Skip to content

There are many ways you can use ParticiPics pictographs to facilitate conversations with people with aphasia or make various other forms of communications more accessible.

Interactive Pictographic Resources

Supported Conversation for Adults (SCAtm)

By organizing pictographs with keywords, you can create your own resources to use in conversations with people with aphasia, as part of a method for supporting – e.g. Supported Conversation for Adults (SCAtm). At the heart of SCAtm, is acknowledging a person’s competence and revealing it through techniques that facilitate the exchange of information, opinions, and feelings through conversation.

Acknowledging competence

Acknowledging competence refers to techniques that show adults with aphasia that you know they are inherently competent. These techniques include using a natural tone of voice, choosing adult or complex topics for discussion, or letting the person with aphasia know that you understand they have more cognitive and social skills than it may appear, for example by telling them “I know that you know". Despite your best efforts, there will be times when communication breaks down – it is valid and comforting to acknowledge the shared experience of being frustrated as well.

Revealing competence

Revealing competence refers to techniques that facilitate the exchange of information, opinions, and feelings. The 3 central components of revealing competence are supporting those with aphasia to get the message IN, get the message OUT, and VERIFY that you’ve understood the conversation accurately. Using pictographs is a valuable technique for each component and works in conjunction with other SCAtm techniques like using gestures and writing keywords.

Getting the message IN means supporting a person with aphasia’s understanding of the conversation and modifying how we communicate when necessary. As you speak, you can point to the pictographs or keywords on a pictographic resource, write down new keywords, draw new images, or use gestures to develop your conversation and provide more information

Getting the message OUT means supporting a person with aphasia in expressing themselves. By having pictographic resources, you can ask them to point to a picture to indicate their response to your questions, introduce a new topic, which is often especially difficult for a person with aphasia, or to refer back to a previous topic or comment. Another example of an "OUT" technique is writing out choices that a person with aphasia can point to.

VERIFYING the message is important for avoiding miscommunication and making a person with aphasia feel understood and valued. Pictographs provide a shared visual reference to help ensure all parties of the conversation are on the same page. When repeating a person’s message or summarizing a conversation, you can refer to the pictographs or keywords you’ve used throughout your conversation. You can also use pictographs for yes and no to ensure they are indicating yes/no properly.

The pictographs don’t replace verbalization, but rather support it and enhance the conversation. Used with other communication techniques in SCA, pictographs can be a powerful tool to enrich conversations for those with aphasia. The Aphasia Institute offers various learning and training opportunities for SCA year round. You can learn more about them at or email us at

Creating and using pictographic resources

ParticiPics provides great flexibility for creating your own interactive pictographic resources to use in conversations. You can use templates that we have created with pictographs downloaded from ParticiPics or your own images. You can also create your own resources from scratch using desktop publishing software like Microsoft Word or graphics editors like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator and cater to specific needs. For example, you can create pictographic resources with layouts that take loss of visual field, a common consequence of stroke, into consideration.

Tips for creating your own pictographic resources

  • Use one topic per page to avoid confusion
  • Make sure the pictograph size and text font are large and easily viewable
  • Include a topic on the top of the page
  • Focus your keywords on the most important concepts only
  • Use simple language for your keywords – single words or short phrases
  • Highlight the most important concept with bolding if short phrases are used

Reducing visual distractions

Too much visual material presented on a single page may be overwhelming for some people with severe aphasia or visual field deficits. We suggest that you present only one or two pictured items at a time. You can use a blank sheet of paper, self adhesive notes or your hand to cover some of the page that is not currently being discussed.

Here are some examples:

Case history resource for asking patient what they were doing when symptoms started
Conversation display/board for talking to a person with aphasia about their family
Pain scale for indicating severity

Stand-alone Resources

Pictographs from ParticiPics can be used in stand-alone resources to make information more accessible, such as in event flyers, brochures, notices, or signage. You can use one of the templates we've created, such as our event flyer template, or create your own resource from scratch using desktop publishing software like Microsoft Word or graphics editors like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator and cater to specific needs. These resources are also helpful for discussing the information in conversation. For example, an aphasia-friendly event flyer made with pictographs can be posted on a bulletin for viewing or used to support a conversation about an upcoming event. The ParticiPics pictographs can also in Powerpoint slides or other presentations to make them more accessible.

Here are some examples: