An E-Tran (“Eye Transfer”) Board is a low-tech way of communicating via eye-gaze—an important option for folks with limited verbal speech and motor control.
The board contains letters and numbers organized into separate boxes. The patient “points” by gazing at individual boxes to select a letter, building a word or phrase.
Boards are typically constructed out of a piece of clear plexiglass, although we will review a few alternatives.
What We’ll Cover
- What is AAC? (no-tech to high-tech)
- What AAC to Recommend?
- How to use an E-Tran Board
- How to make an E-Tran Board
- Free E-Tran and Reference Boards PDF
- More Resources
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What is AAC?
AAC (“augmentative and alternative communication”) are ways of communicating without talking. In therapy, AAC is regularly used to help patients who have cognitive, communication, and/or motor deficits communicate more effectively.
AAC can be as simple and affordable as hand gestures and writing or as complex and pricey as a speech-generating device, which can run into the thousands of dollars.
Types of AAC
AAC without specialized technology.
- Writing with felt-tip pens and a notepad (if possible, opt for felt-tip—these pens are easier to write with, resulting in fewer accidental marks)
- Writing with a dry-erase marker and a whiteboard
- Writing using a magic slate or Buddha Board™
- Nodding, shaking head, shrugging
- Pointing, nodding head to right or left
- Fingerspelling (e.g. tracing letters in the air or on a table)
Communicating with everyday technology.
- Texting with a phone or tablet
- Using a communication board
- Using an E-Tran board or another plexiglass board
- Using an alphabet board
- Using a needs board
- Using a code board
- Typing on a computer or laptop
- Using text-to-speech apps or narrator programs on computers
- Using a tablet (10″ or wider is best) such as an iPad Pro® or Microsoft® Surface
Communicating with specialized technology.
- Speech-generating devices such as those offered by Tobii DynaVox® and Lingraphia®
- AAC apps on tablets such as Proloquo2go™ and LetMeTalk
Alternative Access AAC
AAC for patients with limited use of their hands.
- Stylus and joysticks to scan and select items on high-tech systems (AbleNet®, Smartnav™, Enabling Devices, School Health®)
- Trackballs and touch-pads to navigate high-tech systems (School Health, AbleNet)
- Head tracking and eye gaze to navigate high-tech systems (Tobii; PRC-Saltillo; Eyegaze, Inc.)
What is AAC Treatment?
The goal of AAC treatment is to increase a patient’s ability to communicate their wants and needs.
What AAC to Recommend?
Always trial AAC devices to help you and your patient decide on the best fit. High-tech device manufacturers offer free device trials.
When deciding what AAC to recommend for your patient, consider the following:
- What are the patient’s previous and current levels of functioning?
- Communication strengths and weaknesses?
- Physical abilities? Cognitive abilities? Vision and hearing? Etc?
- What are their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, personality, social life, hobbies, career, etc?
- Will they need AAC short-term (e.g. a few months) or long-term (indefinitely)?
- What’s the nature of their disease or disability (e.g., acute? progressive)?
- How much support do they have?
- How motivated are they?
- What’s their budget? Keep in mind that speech-generating devices and alternative access accessories can cost thousands of dollars.
How to Use an E-Tran Board
An E-Tran board allows your patients to communicate via eye gaze. It consists of six large boxes containing six letters (or numbers) each with a repeating color system. See the model below.
Using the Board
Each letter or number requires two gazes to select.
Place yourself eye-to-eye with the patient. Hold the E-Tran board up to your eye-level. Watch their eyes.
Ask them to spell out their message using the following technique:
- Ask them to gaze at the box that contains the first target letter or number. (*Check your reference board if needed). Say the color of the box that they gazed at to confirm. For example, they gazed at the blue box, so you say, “Blue.”
- Next, ask them to gaze at the box that is outlined by the same color that the target letter is colored. (*Check your reference board if needed). Say the color of the second box to confirm. For example, they next gazed at the red box, so you say, “Red.”
- Finally, confirm the target letter. For example, “W.”
To summarize, the patient spells out a message by gazing at different colored boxes. Confirm the box color after each gaze (two gazes per letter), then confirm the target letter.
How to spell “TV” using the E-Tran Board above:
- The patient gazes at the gray box then the red box to select “T”
- The patient gazes at the blue box then the blue box again to select “V”
* Reference Board
A reference board is a mirror-image version of the E-Tran board. It’s used to check which box your patient is gazing at. You’ll need a reference board if your E-Tran board isn’t see-through (not made of plexiglass). It may also be helpful if you’re new to E-Tran boards or when training caregivers. A reference board is included in the free PDF.
REFERENCE E-Tran Board
A Video Example
Here’s a video from SLPinCA explaining how to use an E-Tran Board. Please note that we use different colors than the board they model.
How to Make an E-Tran Board
- Copying the model above, type the text of each box into 6 separate word documents. Use text size 36 or larger.
- Print each page using color ink. Make each letter or number the correct color (e.g., A green, B yellow, C black, etc.)
- Outline each box with the correct color.
- Create a SPACE and a MISTAKE box.
- Cut out all of the boxes, and place them on the board in the order shown above.
- Adhere the cut-out boxes to a large (at least 18″ wide) piece of plexiglass. As of this writing, Home Depot sells the Optix 18-inch x 24-inch acrylic sheet for around $15.
- Cut out a square in the middle of the board to help you see where your patient is gazing.
- Optional: Cut out handles for an easier grip.
We also offer premade templates of the E-Tran board and other communication boards in our AAC Pack:
Alternatives to Plexiglass
- A more affordable option is to use a similar-sized piece of foam. Foam is also easier to cut than plexiglass!
- Or, print out both the E-tran board and the Reference board. Place them back-to-back then laminate them. Ace Centre offers a free, 8.5 x 11 E-tran board PDF.
- Don’t forget to cut a rectangle out in the middle of your board to see where your patient is gazing.
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