North Dakota Assistive

ND Assistive | Assistive Technology Blog

When it Comes to Augmentative Communication, Let’s Not Forget the Basics!

In honor of May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, I thought we should go back to the basics and bring attention to all of the great, simple augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices that are available.  Big and small; objects or pictures; scanning or direct select; one message or 32+! These types of devices can be a stepping stone to more complex devices or a place to land for a long time. They can be a terrific place to start for an adult who just lost their speech due to a severe stroke or for a two-year old with cerebral palsy, experiencing speech difficulties.  Whether it is the GoTalk, Cheap Talk, Big Talk, Hip Talk or iTalk, there is a device available that will definitely have you “talking”.

To help start your quest, I decided to highlight devices from four manufacturers that have produced low-tech AAC devices long before there were ever any AAC apps and iPads to put them on. Remember, these eight devices and four companies only scratch the surface of what is available. If you have questions about these devices, augmentative communication, feature matching, equipment rentals or demos, contact us at 1-800-895-4728. *Note: The starred items are available in our loan library.


Tech/Speak with ECU *

  • 6 levels with 32 messages each on 1.5″ squares
  • Standard message length of 2.25 seconds with options for 4.5 or 9 seconds of recording time for each message
  • Environmental Controls built-in to control up to 8 devices (i.e. appliances/lights/fans) via radio frequency with optional infrared capabilities.

Partner/Plus Four with LED & Vibration

  • 2 levels with 4 messages each on 2.75″ squares
  • 8 seconds of record speech per message
  • 4 jacks to control external devices
  • 4 switch input jacks
  • LED lights and vibration feedback



  • 2 levels with 4 messages each on 0.5″ x 0.7″ square
  • Built into a wristband
  • 80 seconds of total record time

Big Step-By-Step*

  • Record one message or a series of messages on a 5″ circle
  • 2 minutes of total record time
  • 1 jacks to control an external device
  • 1 switch input jack


GoTalk Express 32*

  • 5 levels with 32 messages each on 1.25″ squares
  • 28 minutes of total record time
  • Full Scanning capabilities with options to scan in 2, 4, 8 , 16 or 32 message
  • Auditory cuing
  • Message sequencing capabilities for sentence building
  • Overlay storage


  •  5 levels with 6 messages each on 1″ squares
  • Onboard overlay storage
  • Can fit in a purse or pocket

Enabling Devices

Lapboard Take’n’Talk*

  • 1 level, 4 message device with space for a corresponding object on each
  • 5 seconds of record time per message
  • Message activated by removing object from the photo-sensitive cell on each space

7-Level Communication Builder*

  • Expandable 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 messages with a plastic keyguard for each layout size
  • 300 seconds of total record time
  • Sturdy plastic body with handle


Further Reading

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There are many mobile device stands available, either homemade or off-the-shelf, that allow a person with vision loss to turn their tablet into a low-cost video magnifier with either the built-in...

Two Birds-One Device: Portable Two-Way Communicator & Alarm

During a recent consult, I was asked the following questions by someone caring for an individual with dementia: “Is there a device that will sound an alarm when the individual leaves their bedroom that...

Save the Date for Possibilities!

Are you ready to create new assistive technology possibilities for people in need?  If so, Saturday, February 8, 2014 is the date to save!   The 4th Annual IPAT Pedaling for Possibilities Stationary...

3 Comments on “When it Comes to Augmentative Communication, Let’s Not Forget the Basics!”

  • Adaptive Tech Solutions October 13th, 2014 2:36 am

    Adaptive Tech Solutions offers a complete line of assistive technology devices and special needs products to help children and adults with disabilities.

    Special Needs Toys

  • IPAT October 13th, 2014 9:52 am

    Thanks for the resource. It’s always good to have choices.

  • IPAT October 27th, 2014 8:56 am

    You are welcome!