Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR) Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Shriver Center; Center for Health Policy and Research

Publication Date


Document Type



Communication Disorders; Down Syndrome; Communication Aids for Disabled; Color Perception; Child, Preschool


Communication Sciences and Disorders | Congenital, Hereditary, and Neonatal Diseases and Abnormalities | Nervous System Diseases


Aided augmentative and alternative communication can be used successfully with individuals with communication disabilities. Recent studies suggest that, where possible, arranging symbols based on internal color (placing red fruits together) facilitates search for a target symbol by children with and without Down syndrome (Wilkinson, Carlin, & Thistle, 2008). We explored whether color cuing of symbol background might offer similar benefits for symbols that cannot readily be arranged by internal color. Ten nondisabled preschoolers engaged in computer search tasks for line drawings representing common animals when the line drawings appeared on white backgrounds compared to color-saturated backgrounds that cued the subcategory to which the target belonged (land mammal, sea creature, bird, insect). Older children showed no consistent enhancement across conditions. Younger children responded significantly more slowly when the color cue was present. Background color cuing may function differently than symbol-internal color cues, impeding responses in younger children rather than facilitating them.


Wilkinson, K.M., and Coombs, B. (2010). Preliminary exploration of the effect of background color on the speed and accuracy of search for an aided symbol target by typically developing preschoolers. Early Childhood Services; Special Issue on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 4(3), 171-183.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Early Childhood Services; Special Issue on Augmentative and Alternative Communication