SAM: Symbols and Meaning

Strategies for learners with visual and multiple impairments

April 19th and 20th

9AM - 4PM

@ Education Service Center Region 11


Many young children and students with visual and multiple impairments are exposed to language referring to things they have never seen or touched. As a result, they hear words, and sometimes say words, that have no meaning. SAM is a program to help young children and students with visual and multiple impairments develop solid sensory-based concepts about people, objects, actions, and places as a foundation upon which to build use of meaningful symbols. SAM is designed to make sure that words and other symbols are paired with people, objects, and actions using multisensory strategies. SAM moves students from the sensorimotor stage skills addressed in the SLK to the symbolic skills that are part of the learning that takes place at the early preoperational stage of cognitive development.


Participants will

  1. Explore multisensory strategies for the development of concepts about people, objects, actions, and places that are part of regularly occurring activities in common environments

  2. Use evaluation tools to determine gaps in concept development

  3. View video demonstrations of teaching activities designed to establish symbol meaning by matching symbols with their concrete referents in immediate sensory based repetitive trials


Teachers of the Visually Impaired

Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Special Education Teachers

Teachers of the Deaf Hard of Hearing


Anyone working with or assessing students in the preoperational phase


Day One


  • Overcoming sensory barriers to the development of meaningful concepts
  • First symbols: Words, mimicked actions, and whole objects


  • Strategies and activities for building receptive vocabulary

Day Two


  • Assessment tools for designing instruction and measuring achievement


  • Using SAM games to expand concepts and vocabulary

Presented by: Millie Smith, Consultant, Developer of the APH Sensory Learning Kit and Symbols and Meaning Kit

Millie Smith is a private consultant for students with visual and multiple impairments. She worked at the Texas School for the Bind and Visually Impaired as an outreach teacher-trainer, classroom teacher of students with visual and multiple impairments, and a resource teacher for academic students who were visually impaired. Millie was an itinerant teacher of students who are visually impaired in the Dallas Independent School District, as well as an instructor at the University of Texas at Austin. She has a master's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in visual impairment and emotional disturbance. She has published several books and numerous articles.

Stephanie Walker

Educational Consultant

Visual Impairments and Orientation & Mobility

Instructional Services Division