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Using Gestures To Communicate

Posted May 20, 2020 - 10:16am

By Cortney Maholtz, M.A., CCC-SLP

By now you probably know that we communicate in a lot of different ways…with verbal speech, with our facial expressions, with gestures, or with an AAC device. Today, I want to talk about gestures. But not the normal gestures you are probably thinking of right now, like waving or pointing.

I want to talk about using gestures on a device! Did you know on Saltillo devices (like NovaChats, ChatFusions, and TouchChat the app), you can create and use a gesture to communicate and make using your device more efficient and faster? A gesture is a pre-determined motion on the screen to make something happen. Gestures can be programmed for a single page or across an entire vocabulary.

As the Assistive Technology Consultant for Saltillo in Georgia, I find myself recommending and setting up gestures with many clients. Here are some examples of teams that I have worked with and the gestures we created:

  • One team used the swipe down gesture to make the device say, “Please give me a minute to respond.” This way when the child is communicating with someone who may not be familiar with an AAC or the time it takes to create a message, the child can swipe down so the communication partner knows the child is working on answering and responding. In this way, the gesture acts as a place holder in the conversation.
  • One team has created multiple gestures for quick communication of messages and other operational use of the device. This team has multiple gestures set up on the device: A swipe one way will make the device speak the message in the speech display bar. A swipe in the opposite direction will clear the SDB. (This child was having trouble hitting the SDB and clear button and it was causing frustration. The team created these gestures to ease those frustrations.) Finally, a swipe down will make the device say, “I need to go potty”.
  • Other teams use data logging to track a client’s progress. They use a gesture (like a two- or three-finger tap) to quickly toggle data logging on/off. While data logging is off, they can model their sentence. While data logging is on, the client can communicate freely.

These are just a few examples of the way gestures have been used here in Georgia…what other uses can you think of for gestures?

Interested in learning how to create gestures? Follow the steps below:

(**Note: In order for your gesture to work, you MUST turn on Gestures first)

To turn gestures on or off:

  1. Choose Menu > Settings > Input > Gestures.
  2. Either check or uncheck the Gestures option.

Creating a Gesture for All Pages

To create a gesture for all pages in a vocabulary file:

  1. Open the vocabulary file.
  2. Choose Menu > Edit Mode > Edit Vocabulary > Gestures.
  3. Choose the gesture from the list. For example: “One Finger Swipe Down”.
  4. Choose Edit.
  5. Give your gesture a label; for example: “sw clears all”.
  6. Tap Add an action and choose an action from the drop-down menu. For example: Clear Display.
  7. Choose Save twice.
  8. Test the gesture by performing it from any page within the vocabulary file.



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Stories and Strategies fo...   -    access, aac, language, communication, gestures