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Communication methods

People with autism may have difficulties with communication and may use alternative methods to communicate. The table below highlights a range of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) methods.

Method Description Pros and Cons
Makaton symbols and signing Using symbols, signs and speech as a form of communication. Signs are used along with speech for extra clarity. Pros

  • Signs are used consistently across settings
  • Signs are only used for key words which slows down speech and helps understanding


  • Communication partner needs training to understand signs
  • Physical impairments can cause difficulty in accurate signing
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) To improve social communication and allow people to make choices, a person can communicate by handing people cards with pictures on. Pros

  • Easily understandable for communication partner
  • Tangible


  • Can be resource heavy and cards can be easily lost
Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA) e.g. Proloquo2Go An app that gets loaded to a tablet so people can tap icons and create sentences that get read out by the device. Pros

  • Easy to adapt vocabulary
  • Can be made bespoke
  • Portable
  • Easy for communication partner to understand


  • High cost
  • Attention can drift to other apps
Communication books A picture-based book where the user points to items to communicate Pros

  • Easily personalised
  • Easily portable
  • Free to create, or templates can be bought online


  • Time-consuming to create
  • No voice output so the user must first gain the attention of their communication partner
Go Talk A battery-powered, speech-generating device Pros

  • Personalised for each learner
  • Voice output and press-button function for multiple sensory feedback
  • Hard-wearing


  • High cost
  • Heavy / bulky to transport


This is not an exhaustive list and there are other communication methods available. Finding the right method with each person can take time, so it is worth testing out a few different options to get to a solution that works for them. Download the full list here.

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