Symbol based charts and books
Symbol based charts and books enable someone to communicate by pointing to or looking at pictures or special symbols printed on paper or other materials. Charts and books can be tailor-made to suit the individual and can be used everywhere as there are no batteries to run low or screens to break. While you still need to learn what the symbols mean, there is no need to be able to read or spell to communicate.
You can download a range of simple symbol based charts for free here and can find out much more using them and about getting started with symbols more generally in our free resource.
There are plenty of adaptations that can be made for people who find pointing difficult. You can find out more about this in our free resource, “Getting Started with AAC: Using Low Tech Symbol Based Systems with Children”.
Alphabet charts can provide a quick way of communicating for individuals who are able to spell. They can be highly customised to meet the needs of an individual, whether it’s ensuring that the letters are organised in a familiar QWERTY layout or putting an image of the badge of someone’s football team behind the letters. Like symbol based charts and books, they can be used everywhere as there are no batteries to run low or screens to break.
There are lots of different ways of presenting and delivering the alphabet for those who find pointing difficult.
You can find out more about designing and using alphabet charts in our free resource “Getting Started with AAC: Designing and using alphabet charts”
Simple Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs)
The simplest VOCAs tend to be sturdy battery-powered devices with built-in microphones for recording messages. They are sometimes known as light tech communication aids. They can be a great introduction to using a VOCA and can be a powerful tool for developing communication skills.
These devices are easy to operate and quick to update and change. Some can store words in ‘layers’, giving access to more vocabulary, but they all tend to be fairly restricted in terms of the total amount of vocabulary they can store. As they rely on pre-recorded speech, they are intended to be used by people who are not able to spell what they want to say.
Some simple VOCAs offer alternative ways of selecting messages for those that find pressing the buttons difficult.
Complex Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs)
Complex VOCAs tend to make use of synthetic (i.e. computer generated) speech, although many offer the capacity to pre-record messages too. Synthetic speech now sounds much less robotic than it did in the past with more regional accents becoming available. The great thing about synthetic speech is that you can say new things with it – messages don’t have to be pre-recorded.
You can listen to a few example of voices here.
Complex VOCAs tend to be based around computer technology and have touchscreens of varying sizes, although there are a few keyboard based options around. Some are based around mainstream technology while others are purpose built.
They are suitable for use by people who can spell, but most can also be used by people who rely on symbols. Lots of options are available for people who find using a touchscreen difficult.
Complex VOCAs often offer additional features such as access to email, mobile phone and environmental control.
Communication aids help people to communicate more effectively with those around them. Some communication aids involve sophisticated software and hardware, but not all. A simple alphabet chart on a piece of paper can be a really powerful communication tool! For most people it’s not an either/or situation and they will use a range of different communication aids depending upon the situation.
So what sorts of things are out there? The simple answer is lots! The information below just begins to scratch the surface. This is why having a service like Ace Centre involved is invaluable. We can support with identifying the right communication aid for the individual and provide ongoing support.