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This site has been completely revised, but the old modules are still available. Follow these links to the old modules:
Old vocabulary module,
Old features module
Old funding module


Home > Introduction to AAC Features

Features of AAC Systems

This modules covers all types of AAC systems, both high tech devices and low/no tech techniques. It should help prepare you to review any new communication device or method for its critical features.

Why learn about Features??

Although you may not have seen very many devices in use, there are literally hundreds of communication devices and techniques on the market. It would be impossible for any class or series of classes to give you experience with each one. Even if a course were designed to show you every one, you would still be confronted by new devices or techniques that become available every year. And because of the Internet, families, teachers and caregivers of the people you serve may hear about a device before you do..

For this reason, you shouldn't aspire to learn about all the individual devices on the market. You would never succeed. Instead, it is better if you learn about the features of AAC systems, so that you can evaluate new devices or techniques as they emerge. There are devices that are so different from others that you must have hands on experience with them. But the vast majority of devices that appear share features with existing systems. You can evaluate many new devices by comparing these features to those of the existing devices.

There is another reason to teach you about features. When you begin to conduct evaluations of individuals, and you begin to consider different devices or techniques for them, you will need to think in terms of features. You cannot (and, in fact must not) conduct evaluations through trials of device after device after device. Instead, you must match the needs of the individual to the features that are possible in a variety of devices. You can rule out devices as inappropriate for a given individual on the basis of these features, thereby narrowing considerably the options that would be appropriate for trial.

Navigation Note:

You may view the sections of this module in any order you choose. If you are new to devices, you might find the "output" section the easiest to begin with.

This module will cover the following major features:

Output Features

These are the methods by which a message is communicated to the partner. We will examine devices that produce auditory output as well as devices and techniques that use visual output for the partner.

Access Features

Clinical Note:

On each page there are examples of communication devices. These are NOT the only devices that have this feature. They are given as an example only.

These features refer to the way in which the AAC user makes selections for communication, e.g. pointing, single-switch scanning, etc. This is sometimes called the "Selection Method". We will cover Direct and Indirect Selection methods.

Selection Set Features

The "Selection Set" refers to the items (e.g. the words, the phrases, the vocabulary) that are available to AAC users for communication. Here we examine the features that characterize different selection sets, including types of symbols, vocabulary capacity, and the message retrieval method.

Message Composition Features

These are the features that permit the AAC user to compose the message he wants to communicate in the most efficient manner. This is where we cover "rate enhancement" features such as prediction and encoding.

Navigation Note:

You can enlarge some of the photos by clicking on them. If you do so, you must use the "back" key to return. Do not close the window even though there is no blue stripe, or you will exit from the site completely.

Other Features

There are many more features of devices and strategies. I have selected a few key features that will be particularly important for you to know and understand.

Throughout these pages, you will see "Clinical Considerations" highlighting some of the many clinical issues that you must keep in mind when considering alternative communication methods for any individual.