In this article, originally submitted to B J S E's Research Section, Chris Abbott of King's College, London, and Helen Lucey of the Open University report on the outcomes of a survey of special schools in England. The aim of the research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, was to understand the nature and extent of symbol use for communication and literacy. A questionnaire was used to collect data on topics including: the types of symbols in use; the methodologies operated; ownership of symbol choice; and agreed policies within and outside school. The researchers had an excellent response in this important survey, undertake n after a period of rapid growth in symbol use in special schools and elsewhere. Chris Abbott and Helen Lucey provide a discussion of the results of their survey and of the issues that arise from the findings and the many comments added by respondents. They close their article with a call for further detailed research, both in the UK and in co-operation with practitioners in other countries, into the ways in which symbol use can meet the needs of learners.