Most Widely Used AAC Symbols (updated 11/21/22)

There was a post in the AAC for SLP Facebook group today where a member asked the following question:

“Hi all! I’m not sure there is even an answer for this question, but I’m going to go for it anyway. 😉 Is there one symbol set that is most widely used? I am only familiar with SymbolStix and PCS. To be specific, I’m not looking for people’s preferences… I am truly just interested on any data/study that demonstrate(s) which is most widely used.😊


I hadn’t ever seen a list or data/study that had this exact info. To truly know which symbol set is most widely used for high tech AAC you’d need to have data regarding sales of SGDs, sales of AAC apps, sales of symbol sets via in-app purchases and data regarding their actual use. My guess is this is going to vary greatly across the world and influenced by both the language(s) needed by a particular AAC user and the opinions of SLPs / SLTs about certain apps or SGDs.

To truly know which symbol set is most widely used for paper-based AAC you’d need to have data regarding sales and subscriptions and then a way to determine actual use for AAC vs. all the other possible uses for those symbols.

See this separate post for info about Apps & Websites to Create Materials with Symbols: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2020/08/25/apps-websites-to-create-materials-with-symbols-on-an-ipad-iphone-list-compiled-by-angela-moorad-ms-ccc-slp-at-omazing-kids/

But it sparked my curiosity about what symbol sets are either included or available via in-app purchase in iOS AAC apps. So I looked through my vast AAC app collection and came up with the following list of symbol sets.


Based on the data that I collected, SymbolStix appears to be the most widely used (used in the most apps, available in 7 of the top 12 iOS symbol-based AAC apps – denoted by (*) in the lists below & available in traditional SGDs)


PCS symbols are commonly used (available in 6 of the top 12 iOS symbol-based AAC apps – denoted by (*) in the lists below). Especially if you factor in paper-based AAC systems like PODD and their use in traditional SGDs)


Widgit is more commonly used in the UK than the USA (available in 3 of the top 12 iOS symbol-based AAC apps – denoted by (*) in the lists below & traditional SGDs)


Minspeak symbols (and the closely associated symbols used in LAMP Words for Life) are only used in particular SGDs and that app but those are widely used.


More info about the Top 12 iOS Symbol-Based AAC apps: https://bit.ly/SymbolBasedAACapps & https://bit.ly/5aacFeatureMatchingResources


My Data:

SymbolStix:

1. aacorn+ (updated 11/21/22: no longer available)

2. Alexicom

3. Avaz (*)

4. Bridge Communication

5. Clicker Communicator (*)

6. CoughDrop (can add-on) (*)

7. GoTalk Now / GoTalk Now Plus (*)

8. Grid 3 on SmartBox SGDs (also available on other SGDs)

9. Grid for iPad (*)

10. Grid Player

11. Proloquo2Go (*)

12. Proloquo + Proloquo Coach (see this free handout for info about how this new subscription-based options differs from Proloquo2Go: https://bit.ly/3uOlm86)

13. simPODD

14. So Much 2 Say

15. Sono Flex

16. Talk Tablet

17. TouchChat with WordPower (*), also available on Saltillo SGDs

PCS:

1. Chatable (6/8/22: this app is being updated and isn’t currently available for purchase)

2. Clicker Communicator (*)

3. CoughDrop (can add-on) (*)

4. GoTalk Now (as in-app purchase) (*)

5. Grid 3 on SmartBox SGDs (also available on other SGDs)

6. Grid for iPad (*)

7. TD Snap (formerly known as Snap Core First) (also available on Windows devices and Tobii Dynavox SGDs) (*)

8. TouchChat with WordPower (as in-app purchase) (*), also available on Saltillo SGDs

Widgit:

1. Clicker Communicator (*)

2. GoTalk Now / GoTalk Now Plus (as in-app purchase) (*)

3. Grid 3 on SmartBox SGDs (also available on other SGDs)

4. Grid for iPad (*)

Open Source Symbols (most available on this website: https://www.opensymbols.org):

1. Cboard

2. ChatterBoards

3. CommBoards

4. CoughDrop (*)

5. ElineSpeaks

6. Leeloo

7. LetMeTalk

8. MyTalk

9. Niki Talk 2 Pro (*)

10. PhotoVOCA

11. Posco

12. SpeakProse (emojis)

13. Speech Assistant AAC (11/21/22: offers the option to add a Mulberry Symbol, emoji or photo to a phrase button)

14. SymboTalk

CrickPix:

1. Clicker Communicator (*)

GoTalk Image Library:

1. GoTalk Now / GoTalk Now Plus (*)

LessonPix:

1. CoughDrop (*) (can sync with your LessonPix account).

LessonPix is also widely used to make printed AAC options.

MetaCom (used fairly frequently in Germany)

1. GoTalk Now / GoTalk Now Plus (as in-app purchase) (*)

2. MetaTalkUS

3. TD Snap (formerly known as Snap Core First (as in-app purchase) (*)

Minspeak:

1. Unity on Accent SGDs

Multi-Meaning symbols derived from Minspeak & Unity:

1. LAMP Words for Life (*), also on Accent SGDs

Persona:

1. Talk Suite Pro

Pics for PECS:

1. PECS IV+

Pixon (also related to Minspeak/ Unity):

1. TouchChat with WordPower (as in-app purchase) (*), also available on Saltillo SGDs

Smarty Symbols:

1. ASD AAC Bestie Communicator

2. Expressive

3. Speak for Yourself (*)

4. Quick Talk AAC

Smarty Symbols are also widely used to make printed AAC options, in products on Teachers Pay Teachers and in a few non-AAC apps.

There are other AAC apps and SGDs that have their own unique symbols:

1. Alela Pro

2. CardTalk

3. CoreVoice

4. EESpeech

5. Fluent AAC

6. Grace 4

7. Jellow

8. Lingraphica (apps and their SGDs)

9. My First AAC

10. Niki Talk

11. PAROL Mini

12. PictoMaker

13. SoundingBoard

14. Talking Mats

15. Talk to Me

16. Top Taps Speaks

17. Twinkl Symbols for AAC

18. Verbal Me

19. Visuals2Go

20. Voice4u

22. Wayword

23. Weave Chat


This website has a nice catalog of all (or at least most) of the various symbol sets. Most are not widely used. I think it’s interesting to read the history behind how/why symbols were developed: https://talksense.weebly.com/symbol-what.html


It’s important to keep in mind… Symbol sets are like any other feature in AAC. There isn’t any “one size fits all” and to my knowledge there isn’t any research supporting the idea that any particular symbol set is superior to another. This is especially true when considering symbols that meet specific needs, user preferences, culturally relevant, etc…


See this quote from PrAACtical AAC: “There is no empirical evidence that one type of symbol is superior to another for all AAC clients, but there may certainly be differences for a specific individual. That’s why it is a best practice to evaluate the kind of symbol to use as part of an AAC assessment rather than picking one at random or using one based on our own convenience.”

https://praacticalaac.org/praactical/using-multiple-aac-symbol-sets-and-systems-with-aac-learners-considerations-for-thoughtful-interventionists/

Update 11/21/22: See their new post: https://praacticalaac.org/praactical/praactical-questions-what-symbols-are-used-in-aac-apps-sgds/ (includes hyperlinks to info about the symbols)


And this post from NWACS:

https://www.nwacs.info/blog/2019/3/aac-and-symbol-selection


Looking for in-depth info about features AAC apps? Check out these resources:

• iOS Symbol-Based: https://bit.ly/SymbolBasedAACapps

• iOS Text-Based: https://bit.ly/TextBasedAACapps

• Visual Scenes & Video Visual Scenes: https://bit.ly/AACvsd

• AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)

• Robust Android AAC Apps (Google Play & Amazon Fire): https://bit.ly/RobustAndroidAACappChart

• Affordable and Free AAC apps & AAC-Related Apps (iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Windows & a few web-based options): https://bit.ly/BasicAffordableAACchart


Have a question? The best way to reach me with any questions is via messaging on the OMazing Kids Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/. That way AAC related messages don’t get lost among the spam in my e-mail


Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC, OMazing Kids AAC Consulting

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