Aided AAC systems


Picture deviceAided AAC systems use an external tool or device, electronic or otherwise. Aided AAC systems are sometimes split into low and high tech systems.

Low Tech Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Low tech describes alternative and augmentative communication strategies which involve the use of equipment that is not electronic. Low tech communication aids are often paper based and include communication books, charts etc..

  • Communication boards and books: A board or book which shows words, photos and/or symbols.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) A form of alternative and augmentative communication in which a child is taught to communicate with an adult by giving them a card with a picture on it.
  • PIC: Picture Based AAC systems other than PECS

High Tech Augmentative and Alternative Communication

High tech describes all electronic communication aids from single message switches to sophisticated, computer based communication systems that have many additional features.

  • Mobile devices. A range of portable devices such as mobile (cell) phones and tablets.
  • Voice output communication aids devices, also known as VOCAs or speech generating devices or SGDs, which enable the user to speak.

Please note: Many mobile devices now provide a voice output function of one kind or another.


PECS may provide some benefits for some autistic children and young people according to a very limited amount of research evidence of sufficiently high quality. Determining the benefits of  other forms of aided augmentative and alternative communication is not currently possible. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed

Risks and Safety

No risks are known for most forms of aided AAC.

Specific Types of Aided AAC Sytems

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System, also known as PECS, is a form of augmentative and alternative communication in which a child is taught to communicate with an adult by giving them a card with a picture on it.

PECS is based on the idea that children who can't talk or write can be taught to communicate using pictures.

The adult begins by teaching the child to exchange a picture of an item he wants. For example, if the child wants a drink, he will give a picture of 'drink' to the adult who will then give him a drink.

The adult will then teach the child progressively more difficult skills, such as using pictures to make whole sentences or to express preferences.

The Picture Exchange Communication System was originally designed to help non-verbal children with autism but it has also been used with adolescents and adults who have a wide range of communicative, cognitive and physical difficulties.

The Picture Exchange Communication System is a key element in many multi-component programmes and approaches (such as the SPELL approach and the TEACCH programme).

More Information

Please see

Mobile Devices

Mobile or portable devices include any electronic devices that can be easily carried by one person.

Mobile devices include cell phones (such as iPhones), MP3 players (such as iPlayers), laptops, personal digital assistants (such as Palms), prompting devices (such as pagers), tablets (such as iPads), etc. as well as some voice output communication aids (also known as speech generating devices).

More Information

Please see Publications on Mobile Devices


Voice output communication aids (VOCAs) or speech generating devices (SGDs) are devices which enable the user to speak.

The simplest VOCAs store a single pre-recorded message, which is produced in the form of digitised speech when the person using the device presses a button, switch, or key.

The most elaborate VOCAs include software that allows users to create and combine words to produce novel utterances in the form of computerised synthetic speech.

More Information

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26 May 2022