In Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): An Introduction, we mentioned that one type of AAC is “no tech,” meaning that it requires no materials other than one’s body. Here, we will explore this topic a bit more.

First things first, what are some examples of "no tech" AAC?

  • Nodding head, shaking head
  • Blinking eyes, closing eyes, looking up and/or down with eyes
  • Thumbs up, thumbs down
  • Waving
  • Turning head to left or right
  • Shaking hand
  • Pointing with finger/hand
  • Moving/kicking legs
  • Clapping hands, snapping fingers

Important note: this is not a list of ALL the "no tech" AAC options available; there may be, and most likely are, other forms of "no tech" AAC that are also effective and purposeful.

Why are they considered "no tech" AAC?

These movements are considered "no tech" AAC because they have an explicit communicative purpose, which are known to both the individual and their communication partners (e.g. those they communicate with on a regular basis). For example, if someone turns their head to the left to indicate “yes” and to the right to indicate “no,” this is understood by them and their communication partners. This is something that needs to be established before they actually attempt to use it in a functional way. The individual should consistently be able to accurately turn their head to the left or right to indicate “yes” or “no.” Typically, we would say that they should be able to do this at least nine out of ten times to be considered a reliable form of communication.

What is a situation where you would use "no tech" AAC?

A "no tech" AAC system may be established for something as simple as watching television. The individual may wave their hand to indicate they want something changed, and then the communication partner can ask if they need a volume adjustment, the channel changed, or something else. The individual may use another “no tech” AAC system, e.g. thumbs up/thumbs down to indicate yes/no, or maybe they have a list of TV shows they can point to in order to indicate what they would like to watch.

What else do I need to know about "no tech" AAC?

"No tech" AAC systems often exist as part of a greater system of communication, i.e., an individual who uses a "no tech" AAC system may also be able to speak or make functional sounds (e.g. verbal approximations), and/or they use a higher tech system of AAC as well.  

For more information about other types of AAC devices, check out our posts about low tech, mid tech, and high tech AAC, along with more general information and resources about AAC.

We love AAC, and we could talk about it endlessly. If you too have more questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you. We encourage you to check out the resources listed at the end of this article, comment below, or send us an email!

Citations/further resources