Partner assisted scanning

Partner assisted scanning is used when an individual has difficulties or is unable to point to letters on an alphabet chart when communicating.

Partner assisted scanning involves the conversation partner pointing to and/or saying the letters in turn, which the individual then selects.

Vocabulary Gathering Sheet

When planning low-tech communication aids and vocabulary packages for your patient it is helpful to gather as much information as possible to personalise vocabulary.

How to Support and use Low-Tech AAC

Low Tech AAC Guide Illustration

This guide is aimed at therapists looking to implement low tech AAC with their literate clients.  

It may also help give an indication of a client’s communication abilities when considering referral for high tech AAC.

It covers:

  • strategies to help with communication partner training
  • tips on using different types of low tech AAC
  • dealing with different situations.

It also contains links to a number of new and existing printable resources which can be customised for your clients including:

  • yes/ no cards
  • Instructions for how to us various methods of low tech AAC
  • communication cards to aid communication partners
  • communication passports.

Guide to implementing low-tech AAC

Choosing an AAC device for your client (where they do not need specialist assessment)

An introduction to what factors need to be considered when deciding which AAC device might benefit your patient.

How can I support my client to use their device - access

A brief explanation on what access is, why it is crucial to the successful implementation of AAC, and how to assess for access.

There are many ways that alphabet charts can be arranged. Below are a few for you to try with your AAC user to find out what suits them best.

Factors to consider include their familiarity with a keyboard layout (QWERTY vs. ABC), whether colour contrasts may help with visual problems.

Someone might access an alphabet chart by:

  • Pointing (the user points to the letters)
  • Partner assisted scanning (where the partner points to the letters)
  • Auditory scanning (if the individual is unable to see the chart, then the partner can read out the categories/word or phrase lists or letters of the alphabet)



Black on White chart - Letters only

Black on White chart - Letters and spaces for phrases

Yellow on Blue chart - Letters only

Yellow on Blue chart - Letters and spaces for phrases 

Colour-coded AEIOU alphabet chart (with numbers)

Alternative AEIOU alphabet chart (AceCentre, acecentre.org.uk)


Black on White chart - Letters only

Black on White chart - Letters and spaces for phrases

Yellow on Blue chart - Letters only

Yellow on Blue chart - Letters and spaces for phrases

High Frequency Lettering

The letters on these charts are arranged so that the most frequently used letters in the English language are the quickest to access - this can significantly speed up message construction when using partner-assisted scanning.

Black on White chart - Letters and spaces for phrases

Yellow on Blue chart - Letters and spaces for phrases

Eye pointing is using your eyes to indicate your choice by looking at it. It is useful for individuals with established good vision and clear eye movements. Eye pointing can be used to access several different types of eye pointing communication aids.

Yes and No Cards

You can use eye point with Yes and No Cards (Please see the Yes /No Cards section below)

E-Tran Frame

An E-Tran frame is a sheet of stiff, transparent plastic, which symbols, words or letters can be stuck on. The user can eyepoint to their choice.

A Megabee is similar except it has a battery and screen to display what has been chosen.

The E-Tran and Megabee are available in the Clusterboxes and from a number of UK suppliers.

Watch this video to see the E-Tran in action (credit: ACE Centre):

Eye Talk

EyeTalk is a new low-tech tool designed by KMCAT which looks similar to an E-Tran frame.

It is designed to be held by the conversation partner and the user can eyepoint to the group of letters they want. The conversation partner will then turn to the corresponding page and the user will again eye point to the letter they want.

This reduces the cognitive load of a 2 step process. It is also suitable for users with colour-blindness or contrast issues.

It is a PDF document which can be printed, laminated and bound using wire or plastic comb binding.

Please acknowledge KM CAT when using or sharing this resource.

Watch this video to see Eye Talk in action, and read Tony's story.

As the EyeTalk and EyeTalk with numbers are new tools, we would love to hear any feedback you have. Please get in touch!


Speakbook looks similar to an E-Tran frame, but is more portable and can have multiple page with personalised messages. There are 2 versions; one which navigates by colour and one by shape (suitable for people who are colour blind).

It was developed by Patrick Joyce, who had Motor Neurone Disease. We have chosen to host a copy of the English version, however there are versions available in other languages  on the ACE Centre Website.

Speakbook is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) licence.

[YES] [NO]

When it is difficult to understand an individual’s yes or no response through speech and/or gesture, YES/NO cards can be helpful. 

Place them at a distance from each other, for example hold one in each hand, the individual can then make a choice by pointing, eye-pointing etc. It is useful to check that you have understood correctly before moving on. 

Top tip: consider presenting the YES/NO cards on the same side each time, for example YES is always in the right hand and NO is always on the left; this will make it quicker and easier for the individual.

Auditory Scanning Phrase List

Auditory phrase chart illustration

(Adapted from Linda J. Burkhart  linda@Lindaburkhart.com  www.lburkhart.com - taken from acecentre.org.uk/resources/)

If an individual is unable to see a phrase chart, then you can read aloud the options, for example categories or words, for the individual to choose from (selection is made through yes/no questioning). This is called Auditory Scanning.

While this method can be slow and cognitively demanding, for some individuals with poor vision it is sometimes the only solution. 

An auditory scanning phrase chart divides options into categories so that the individual can first set the scene, for example ‘Do something’, and subcategories so that they can then select a specific message, for example ‘Newspaper’. The phrase chart can also include an option for using a spelling board. 

The categories and subcategories on an individual’s auditory scanning phrase chart can be adapted to meet their specific communication needs. 

A Phrase List for Repairing Communication

Phrase list illustration

This list of phrases can be used by an individual to help them repair communication breakdowns by selecting an appropriate phrase, for example ‘This is not what I meant’. 

The phrase list can be modified in order to be used for any other topic. 

This resource also includes advice on the different ways in which the individual can access the phrase list, for example through pointing to the written phrase they want. 

A Low-tech Example that Uses Core Vocabulary Across Pages

Core-based AAC page Illustration

This is an example of AAC which gives the individual the flexibility to combine words in order to form messages. 

It contains frequently used words (core words) such as ‘like’, which can be selected to start a message and which remain constant across pages; it also contains some personalised vocabulary under the ‘food and drink’ category such as ‘fish and chips’, which can be either used on its own or combined with core words. 

Below is a link to this particular AAC example; however, since only the ‘food and drink’ category has been personalised here, the rest of the categories would also need to be personalised before this resource can be used functionally. 

Low-tech AAC Pages - Needs Chart and Speech Therapy

Needs AAC page illustration
Speech therapy AAC page illustration

A single page containing key words or phrases which are linked to a particular context, for example mealtimes or going to the hairdresser, and which can assist the individual with their communication needs. 

Here are the links to 2 different examples of AAC pages, which can be printed and laminated for use:

  • ‘Needs’ page: an AAC page that focuses on basic needs, for example ‘Need suction’ or ‘I’m anxious’, and which can be used across contexts.
  • ‘Speech Therapy’ page: an AAC page containing messages specifically related to Speech Therapy sessions, for example ‘I want to work on my spelling’.

Text Based Communication Book Template

Communication Book Illustration

Symbol and photo based AAC should be personalised to the user. Below we have some examples of different symbol and photo-based options.

Visual Scene Example

picture of a photo-based AAC resource - cafe scene

This is an example of a paper-based version of a Visual Scene Display (e.g. Scene and Heard app). A visual scene display is a picture or photograph which depicts a situation, place or experience with individual elements representing people, actions or objects.

This provides contextual cues and can be particularly useful for people who struggle with symbol recognition or navigation of a communication book with lists of words/symbols. These can be especially useful for people with aphasia or autism. 

Photo Based Examples

Picture of AAC chart

This is an example of a photo-based breakfast choice chart.


Symbol Based Examples

picture of a symbolized AAC needs chart

This is a simple needs chart without core vocabulary.

picture of a shopping AAC topic page

This is an example of a symbol based communication chart with core vocabulary. Core vocabulary can be used across many situations, it can be combined with the topic based fringe vocabulary. Having a mixture of core and fringe vocabulary increases the amount of communication functions that can be fulfilled e.g. as well as requesting they can comment, question, ask for help etc. Core vocabulary should be consistently placed in the same position in a communication book.

Vocabulary Gathering Guide

When developing a symbol or photo based book you may want to use our Vocabulary Gathering Guide.

Communication Passport Template illustration
There may be times when more information is needed for unfamiliar communication partners. For example, during a hospital admission or during respite.

The communication passport can be helpful in giving extra useful information about the individual who uses AAC.  It can be printed and written on or customised before printing.  It is mostly used with those clients with a learning disability.

The communication passport can be helpful in giving extra useful information about the individual who uses AAC. It can be printed and written on or customised before printing.  It is mostly used with those clients with a learning disability.

These resources have been created by Call Scotland:

Communication Cards

Communication card template illustration

A communication card tells people what to do when communicating with you.

Here is some useful advice from Communication Disabilities Access Canada © 2013

  • Keep your instructions short and simple.
  • Focus on telling people what you want them to do when communicating with you.
  • It may be useful to have different cards for different places. 
  • Keep your communication instruction card in a place where you can easily show it to people.

  Communication Card Template

Apps Wheel

Call Scotland have published an AAC apps wheel,which provides a fairly comprehensive overview of communication apps for iPad.

Comparison Tables

To help you identify the right app for your client, these tables compare their features, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Voice and Message Banking

Please see our voice and message banking pages for information you can share with your client on this topic.

How To Redeem Apps

If you are supporting a client to redeem a gifted app, please watch the video below, which guides you through the process.