Communication Series – Colourful Semantics – Who?

Colourful Semantics – Teaching Who


Link for the first post on Colourful Semantics.

The first level of Colourful Semantics is essentially teaching the student to answer the question “Who is that?”. You may already have resources from the link I provided in the previous post, if not then scroll to the bottom of the page where I have attached some photos and corresponding “Who” cards as well as a strip for you to put them all on.

It is often best to start by using photos rather than comics or cartoons, and particularly using photos of people that are well known to the student. You can use photos of the student themselves, although whether you label that photo “Child’s name” or “I” will depend on how well your student responds to pronouns. Colourful Semantics does offer itself up as a resource to assist in developing the pronoun I.

So choose a selection of say 2 or 3 photos initially and place the first one in front of the student, above their Colourful Semantics strip. For the first few times you work on Colourful Semantics you will want to help your student to succeed by giving them a choice of two cards as answers – for the very first few attempts you can make the choices vastly different. Place these below the Colourful Semantics strip.

Now point at the photo and ask “Who?” or “Who’s that?”, once the student has looked at the photo direct their attention to the two colourful semantics cards. Some students may grasp what you want them to do very quickly – otherwise you can (after an appropriate pause for processing time) prompt them by labelling the two options.

Once the child picks a card you will either reinforce “That’s right! It’s x!”, or say something like “Good try, but look – it’s y” then show them the correct card. Once the correct card has been identified prompt the child to place the card on the strip. Then point at the photo again and ask “Who’s that?”, then prompt the child to exchange the colourful semantics strip or point to the card that’s now on their colourful semantics strip and say “That’s right, it’s x”. Make sure to praise your student appropriately – enough for them to know they’ve have achieved something, but not so over the top that they feel patrionised. You or someone else close to the student will be best placed to ask or to know best what level of praise to offer.

Example 1

Photo is of a boy playing football, choices are between a boy and a rabbit.

Teacher: Who’s that? *points at boy in photo*

Student: *studies photograph*

Teacher: *waits for ~10 seconds* Who’s that? *points at boy in photo and waits for 10 seconds* Is it boy *points to boy colourful semantics card* or rabbit? *points to rabbit colourful semantics card*

Student: *picks up boy colourful semantics card and teacher guides to place on colourful semantics strip*

Teacher: Good work. *points to photograph* Who’s that? *guides student to point to colourful semantics strip* it’s a boy.

And that is basically the first level of Colourful Semantics. Some students will be able to progress onto level two very quickly, others will need some time to get used to the new means of communication they are using. Either way, make sure you use a range of photographs with people to identify, and if the student is doing well then try introducing non-photorealistic images such as cartoons and comics.

Even this first level of Colourful Semantics helps to open up opportunities for communication – even if it’s not immediately obvious. Some examples include:

  • You could share a few minutes looking through a family photo album, stopping every few photos and asking “Who’s that?”.
  • At school the student can engage in Reading sessions using books appropriate to their level and can answer the question “Who’s that?” during the reading.
  • If your student grasps the concept very quickly you can introduce using Colourful Semantics in real-time, by which I mean you point to an actual person (who you have the Colourful Semantics card already made up for) and ask your student “Who’s that?” or “Who’s over there?”

There are more possibilities so if anyone has anything that has worked well for them personally to share then leave a comment.

I hope this was helpful, even though I decided to only do “Who” in this post to avoid making the post excessively long.

Until next time.


Attachments for Information

Colourful Semantics Who Sheet.pdf

Photos for Who. pdf (All photos are copyright free taken from Pixabay)

Sentence Strips.pdf

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.

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In addition, please include the following company information in the resource section of your documentation:

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Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

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