AAC Applications, Equipment and other Tools

Electronic Augmentative Communication Systems: Take Your Pick!

Vicki Clarke
May 25, 2023

Electronic Augmentative Communication Systems: Take Your Pick!

Vicki Clarke
May 25, 2023

Electronic Augmentative Communication Systems:  Take Your Pick!

Electronic Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Systems with Dynamic Displays come in a wide variety of hardware options, with several different operating systems and a plethora of applications! These are the "high tech" systems you've heard of, typically offering thousands of words on hundreds of pages with many different means of organizing the words and messages. In this blog post, we will consider the benefits of both Tablet Based AAC applications and Dedicated Speech Generating devices.

Equipment Choices:

AAC applicationscan now be loaded on many different pieces of equipment, which makes our options for talking with AAC much more flexible! Many of the AAC apps run on both a Tablet (iPad), Windows, and some Apple Mac options. That means if you have your own iPad or Windows tablet, a Smart Board or desktop computer, you can load your AAC application right onto your own equipment!

Classroom Displays for AAC Apps are brilliant options for helping you "talk with tech" yourself, and provide an immersive AAC environment for your student to learn to communicate. If you like to "walk and talk" you might consider having a Teacher Modeling System, or a staff tablet so that teachers, paraprofessionals and therapists can move around the room talking with their voices and modeling with the AAC applications!

But how do I choose between a Tablet (iPad/Android based) with an AAC App and a Speech Generating Device?

What are the main differences?  Basically the difference is durability, fundability, support and flexibility.  

Tablets (typically iPads) are a great solution for families looking for a familiar entry into the world of AAC.  They can be bought off the shelf, and now are fundable through insurance and Medicaid through certain companies (for example, Ablenet and Forbes Rehab Services). iPads are often drastically more affordable than dedicated speech generating devices for families, many of whom already own a tablet.  iPads and tablets can be purchased even more affordably second hand or refurbished from the manufacturer. There are many AAC applications which are only available on the iPad, and not through device manufacturers.  Here are some of our most recommended AAC apps:

TD Snap

TouchChat with Word Power

LAMP Words For Life




GoTalk Now

Grid for iPad

Speech generating devices (SGDs) are durable, medical grade devices, purpose built for communication.  They typically have more alternative access options, such as eye gaze access, keyboards to support accurate touching and switch ports for scanning. Because SGDs are more expensive, they often come with more technical supports, local representatives and add on features, like matching AAC apps you can put on your own iPads.  Many of these manufacturers offer funding departments to help you access your insurance and Medicaid funds for purchasing the equipment.  Dedicated Speech Generating Devices typically have a wider range of their AAC applications and software pagesets available on than the iPad versions.  If you like a particular iPad app, you might want to check out the manufacturer's other options available when you choose their durable equipment!

Most insurance companies and Medicaid/Medicare require that a licensed, certified speech language pathologist recommend a speech generating device to allow funding.  The good news is that funding is MUCH better than in the past, and many students can qualify to have their own completely funded speech generating device!  If you aren’t sure, many device manufacturers will help you determine your funding potential.

BOTH tablets with AAC applications, and dedicated speech generating devices are considered “robust” AAC systems IF the application they house includes an extensive noun vocabulary, core (action & descriptive) words, a keyboard, social phrases and some topic based messaging.  Look for these features AND anything specific your student needs for access (eye gaze cameras, switch ports, mounting options) and you’ll be in great shape to start your student on the way to comprehensive communication.  Support from a speech language pathologist is ALWAYS recommended as you help your student learn to be an autonomous communicator!