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Lo-Tech Assistive Communication

See our Assistive Technology Home Page for a full list of information about Assistive Communication and AAC devices, and links to information and strategies relating to communication.

Lo-tech assistive communication

Lo-tech assistive communication or AAC is likely to be non-electronic, and can take practically any form. More obvious examples would be pictures, picture boards, signing systems, partner assisted scanning, objects of reference or letter charts. These can be accessed directly by the individual, or accessed by pointing or partner assisted scanning (see below).

Lo-tech communication options

  • Communication boards – these boards can contain pictures or objects and the individual can either take and present a picture/object from the board, point to, or touch a picture/object, to communicate something.


  • Picture communication books or charts – work in the same way as described above, but are portable.The books can be made so that the pictures are detachable from the book. Visuals and pictures can work for many individuals with communication difficulties. Visual strategies can be used in many ways to enhance understanding and expression. They are particularly useful for individuals that are non-verbal, individuals with learning difficulties and/or those with autism. Some people are “visual learners” and respond better to visual input than auditory input. Visuals can be used in isolation to represent single words or actions and make choices, in a combination to to make a sentence, they can be used in stories or schedules to help with routine, and they can be used as an additional cue to the spoken word to help support understanding.


  • Textures, shapes, and Objects of reference -Through the use of objects or tactile symbols, individuals can build up a wide range of communication options. These systems are generally used with individuals with visual and hearing difficulties and /or severe learning difficulties who may also be non-verbal. Some individuals may not have the motor skills to learn signing, so reaching for, or touching objects may be a better alternative. In their simplest form, objects can be used to give individuals an idea of what is about to happen e.g. give someone a spoon and they know its time for lunch, or a towel to indicate swimming. However, this form of communication can also be used in many more complex ways and the individual can communicate, make choices, and learn language. You can develop the use of textures, objects and symbols, and combine them, to improve a users organisational skills, sequencing, language and concept development, and communication.


  • Partner assisted scanning – is achieved by having a second person watching the eye gaze or gesture of an individual with a communication difficulty and then translating or describing what they are communicating. A modified communication chart, book, or frame containing pictures, symbols, letters and/or numbers is used a the reference point. A common example would be an E-TRAN frame, which is commonly used by any individual with a communication disorder. These may vary in design but are usually made of glass or clear perspex (like a window) with the communicators sitting on either side. On the window are a number of letters for instance, and the communicator looks in the direction of particular letters to spell out words. The “listener” learns the message by following the communicators eye gaze and asking questions.



For more information about communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets about assistive technology devices and information and strategies for improving communication go to the Downloads Section.


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