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Office of ESE

Adaptation Station- Communication Tools

Our mission is that EVERY Pre-K student has a way to communicate. When a student is struggling with functional communication, whether from language delay, articulation difficulties, learning English as a second language or other factors, we have a variety of tools to assist him/her.

No communication tool stands alone, however, so we stress that appropriate augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) strategies be used as well.

Use the following list to find an appropriate communication tool.
SGD = speech generating device

Picture communication boards | Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Single message SGD | Sequenced messaged SGD | Multi message SGD (with levels)
Dynamic screen SGD

Picture communication boards

Picture communication can take as many shapes, sizes, forms and degrees of complexity as there are students who use it.

Just a few examples:birthday party picture communication board

star Choice boards

star Picture symbols on a ring for a belt loop

star Planning book for classroom use

star Communication book custom designed for a particular student

star "I need help" symbol velcroed on a shelf

star Communication board designed for a specific activity

It is important to know that the following terms are interchangeable: communication board, picture board, communication display, picture symbol display, etc.

For many more examples to get you started, click here to view some ready-made boards we have available for download.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a communication training system used to help children acquire functional communication skills within a social context. Children using PECS are taught to give a picture of a desired item to a communicative partner in exchange for the item. By doing so, the child initiates a communicative act for a concrete outcome. For more information on using the PECS method in your classroom, contact the Pre-K SPED Autism Support Teachers.

Single message SGD

There are several different single message speech generating devices available. big mack communicatorSeen here are the BIGMack Communicator and the MiniCom. Each has a recordable memory and holds one message at a time.

mini com communicatorThese devices can be used for a variety of communication experiences - check out this handout:

"101+ Ideas for Using Single Message Devices"

Really, I mean it... check it out! Download it! Post it in your classroom! It's excellent!

A few examples throughout the Pre-K daily routine:

star Joining in with the repeated line of a familiar story/song, "E-I-E-I-O"

star Requesting desired objects, foods, actions, etc., "more cookies!"

star Directing the actions of others, "give me a hug"

star Greetings, "good morning"

star Student jobs, "clean up time, everybody clean up"

star Taking messages to peers, adults, other locations in the school, "here's the attendance"

star Social interaction, "my turn"


Sequenced messaged SGD

sequencerA sequenced message device, such as the Sequencer seen here, has a recordable memory and holds a number of messages in a sequence.

These devices can be used for a variety of communication experiences - check out these handouts:

star "101 Ways to Use a Sequential Message Device"

star "Sequencing Ideas"

Really, I mean it... check them out! Download them! Post them in your classroom or put them in your lesson plan book! They are excellent!

A few examples throughout the Pre-K daily routine:

star Joining in with the lines of a familiar song, "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", "went up the water spout", "down came the rain", etc.

star Phonological awareness activities, "Jack and Jill", "went up the hill", "to fetch a pail of water"

star Home/School communication, "Mom, guess what we did today", "We played with shaving cream", "It was SO messy", "I loved it", etc.

star Participation in simple games, "Simon Says touch your toes", "Touch your hair", "Uh-oh, Simon didn't say!"

star Telling steps of a task, "First roll out the dough", "Then cut the cookies with the cutter", "Put them in the oven", "Eat them!"

star Reading the pages of a story with a friend, "he ate through 1 apple", "but he was still hungry", "then he are through 2 pears", etc.

star Telling a joke, "Wanna hear a joke?", "why is 6 afraid of 7?", "cuz 7 8 9!"


Multi message SGD (with levels)

There are many different multi-message speech generating devices available. Each has from 2 to up to 32 (or more) recordable cells or buttons. Messages are represented with individual picture symbols or groups of symbols printed on a page, called "overlays". For an extensive collection of symbols, overlays and other materials, click here to see what we have available for download.

Some have levels of memory for storing more vocabulary. A "level" on a voice output device represents a set of messages that are stored together. The advantage to levels is the ability to program messages for a variety of topics and store them without having to re-record each time the device is used. For example, stored within a single device could be messages for comments, story, snack, planning, art area and block area that can be accessed with the turn of a nob and the changing of an overlay.

cheap talk communicator
Cheap Talk 8 /
6-Level Communicator
italk 2
tech speak 32 message communication device
Tech Speak 32

These devices can be used for a variety of communication experiences throughout the daily routine:

star planning and recalling activities

star singing verses of familiar songs

star requesting food, toys, etc

star making social or playful comments

star retelling a story

star calling out friends' names

star putting phrases and sentences together for novel utterances


Dynamic screen SGD

"Dynamic" refers to devices with a touch sensitive electronic surface that changes with each touch. The dynamic screen replaces the paper overlay and all vocabulary is stored in "pages" that can be designed for a particular student. The use of a dynamic screen device in a Pre-K SPED classroom requires the coordinated effort of the teacher, speech/language pathologist, Pre-K AT Team, family members and occasionally the physical and occupational therapist.

iPad with LAMP app
iPad with LAMP Words for Life app

Nova Chat devices
Nova Chat devices


Adaptation Station Categories

Communication Tools

Augmentative / Alternative Communication (AAC) Strategies

Pre-Writing / Creative Representation

Physical Access to Play and Participation

Books and Literacy (Shared Reading, Phonological Awareness, and Story Time)

Positioning, Seating, and Mobility

Positive Behavior Supports / Organizational Strategies

Computer Access

Activities of Daily Living /