Speech generating devices (SGD) essentially look like tablets, but they contain a language program that users can use to select words and phrases for speech output!

In addition to difficulties with communication, speech generating device (SGD) users may also have fine and gross motor delays or disabilities. There are many ways to adjust SGD settings and access methods to fit an SGD user’s needs. Read below to learn some important tips and modifications for how to make these devices more accessible and portable for your child!

Direct Selection

For people with mild or no motor disabilities, direct selection is the fastest access method in which they would tap their screen to select a key. This most commonly occurs with the person’s finger. For those with mild motor delays or disabilities, it may be helpful to use a Keyguard or TouchGuide. These are plastic overlays that match the grid size on the screen and help the SGD user place their finger on the key they are targeting. A keyguard has square openings whereas a touchguide has round openings. See the pictures to the right for reference! 

Additionally, the settings on the SGD can be changed. One example is increasing the acceptance time. The user would have to intentionally hold down the key for a longer period of time. This prevents the user from accidentally activating a  key they didn’t mean to. Another example would be changing the device settings so the keys activate upon release. The keys will only be activated once the person removes their finger from the device. This may help people who may drag their finger across the screen.

Switch Access

SGD users may use one or two switches to control their device with a variety of body parts (hands, feet, elbows, knees, etc.). With a single switch, the SGD will highlight and scan across the keys. The SGD user can select a key when it is highlighted by activating the switch. With two switches, the SGD user would use one switch to scan across the keys by activating the switch to move to the next key. The user would then activate the second switch when the key they want to use is highlighted. SGDs can also be programmed to scan across entire rows and once a row is selected, it will scan across the keys in a row. This may make the scanning process faster for some users. 

With a typical switch, the SGD user would push to activate the switch.

There are also proximity switches in which the user would move near the switch to activate it.

Joysticks are another kind of switch. By moving the joystick, the SGD user can scan through the keys and press a button at the top of the joystick to select the key.


For SGD users with limited or no use of their hands, a small, reflective sticker can be placed on their forehead or glasses to control the device. A receiver is placed on top of the device to trace the sticker’s movements. Keys are selected when the SGD user dwells on the key for a certain amount of time.


Similar to headpointing, a receiver is placed on top of the device, but it tracks eye movements. Again, the key is selected when the user dwells on the key. 


In addition to the large variety of options available to access SGDs, there are also multiple options to allow better portability and stability of the device. Typically, all SGDs come with a handle, carrying strap, carrying case, and a kickstand to allow the device to stand upright on a flat surface. There are also various stands available. Stands are available to be placed on a table or on the floor. Some floor mounts also have wheels on them for easier mobility. Mounts can be used to attach a SGD and switches to a user’s wheelchair. All stands and mounts are adjustable to fit the SGD user’s needs.

For more information, ask your speech therapist or you can visit these websites:

If you have any questions about speech generating devices or how to make them more accessible and portable for your child, contact us today!


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