A quick look at the options
Susan G. Malloy, M.S. CCC-SLP
Object based—often used with people who
are deaf and blind and/or have severe to
profound cognitive impairments.
◦ Real objects are used to represent people, places
A hat means “We’re going outside.” A jangling keys
means “We’re going for a ride.” Alcohol wipe—”We’re
going to the doctor’s office.”
Alphabet puzzle pieces can be used to represent
Tangible symbol systems—used with the
same population as above, possibly in
combination with real objects. See: Tangible
Symbol Systems, designtolearn.com.
◦ Concrete not abstract—they bear a physical
relationship to the items they represent.
◦ Pieces of objects are used to represent things,
places activities—usually the parts the user is likely
◦ A shoe lace = shoe
These symbols tend to be user-specific.
3-D symbols made with a 3-D printer.
◦ Turn a PCS or Wigit or other graphic symbol into a
plastic 3-D symbol.
◦ Cost about $1.50 to $3.00 apiece
1. A system of Augmentative Communication
Instruction that begins with a 2:1 staff to client
ratio and focuses on teaching mands through
intraverbals through a strict ABA methodology.
2. PECS is NOT what picture symbols are called and
is NOT any notebook or picture trading system
that is in use.
3. Clinicians and partners should be trained by
4. Misused the system can be overly reliant on
mands/nouns and miss opportunities for social
closeness and other functions.
Developed by Frost and Bondy
Target population: Autistic beginning
Teaches users what
Focuses on initiation, requesting,
and picture discrimination
Do Your Own
Organized around core
Many category based
A few activity based
pages for quick
Developed by Gail Porter Promulgated by Linda Burkhart
symbols have numbers
linking them to a related
Many progressive levels
from 9 per page to 75
items per 2 pages.
Emphasis on modeling
the use of an extensive
Single message voice output devices:
◦ Big Mac (AbleNet, Inc.)
◦ Little Mac (AbleNet)
◦ Go Talk Button(Attainment Co.)
◦ Chipper (Adaptivation, Inc.)
Part of a multimodal system.
◦ Initiating communication,
◦ Participating in group activities
◦ Communicating over a short distance.
Step-by-Step Communicator (AbleNet, Inc.)
Sequencer (Adaptivation, Inc.)
Create sequences of messages for predictable
Greetings, comments, sound effects.
Play Bingo! Give a spelling test. Interview
others. Take a poll.
Go Talk 4, 9 and 20 (Attainment Co.)
Smart Talk, Smart Scan, Smart Speak (Turning
Inexpensive, but limited.
Built in key guards
Recorded (digitized) speech
Activated by pressure
“Find your letter above.
Find it again below.”
Partner identifies color
above and letter below.
Prentke Romich Co.
Dynamic screen display
Picture and/or text based
Some pre-made vocabularies
Access by touch screen, eye gaze, switch(es)
Picture symbols—Minspeak/Pixons, PCSs,
Symbol Stix, DynaSyms
Pre made vocabulary sets
All can incorporate photographs, all have built
in cameras, all offer a variety of keyboard
designs with word prediction.
None of them are powerful computers.
Lightwriter, Lightwriter with Big Keys (Tobii
Speak Out (Key Technologies)
(Turning Point Technologies)
Features may include: word prediction,
storage/encoding of frequently used words,
abbreviation expansion, dual display.
National Center on Deaf Blindness
Perkins School for the Blind
Texas School for the Blind and Visually
iPad, iPad Mini, iPod Touch
◦ Many communication apps: TouchChat, TouchChat
with Word Power, Proloquo2Go, Proloquo4Text,
GoTalk Now, Sono Flex, Tap Speak Sequence, Tap
Speak Choice, LAMP Words for Life (Unity), ETC….
◦ Fewer communication apps: Sono Flex, Talk Tablet
Speech (Gus Communication), Tap to Talk,
◦ Keyguards and mounting systems are more secure and
◦ More reliable, flexible switch access
◦ Differences in touch screen sensitivity
◦ Built in speakers are louder
◦ Most don’t need to be charged separately
Fewer distractions for the user
Less likely to be appropriated by siblings at home
Tech support and repair
From simplest, most concrete
to most complex and abstract
But does the user have to begin at the
beginning? NO. When in doubt err on the side
of more language, and rule out higher levels of
abstraction before moving to the object level.