Introduction to the Communication Matrix

The Communication Matrix is an assessment tool created to help professionals and family members support individuals with complex communication needs. The Matrix evaluates expressive communication skills typically developed between 0-24 months of age. It is appropriate for individuals of any age who do not use some form of language fluently. They may have varying types and degrees of disabilities, including severe sensory, motor and cognitive impairments. The Matrix considers any type of communication including pre-symbolic, manual, braille, AAC and more. (Note: The paper version is a free download and the use of the intervention modules is free; however, there is a nominal fee to administer more than five of the on-line versions of the CM.)

Holli Decker, a speech-language pathologist, provides her personal experience with the Communication Matrix and the West Virginia Intervention Modules as tools for determining goals and providing therapy for her students with complex communication needs in a short video.

Disclaimer

The contents of this presentation do not necessarily represent the policy of the Communication Matrix Foundation and you should not assume endorsement by the Communication Matrix Foundation. The development of the Communication Matrix was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The Communication Matrix Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to ensuring the continued sustainability of the Communication Matrix Website.

Comments From Parents That Have Experienced The Benefits Of The Communication Matrix

Beau

“As overwhelmed parents of a newly diagnosed deaf plus child, we didn’t understand how to navigate much of what we had just been handed.  Not knowing anyone with hearing loss, and with no background in communication issues or training, we had no clue where to start.  The Communication Matrix provided sensible information with logical ways to help our child that just made sense to us and were easy to implement.  Our little boy has excelled more than we even envisioned.”

Beau
Maryn

Maryn

“The Matrix was such a simple tool we used to learn about Maryn’s communication and how to help her reach the world.  The Matrix helped us learn how to understand language in ways which enabled us to reach Maryn where she was on that journey.  It was so enlightening and educational as to what, when and how to support her. 

Maryn is now 15.  Her first Matrix was done when she was about four.  I wish we had known about it even earlier.  It was our amazing deaf-blind specialist that introduced us to it.  Because of that education, we went from knowing nothing and Maryn having no words to her using a dynamic communication device.  You just never know unless you have the tools to explore and support.  And we have video to document her journey.” 

Eli

“The Communication Matrix helped me get creative in methods to communication with my son and in a way that is more interesting to him.  The Communication Matrix helped me understand more ways to engage in communication with my son, especially with his sensory deficits.” 

How do I administer the Communication Matrix?

Navigating the Communication Matrix

The Communication Matrix Intervention Modules are organized so that the three-part “Communication Matrix Life After the Assessment: The Foundation for Intervention is viewed first. The Essential Strategies” should be viewed next, followed by viewing the videos for the one or two levels where the individual is functioning as identified on the Communication Matrix

Communication Matrix Modules:

Foundation Modules

We recommend starting with these modules first.

The Communication Matrix Foundation for Intervention module is a three-part, introductory module that teams will use to plan intervention.

Foundation Part 1

The Foundation for Intervention Module Part 1 discusses important points to remember when administering the Communication Matrix and describes the information that can be obtained when interpreting the Communication Matrix profile including a description of the Seven levels of the Matrix.

Foundation Part 2

Part 2 of the Communication Martrix Foundation for Intervention includes general intervention considerations, IEP/IFSP development, the Communication Bill of Rights, and the team’s responsibilities.

Foundation Part 3

Part 3 of the Communication Matrix Foundation for Intervention discusses the development of intentionality, receptive language development, concept development, and tips for using the modules. 

Resources:

The Communication Matrix – Life After the Assessment: The Foundation for Intervention

The Foundation For Intervention and the Intervention Essential Strategies modules (listed above) should be watched before any of these modules.

Individuals in Level I do not act intentionally, but their behavior reflects their general state (comfortable, uncomfortable, hungry, or sleepy). This module includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in Level I, including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways 

Strategies and Tools:

Level III – Part 1

Individuals at Level III use pre-symbolic behaviors intentionally to communicate. This first module of Level III includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in Level III including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways.

Level III – Part 2

Individuals at Level III use pre-symbolic behaviors intentionally to communicate. This second module of Level III focuses on the data collection process for targeted goals.

Strategies and Tools:

Level IV – Part 1

Individuals at Level IV intentionally use conventional pre-symbolic behaviors to communicate. Communicative behaviors are pre-symbolic because they do not involve any sort of symbol; they are conventional because they are socially acceptable, and we continue to use them to accompany our language as we mature. 

Level IV – Part 2

This module includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in level IV including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways 

Strategies and Tools: 

Level V – Part 1

Individuals at Level V use concrete symbols that physically resemble what they represent, to communicate. Level V is a transitional step that many individuals skip.  For some individuals, concrete symbols serve as a bridge to more abstract symbols.

Level V – Part 2

This module includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in level V including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways.  

Strategies and Tools 

Level VI – Part 1

In Level VI, behaviors are intentional, purposefully directed toward a communication partner, and have an intended meaning.  Individuals at Level VI use abstract symbols such as speech, manual signs, braille or printed words, or speech-generating device to communicate. 

Level VI – Part 2

This module includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in level VI including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways.

Strategies and Tools 

Level VII – Part 1

Individuals at Level VII can use Symbols (concrete or abstract) combined into two- or three-symbol combinations (‘want juice’, ‘me go out’), according to grammatical rules. The individual understands that the meaning of symbol combinations may differ depending upon how the symbols are ordered. 

Level VII – Part 2

This module builds on Part 1 and includes an in-depth description of the characteristics of an individual who is functioning in level VII including communicative behaviors and intents, specific intervention strategies and tools, IEP/IFSP considerations, and essential takeaways. 

Strategies and Tools

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1982). Language [Relevant Paper]. Available from www.asha.org/policy. 

Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (2013). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children & adults with complex communication needs 4th Edition. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing. 

Binger, C., Kent-Walsh, J., Harrington, N., and Hollerbach, Q.C. (2020) Tracking early sentence-building progress in graphic symbol communication Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. 51, 317-328. 

Brady, N. C., Bruce, S., Goldman, A., Erickson, K., Mineo, B., Ogletree, B. T., Paul, D., Romski, M., Sevcik, R., Siegel, E., Schoonover, J., Snell, M., Sylvester, L., & Wilkinson, K. (2016). Communication services and supports for individuals with severe disabilities: Guidance for assessment and intervention. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 121(2), 121–138. 

Dowden, P.A. (1999). Augmentative & alternative communication for children with motor speech disorders. In Caruso, A., and Strand, E. A. Eds.) Clinical Management of Motor Speech Disorders of Children. New York: Thieme Publishing Co. 

Giangreco, Michael & Ruelle, Kevin (2002), Ants in the Pants, Sage Publications. 

Laubscher, E. & Light, J (2020): Core vocabulary lists for young children and considerations for early language development: a narrative review, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, DOI: 10.1080/07434618.2020.1737964 

Lynch, Y., McCleary, M., et al. (2018), Instructional strategies used in direct AAC interventions with children to support graphic symbol learning: A systematic review child language teaching & therapy, 34(1), 23-36. 

Pistorius, M. (2013). Ghost boy: The miraculous escape of a misdiagnosed boy trapped inside his own body. Nashville, TN:  Nelson Books. 

Stafford, A. (2005). Choice making: A strategy for students with severe disabilities. Council for Exceptional Children. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/004005990503700602 

All Children Can Read

Literacy for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss (nationaldb.org)

Communication Matrix Foundation

OHOA Modules

OHOA Module: Availability for Learning

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Center

www.pattan.net

Presentations

By Susan M. Bashninski, Missouri Western State University

Project SALUTE

https://www.nationaldb.org/info-center/project-salute/

Information Sheets

https://www.nationaldb.org/info-center/project-salute/#brief-information-sheets

  • Object Cue
  • Touch Cue

Project SPARKLE, 2006: Ski-Hi Institute, Utah State University

http://www.sparkle.usu.edu/Topics/concept_development/index.php

SKI-HI

https://ski-hi.mystrikingly.com

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

https://www.tsbvi.edu/

Types of Calendar Systems, University of South Dakota

https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Deaf-Blind-InTouch-Newsletter-December-2019.html?soid=1122568194621&aid=ENX4kJ3_EbI

Washington Sensory Disability Services

https://www.wsdsonline.org/forms/

Georgia Sensory Assistance Project

Georgia Sensory Assistance Project LogoSpecial thanks to Martha Veto and Heather Boyle from the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project (GSAP) for collaborating with the West Virginia Team on the resources for these modules. GSAP is a discretionary federal grant-funded through the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to increase the capacity of education teams and families to educate children who are deaf-blind. GSAP provides consultation, training, and resources for educators, service providers, and families of children and youth with combined vision and hearing loss, from birth through 21 years of age, across the state of Georgia.