (the tinsel) and a symbol which can also be used to communicate what’s about to happen.

Going out on the bus

This song signifier can be song when someone is going out on a trip – to the shops, to the library, to the beach etc. It can be sung to help the individual get on the bus (or the car – see below) (i.e. reassure them that they ARE going somewhere) and then, if needed, once on the bus, a second song signifier can be sung to help them understand where they are going (e.g. you might follow up with the “Swimming” song signifier).
If they are travelling by car, you could substitute “on the bus” with “in the car”, and sign car, instead of bus.

Swimming song signifier

This song can be sung as you leave to go swimming, on your way to swimming, as you get changed for swimming, as you head to the pool…or any variation of these. As with all song signifiers, it will help make clearer what is about to happen, and can help calm nerves, help focus so you decide when and how it is best to use it.

Singing this song would signify to a child that snack was the next thing happening in their day.

This song can be sung before and during the activity of hand washing, to help someone recognise what is about to happen/happening, thus relieving any stress or anxiety about the unknown.

This is a really useful song to sing at the end of an activity. It communicates clearly to the listener that something is about to stop/change, and can have a really calming effect when used appropriately. In this example “work” is used to denote the activity, but can obviously be replaced with the appropriate activity name/sign.

This is a song which can be sung to someone when they are out, and about to go home. At this time, you should sing the “Finish” song (see other signifiers) followed by this song. If this is done consistently, it may become clear to the child that things are about to change. As a result, the song may help reduce any behaviours arising from feelings such as anxiety around what is happening.

This song can be sung just before lunch (or before any other meal other than snack – see “Snack” Song signifier) to help clarify what is about to happen, and help someone be calmer and more focussed.

Special School, City of Edinburgh Council.

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