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Access Strategies


This section describes access strategies and things to consider when supporting children using AAC

When identifying an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system for a child it is vital to consider how they will be able to physically use it. This is often referred to as the child’s access method. For some children this will involve using their fingers to point to messages. For others, they may use their whole fist to point or simply look at a message to indicate their communication intention. These are often referred to as methods of direct selection as the child directly points (using finger, eye, toe or touch enabling device etc) to their choice without waiting for items to be presented.

For some children it is very difficult to accurately point to a target. They may not have the physical ability to point to a message on a communication board or device. They may point to the wrong message by mistake and this can be frustrating. On these occasions a different method of access may have to be considered that is not direct such as colour encoding, scanning or a mouse or mouse alternative (these are explained in detail below). These methods are referred to as indirect selection.

Indirect selection can be more difficult to understand and learn so it is important to introduce these methods in a fun and simple way to help the child become familiar and successful with the method.

The following strategies demonstrate how physical access can be supported to enable effective use of an AAC system. To begin with it is important to consider whether the child, and the equipment they are using, is in the most suitable position.


It is essential that the child is in a well supported position in order to optimise their control of any technology that they use. If the child is comfortable and secure they will be more able to focus on what they are doing. This will make the technology easier to use.

It is advisable to seek the advice of professionals such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist when considering access and positioning issues, however there are many resources and strategies that can help provide simple solutions, particularly in relation to positioning equipment within the environment.

Careful positioning of equipment is not only vital to support physical access to resources, but is also essential in relation to an individual’s visual and auditory skills.

The laptop screen is positioned to Toby’s left side within his visual field. His switch is mounted in a vertical position to encourage him to release the switch.

Photography of a boy operating a laptop with a switch

Samuel’s Low Tech communication book was developed in a landscape format because he has a better range of movement left to right. He could point to more messages when they were displayed this way.

It is easier for Samuel to point to his messages in his communication book. He can reach left to right more easily than top to bottom.

Boy looking at vocabulary book

An example of a Landscape Communication Book that can be helpful to support positioning.

Vocabulary Book

This communication board has vocabulary around the edge of the activity.

Photo of a horseshoe board

Switch mounts can also be used to stabilise toy controllers such as this joystick. The raised position is frequently found to enhance control by supporting movement in the wrist.

Truck connected to a switch

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