Site Information

 Loading... Please wait...

Teaching Beginning Communication with Inexpensive Single Buttons

Posted by Denise Bandl, M.S., CCC-SLP, ATP is the CEO of Adaptive Tech Solutions, a company that offers affordable adaptive technology for individuals with disabilities. on

If you’re reading this, you most likely know someone who is non-verbal or has very limited communication skills. They may communicate through grunts, pushing things away, or throwing that tantrum in the grocery store isle that seems to last waaaay too long. As a caregiver, therapist or teacher, our job is to replace those methods of communication with functional, socially appropriate communication that is understood even by unfamiliar listeners. Inexpensive, single button communication devices are a great way to begin this process.

Single button communication devices are portable and can be mounted on various surfaces. It’s easy to change recordings “on the fly”. Additional buttons can be added as the user’s skill level increases. Single button communications device prices vary from under $20 for the Talk About! Communication Button from Adaptive Tech Solutions to more advanced multi-level communications buttons like the Little Step-by-Step with levels from AbleNet.

Talk About! Communication Device
Under $20
Step by Step with Levels
Under $200

So let’s talk about beginning communication with a single button communication device.

For beginning users, how do you choose a message to teach single switch communication device use? Think of the most motivating, meaningful activity for the user. Make sure it is something they love, love, love! It could be something like “I want chocolate milk” or “I want to go outside and play”. Place a picture or representational object on the button, record your message, and make the button available for the user. Don’t give them the desired activity or thing unless they press the button. When first starting out, you may have to place their hand on the button, let the button speak, and then say “Oh, you want ______.” and then give it to them immediately. Don’t offer a choice that isn’t realistic. If it’s 20 degrees outside, don’t give them a button that says “I want to go outside and play.”

Some users understand pictures, others may need representational objects or to have one of these paired up with the location of the button. For instance, a beginning user may not quite understand that a photo of the playground represents going outside to play. But, put that picture on it and mount the button next to the door that leads to the playground. Every time you are going to the playground, have them touch the button that says “I want to go to the playground” (or provide hand-over-hand if they don’t initiate pushing the button on their own). Once that button is pressed and it speaks, take them right to the playground.

Looking for other ideas for single button communication devices? Click here!

Happy Communicating!