Michelle Cangelosi’s 8-year-old daughter Abby uses an AAC device to communicate.
AAC is short for augmentative and alternative communication. While there are many ways to use an AAC device, Abby uses it with her eyes. The computer detects where she is looking and presses a button to convey what she wants to say.
As Cangelosi began using picture symbols and icons on Abby’s device to teach her about the world around her, she realized there weren’t many icons available to teach her about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The gospel is a big part of our lives and there are unique words from the gospel. And on the devices, you don’t have these words. You either have to put them in or try to explain it in a different way if you’re using her device,” said Cangelosi, who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area.
The religious icons that were available often did not align with the Church’s doctrine. For example, an icon for baptism showed a baby with water being sprinkled on their head.
“I was just thinking that it would be really great for Abby and other people like her to be able to have these words accessible for them to be able to use,” Cangelosi explained.
After reading articles in the Church magazines about members with disabilities, Cangelosi and her husband, Kevin, decided to reach out to Katie Steed, the Church’s disability specialist manager. They voiced their concern, and a process for creating gospel-related picture symbols began.
On Dec. 12, the first ever library of Gospel Language Symbols was published. It is now available for download on the Church’s website.
The library includes images that can help parents, leaders and others teach Church principles and doctrine. These symbols can be particularly helpful for someone like Abby who cannot speak, but they can benefit anyone who prefers to use a visual image to represent words and phrases related to the Savior’s Church and His gospel.
Steed said the more her team has shared these icons with others, the more ways they are seeing how they can be used.
“For example, a Primary teacher or parent can use the symbols with young children to help them better understand gospel topics by making them more visual. The images can also be used to help bridge the gap when teaching about the gospel in various languages,” Steed said.
“We see a potential for these symbols to bless the lives of many teachers, learners and families as they desire to better understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Cangelosi said she is grateful she and her husband reached out, not only for Abby but for others as well.
“The Church came to know that there was a need for a mother’s voice,” Cangelosi said. “I think that there are things that we don’t always know that need to happen, but when we speak and let others know, things can change and people can really get the help that they need.
“A mom’s voice, a parent’s voice, is very important in helping our children and helping our Church community too.”
Gospel Language Symbols can be found in the Gospel Library app and online in the Disabilities section under Life Help.
Below are a few of the many symbols available. More symbols will be added in the future.