There are many ways we can choose to communicate. For example, when a child is too shy to speak to an unfamiliar partner, they may whisper their message in an accompanying adult’s ear to convey it for them. In AAC, how a child interacts with a device to control it for communication, is referred to as the access method or selection technique. The method an individual uses to select items for communication can vary, the most well-known option is pointing. This blog will discuss other access methods for children with varying physical and sensory needs.

Direct Selection

There are two broad categories for access methods: direct selection and indirect selection. Pointing is an example of direct selection. Direct selection is exactly as it says, directly selecting a communication option. Usually, the individual points directly at the item without having to wait for options to be presented. Pointing can be done with the finger, hand, or toe, or with any number of pointing tools or even by handing a symbol to the partner. Although, as with all things related to AAC intervention, individual use may vary. Here are four types of direct selection methods used:

Indirect Selection

Indirect selection methods are only considered if the individual cannot (for whatever reason) use direct selection. Compared to direct selection methods, indirect selection methods require more steps or the assistance of a communication partner. Here are three types of indirect selection methods:

or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Team Involvement

Within the broad categories of direct and indirect selection, only briefly discussed here, there is an infinite number of modifications and variations that can be made to improve an individual’s access to communication. Modifying direct selection access or choosing an indirect selection method should always be done in conjunction with an Occupational Therapist or a Physiotherapist, who can assist in customizing the optimum selection technique for the individual.


Beukelman, D., & Mirenda, P. (1998). Augmentative and alternative communication: Management of severe communication disorders in children and adults. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Dowden, P., & Cook, A. (2002). Choosing effective selection techniques for beginning communicators. In J. Reichle, Beukelman, D., Light, J., Implementing an augmentative communication system: exemplary strategies for beginning communicators. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.