Symbols – The use of symbols and Widget symbols

By January 10, 2021 No Comments

What can symbols be used for?


Communication can take place in many different ways and symbols compliment, for example, speech, gestures, and signs. A person with a reduced ability to communicate often benefits greatly from symbols when talking to others, for example, to express their opinion and make choices. Communicating is a fundamental human right!

Widget symbols can be used in conjunction with both low- and high-tech communication aids. Printed material to support communication – low-tech aids can include, for example, different types of conversation cards, communication bundles, checklists, and books. Digital support for communication with voice output – high-tech aids are easy to carry and offer the opportunity for quick adaptation of content for the current situation.

Mapping and evaluation

Quite often there are discussions about what helps a certain student or user without the most important person – namely himself or herself being allowed to participate. Statements with symbol support to talk about can help people put their needs into words, which creates clarity, context, and increased autonomy.

Structure, schedule and planning

Symbols can be used to visually visualize what is to happen during the day/week, to be able to follow a work schedule, and in other ways get structure in everyday life. Symbolic support in the form of schedules and rules of procedure contributes to increased independence and creates security for people in need of extra support.

Read and write

Symbols can be very helpful for a person who for some reason has difficulty reading and writing. Symbols explain the meaning of words and thus facilitate the learning of new concepts. Symbol-supported information also creates opportunities for participation in society.

Language learning – Swedish as a second language

For people who are going to learn Swedish, e.g. in SVA / SFI teaching, symbols have proven to be a great help to e.g. explain words/concepts. Symbols can also be used in activities that work with refugee reception, to facilitate communication between people with different languages. You can, for example, create and print different types of exercise materials, communication maps, or information letters.


As a patient, understanding information and being able to make oneself understood during a medical or dental visit is very important. Symbol support can be very useful for, for example, children, people with another mother tongue or with cognitive impairment to understand an instruction or a context. Symbol support can also offer the opportunity to come prepared for a new and foreign situation.

Symbols around us

Marking with symbols in the local environment helps people to orient themselves on the site and find rooms as well as objects. This means that it does not have to use unnecessary energy to find the right one, bring out objects, and pick them up after themselves. Complementing information in society with symbols, for example, at an exhibition or in a tourist brochure, increases people’s ability to absorb this information.

Tasks and worksheets

Create tasks with symbol support to make the content of the teaching concrete and lasting. Symbolized worksheets can be a very good support for relieving weaker abilities so that students have the conditions to understand, express, process, and interact in a learning environment that is designed based on everyone being and learning differently. Describe, sort, see similarities and differences, compare, and evaluate are some suggestions for activities you can create with the help of our programs and symbol support.

Websites and websites

Symbols can make a website more accessible to the recipient. With increased internet use, the need to make information on websites more easily accessible also increases. Symbols help the user to orientate themselves more easily on the website but also to be able to more easily absorb information that in ordinary cases may only have existed in text form.

Explanation of the symbol system Widget symbols

  • Buildings, rooms, shops, and organizations
  • Buildings
  • Room
  • Business
  • Companies and organizations
  • Categories, groups, and topics
  • Categories
  • Groups and topics
  • People, family, faces, and pronouns
  • People and professions
  • Stick figures and people who are not stuck figures
  • Family
  • The faces
  • Pronoun
  • Healthcare and help
  • Healthcare symbols
  • Symbols for help
  • School and thinking
  • Training
  • Thought bubbles
  • Other thought bubbles
  • Reinforcement and negations
  • Strengthening
  • Comparative
  • Negations
  • Temperature and sound
  • Hot and cold
  • Speak
  • Sound
  • Prepositions and direction
  • Prepositions
  • Pillar
  • Time, days and months
  • Time
  • Days
  • Months
  • Country-specific and Swedish symbols
  • Country-specific symbols
  • Swedish symbols
  • Other important basic symbols
  • Star, pain, heart
  • Thumbs up, thumbs down
  • Abstract symbols and questions
  • Abstract symbols
  • Words like question words or not
  • Specifications – tempus, plural, definite form
  • Specifications
  • Tense
  • Plural
  • Definite form
  • Other properties of the symbol base
  • The same symbol for several words
  • The same word for several symbols
  • Color and black and white
  • Skin color

Buildings, rooms, shops, and organizations


There are two types of building: standard and large buildings. This provides an opportunity to distinguish between buildings such as convenience stores and supermarkets, clinics, and hospitals.


A room is a square. This makes it possible, for example, to distinguish between a library that is a house and a library that is a room in a school or between a restaurant and a dining room.


The standard store is a house with a cash register in it. In different types of stores, this is supplemented with a symbol that describes the product you are selling. Ex shoe store = store + shoe. In this way, you can show the difference between a library and a bookstore.

Companies and organizations

An organization or association has an enclosed shape in the same way as a building but with an arch shape to indicate an overall activity. A company is a commercial business and which is therefore described with a bow and money connected to it.

Categories, groups, and topics


Symbols that contain three smaller symbols within the same theme are usually the description of a category.

Groups and topics

Parentheses are used to denote a particular group, topic, or broader theme. The parentheses make it possible to distinguish such a theme in content from the very meaning of the basic symbol, for example, the difference between ‘geography’ and ‘globe’.

People, family, faces and pronouns

People and professions

People and their professions are shown as a person with associated attributes. The plural form for most professions is shown with two people instead of using the usual plural specification. (see heading Specifications – tempus, plural, definite form).

Stick figures and people who are not stuck figures

People are usually shown as stick figures without a specified gender, cultural affiliation or age. Sometimes, however, the symbol may need to show more details. This applies, for example, to the symbols for toddlers, friends, hugs – symbols that would not work as stick figures.


The circle is used to show “affiliation”. Mother is a woman in a circle and for wife, a heart is also added. For the girlfriend, the heart is shown but no circle. Relationships in a stepfamily are shown in a dashed circle.

The faces

Faces are used to show the differences between different emotional expressions.


There are two types of pronouns as symbols – personal and possessive. In personal pronouns, the hand appears as an arrow pointing to the person, me, her, her, etc. In possessive pronouns, the hand appears as a small filled circle (a closed hand), mine, hers, etc. The second person “you” can appear in both singular and plural.

Healthcare and help

Healthcare symbols

Symbols for health care are shown with a green cross.

Symbols for help

Help is shown with the “helping hand” and can be used both as a personal concept or together with symbols for people, activities, and things that are there to help.

School and thinking


The symbols within the theme of education are based on the basic concept that a teacher uses a whiteboard and shows / explains something to a group of people.

Thought bubbles

To represent personal thoughts and learning, a symbol with a face and a thought bubble is used. Arrows pointing in or out of the thought bubble are used to show “learn” or “recall / remember”. The thought bubble can also contain the addition of symbols that clarify the concept of thought to be explained.

Other thought bubbles

In tanks of special significance, a symbol appears inside the thought bubble. In this way, you can show symbols for more precise thought functions such as “calculate”.

Reinforcement and negations


Gray exclamation marks are used to emphasize or reinforce a concept, eg must and important.


Exclamation marks are also used to indicate comparatives and superlatives. A small exclamation mark shows comparative and two small exclamation marks indicate superlative through the increased emphasis.


There are a number of common negatives that are normally shown with a red line, both for symbols in color and in black and white. Other negations are shown with specific symbols.

Temperature and sound

Hot and cold

Heat is shown with heat radiation and for cooling a snowflake is used.


Symbols within the theme of speech are displayed with speech bubbles. The speech bubble can also contain other symbols to show a special form of speech, such as “ask” or be added to another symbol as a complement such as “swear”.


Other sounds that are not spoken, such as animal sounds and things that sound, use the symbol for the speaker icon instead.

Prepositions and direction


Preposition or position is indicated by a red ball in relation to the other parts of the symbol. A preposition on its own may seem abstract, but when the reader has learned ex. the symbol for “on” also becomes a symbol such as “under” logical and understandable in its context.


There are several ways to use arrows. Arrows are used to indicate various concepts such as direction, movement, action, and time or to indicate the relevant part of a symbol.

Time, days, and months


Time is normally displayed based on the general clock symbol for time. To this can be added red parts or arrows to clarify a concept of time. Specific times are displayed with numbers and hands on the dial. There are symbols for each time every five minutes throughout the day.


Days are displayed based on the general symbol for day and can be combined with other symbols to show other concepts. Each day of the week has its own symbol where a color marker also shows “the color of the day” based on Swedish standards for this.


For months, a symbol representing a calendar is used, which is supplemented with symbols to show different concepts.

Country-specific and Swedish symbols

Country-specific symbols

Widgit symbol base has been translated into several languages. Most symbols in the symbol system look the same for all languages, but some symbols may need to be changed to suit a country – for example, weekdays, and seasonal differences. In Australia, you have summer at a different time of year than we have in Sweden. There are also many culturally specific symbols from different countries. These are included in the main vocabulary so that the user can write about other cultures and geographical areas. Some country-specific symbols appear only in certain languages.

Swedish symbols

Widgit symbol base is constantly evolving and requests for new symbols come from users in all countries where the symbol base is used. In Sweden, we have used Widgit symbols since 1999 and over the years, many symbols have been drawn based on our Swedish wishes. Here is a small selection.

Other important basic symbols

Star, pain, heart symbol

In addition to the rules described in these pages, there are other important basic symbols that are used to be combined with other symbols, such as the star that indicates something that is “special” or “special”.

Thumbs up, thumbs down

The symbol for thumbs up or down is used throughout to show something positive or negative, such as “healthy”.

Abstract symbols and questions

Abstract symbols

Abstract symbols have always been a problem and it is doubtful if you need them in basic communication. It must be remembered that if you want to use abstract symbols, they must always be learned.

Words like question words or not

It is important to distinguish when a word is used as a question or not. At the beginning of a sentence, the word is usually a question while inside a sentence it should not appear as a question.

Specifications – tempus, plural, definite form


Specifications are grammatical additions to show inflectional forms for words in different word classes. In the Swedish version, we use specifications that can show tempus, plural, and definite form. Not all symbol users benefit from specifications, either because these extra suffixes become confusing or because the person can read the word and use the symbol to be reminded of the meaning of the word. In the programs with Widget symbols, you choose whether to display specifications or not.


Tempus for the past tense is indicated by an arrow on the verb and pointing backward. For tempus in the future “shall run”, the future is shown with the arrow forward in the symbol “shall”.


The plural is displayed with a specification in the form of double plus signs. Exceptions to this rule are professionals who are instead shown with two people. (see the section on persons)

Definite form

In the Swedish version, we have an add-on with a specification that can show whether a word is in a definite or indefinite form. The suffix can be used at the same time as the specification for plural for words in definite form and plural. The specification is normally turned off in the programs, you activate it for a user who benefits from seeing this difference.

Other properties of the symbol base

The same symbol for several words

Many symbols can be used together with different words in different contexts, for example:

The same word for several symbols

Many words have more than one meaning, and an important feature of the symbol programs is that you have the opportunity to choose the most appropriate symbol for the meaning. Each of the following symbols is used for the word “group”, all are nouns, but show different meanings of the word.

Color and black and white

The symbol programs with Widget symbols contain all the symbols in both black and white and in color. Studies with symbol users have shown that the use of color often helps the readability of the symbols. But there are times when the black and white drew symbols are more appropriate. In the symbol programs, you can easily switch between these modes.

Skin color

In the symbol programs, you also have the opportunity to change the color and skin color of symbols.

Read More: How to Develop Child’s Learning in Early Years