A Communication Book provide pages of symbols, usually organised by topic.
Depending on the age, cognitive and physical abilities of the user, the page may have anything from one to many symbols on a page. The topics depend on the age, ability and interest of the AAC speaker. Communication books used by adults will contain relevant vocabulary for going to the pub, work, managing support staff, and so on.
A young user may have pages for play activities:
...and for story writing:
Communication books are generally developed through use and need. Sometimes unfamiliar vocabulary is deliberately included. The communication partner will then be able to model the use of this vocabulary, and the AAC speaker will learn the symbols by seeing them used in practice. Communication books usually develop to include pages of vocabulary related to: about me; people; feelings; clothes; food; drink; animals; colours; numbers; letters; hobbies and interests (whether train spotting or Star Wars); curriculum-related vocabulary. Later, more topics are added such as weather, places, activities, or adjectives - and more words/symbols are added to each topic.
At some stage some of the topics may need to subdivided because there are too many items to manage on a page. Most books have an overall topic page at the front with links via numbers, colours, letters or tabs to the relevant topic pages. As books get larger and communication becomes fuller, some people have a pop-out section with commonly used words which can be accessed from any topic page. Other people organise each topic page so that it also contains commonly used words or phrases in that topic such as “I want” on the food page, and “I feel” on the feelings page.
It is important to have a section at the very front of the book which tells unfamiliar communication partners how to use the book with the communicator. A Communication Passport is also a very helpful tool.
Some users also have an electronic system and in that case it is helpful to print out all the pages from the electronic system so that the user has access to their vocabulary when the electronic device breaks down or in situations where it is inappropriate to use it, such as the swimming pool.
Communication books need to be tailored for individual AAC speakers, but templates such as the Look2Talk system developed by Claire Latham and Katharine Buckley (ACE Centre, Oxford, www.ace-centre.org.uk) can be purchased, as can the PODD system (Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Displays, cpec.org.au/store/podd/).