PODD Communication Books

Image of child using her PODD with her mother.Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) is a means of selecting and organising symbols so that people with complex communication needs and their communication partners can communicate more easily.

PODD is an example of Augmentative and Alternative Communication  (AAC).

Read more about AAC

This webpage provides information about PODD communication books and the ways they can be used.

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What is a PODD Communication Book?

Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display

PODD stands for:

  • Pragmatic – the ways that we use language socially
  • Organisation – words and symbols arranged in a systematic way
  • Dynamic Display – changing pages.


  • PODD is a way of organising whole word and symbol vocabulary in a communication book or speech generating device to provide immersion and modelling for learning. 
  • The aim of a PODD is to provide vocabulary:
    • for continuous communication all the time
    • for a range of messages
    • across a range of topics 
    • in multiple environments.
  • PODDs can have different formats, depending on the individual physical, sensory and communication needs of the person who will use it.
  • PODDs have been developed over the past 15 years by Gayle Porter, a speech pathologist with the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) in Victoria. Each PODD format has been shaped by the experiences of both children with complex communication needs (CCN), and their communication partners.

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A tool for communication

PODD is designed to be just one 'tool' in a person’s 'toolbox of communication methods'.

  • We all use multiple communication methods, such as speech, gestures, pointing, facial expressions and writing, and we tend to choose whichever method is most effective for each situation.
  • In the same way, a person with CCN may use a number of different methods to communicate. They will choose their most efficient methods when communicating messages, whether that is speech, signing, symbols, a communication device or another way.

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Why use a PODD Communication Book or other type of AAC?

Owen talking to partnerOwen and his teacher Sue talk using his PODD using auditory partner assisted scanning.


For communication 'all the time'

  • There are many different types of communication aids. Some focus on providing vocabulary for a specific activity or schedule.
  • One of the important features of PODD is that it is an all the time strategy.

To develop use and understanding of language

  • PODD can be used for one or both of the following:
    • To assist a person to communicate more effectively.
    • To assist their understanding of other people’s spoken language (a communication partner points to the symbols as they talk to the person with CCN).
  • There is even potential for PODDs and other AAC strategies to assist speech development by supporting children’s attempts to produce spoken words.

Access to a larger vocabulary of words

  • Just as a person who uses speech can choose from thousands of words in their head when they talk, PODDs aim to give people with CCN access to a greater vocabulary of words.
  • If we restrict a person’s vocabulary to a smaller number of words, how will we know for sure that the person is not capable of more?

“A child who uses speech will independently select the words she wishes to use from the vast array of words she hears/sees used everyday.”

“A child who uses AAC will independently select the words she wishes to use from the vocabulary other people have chosen to model and, for aided symbols, made available for her to use.” Porter & Kirkland, 1995, p. 93-94.

  • PODD can provide a way to better express the person's personality through a wide range of communication types, including requests, greetings, comments, questions, opinions and more.
  • "We can never really know what a person is capable of until we provide them with the opportunity to learn and show us" (Porter, 2009).

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To choose messages that suit each situation

  • PODD is designed to help the person to meet his/her varied communication requirements as:
    • intelligibly
    • specifically
    • efficiently
    • independently and
    • in as socially valued a manner
      as possible, in order to understand others and to be understood. (Porter, 2007)
  • Different messages, partners and situations place different requirements on communication. For example, some messages have an emphasis on efficiency, such as quickly telling someone that you “need the toilet”, or to “hurry up”. Other messages need to be more specific, such as selecting the words you want to tell a story or express your personality.
  • PODD allows this flexiblity by providing 'quick chat' words as well as extended vocabulary.

'Smart partner operating system'

PODD communication books are often referred to as a “Smart Partner Operating System”, because humans can observe and problem solve in ways computers can’t (Porter, 2007).

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How to use a PODD communication book

Teacher using PODD immersion strategiesKerry-Anne’s teacher uses immersion strategies to assist her language development

Use 'immersion' to teach language

  • A primary aim of PODDs is to promote immersion, a teaching strategy where all those around the person with CCN use their AAC system when communicating with them, for communication all the time.
  • The best way to use immersion for teaching language is to have access to lots of vocabulary. This allows other people to make the most of every opportunity to talk to the person with CCN using the symbols they are learning.
  •  A number of studies have shown that immersion can assist language development for people with CCN by increasing the person’s understanding and use of AAC strategies (Binger & Light, 2007; Bruno & Trembath, 2006; Cafiero, 2001; Drager et al, 2006; Harris & Reichle, 2004).

Establish habits for communication 'all the time'

  • It is important to establish the habit to carry and have the PODD readily available wherever the person with CCN goes, at all times.
  • If it is not practical for them to have their PODD with them (e.g. while swimming), make sure that they have other effective methods available to them instead.

Always start on the first page

PODD - Page link exampleExample of a ‘go to page number’ link.

  • For all PODDs, the person is encouraged to start on the first page to indicate their message. Some messages will indicate a page number to turn to, leading the person to more words on that topic.
  • Unless the person with CCN is able to independently direct which page they need via the “go to page number” links, the communication partner will usually turn the pages. This helps the person with CCN to just focus on creating their message.
  • How much assistance the partner provides will depend on the individual.

There's no set recipe for using a PODD with everyone

  • As with other communication tools, such as communication devices or Key Word Signing, there is no set recipe for how to use a PODD with everyone.
  • The most important factors are:
    •  support from the person’s communication partners
    • making sure the goal is about genuine communication.
  • Using a PODD is not hard to do, it’s just a different approach to communicating with other people.

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Who would benefit from a PODD Communication Book?

  • PODD could be considered for anyone who would benefit from using AAC methods for understanding or expression of language. Which PODD (or other AAC tool) to use will depend on the communication challenges we need to meet.
  • Although the vocabulary within the PODD Communication Book Direct Access Templates CD is better suited to children, it can be adjusted for a person of any age.

Types of PODD Communication Book

PODD may differ in the way it looks and is organised, depending on a person’s individual communication requirements, as well as their sensory and their physical abilities:

Direct Access PODD communication books

Direct access PODDs are designed for the person with CCN to point directly to the symbols using their hand, a finger or a tool. They come in three main forms (Porter, 2007):  

One page opening communication books 

PODD Communication Book - 1 pageSymbols and words are shown on one page at a time.  

Two page opening communication books 

PODD Communication Book - 2 page opening book Symbols and words are shown across two pages at a time.

Two page opening communication books with a side panel 

PODD Communication Book - 2 page opening with side panelSymbols and words display across two pages with page categories always visible on a fold out side panel.

Alternative access PODD communication books

Danielle using her PODD to chat with Bronwyn.

  • It is important with any communication method to make sure that it best meets the person’s sensory needs and physical access, while still providing the most communication opportunities.
  • If a person is unable to point directly to symbols with their hand, different modifications to PODD features can be trialed (Porter, 2009).

For example:

Alternative auditory visual presentation

PODD - High contrast symbols PODD communication book with high contrast symbols.

  • For people with a cortical visual impairment (Roman-Lantzy, 2007), modifications can be made that meet the individual’s own needs.
  • Examples include:
    • using symbols that are less visually complex.
    • presenting auditory and visual information separately (useful for those who have difficulty coordinating looking and listening at the same time).

Partner assisted scanning

  • The communication partner points to or reads out the choices on each page.
  • The person with CCN then indicates when they see or hear the message they want.
  • The photos below show two types of PODDs that use partner assisted scanning.

PODD - Eye gaze scanning Column scanning PODD communication book.

PODD - Auditory Scan Visual PresentationAuditory scanning PODD communication book.

Eye gaze

  • The person with CCN indicates the symbol they want using eye pointing.
  • They look at the symbol they want and their partner watches and interprets.
  • The PODD has a hole in the middle (and a mirror for side-by-side sitting) so partners can see each others’ faces clearly.

PODD-Eye Gaze Eye gaze PODD communication book.

Coded access

  • Each column and row on a page is given a reference, such as a colour or number.
  • The person with CCN indicates their message by looking at the colour, then the number that matches the word they want.

PODD - coded accessPODD communication book with colour-coded access.

Pick up and give or show

  •  Useful for people who are visually distractible.
  • Also useful for people who benefit by having a concrete symbol to remove and pass to their partner, or by creating sentences on a strip.
  • PODDs with pull offs can quickly become bulky, therefore only key words are usually made removable.
  • If direct pointing can be taught, this is encouraged as soon as possible.

PODD - Pick up and givePODD communication book with pull off symbols.

Combination access

Combines different access methods to suit the individual, such as direct access with partner assisted scanning.

Group PODD communication books 

  • PODD Communication books may be designed for use by an individual and their partners, or for use in a class group. This picture shows a one-page opening group PODD communication book.

PODD book - usage in groupOne page opening group PODD communication book.

Electronic PODDs

  • It is possible to apply the format for Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Displays to organise vocabulary on a speech generating device, allowing messages to be spoken aloud.
  • A person might choose to use both a communication book and a speech generating device for communication using PODD, as both have advantages in different situations. 

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Selecting and customising a PODD Communication book to meet individual requirements.

It is important for people with CCN to have access to a range of communication strategies to suit the different situations they will encounter, and people they will communicate with. Working out which communication strategies will suit a person’s individual needs is an ongoing process.


  • To assess, trial and customise a PODD, it is suggested to first attend a PODD training workshop (more information via podd@cpec.com.au).

CD Resource

  • The Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates CD also contains a range of supports to assist in selection and customisation of PODD communication books, including a printable reference book as well as detailed information files for each PODD template.


Factors to consider when choosing a PODD to trial

  • As part of ongoing assessment, it is important to find out what the person can already do independently, as well as what they can do with assistance from a skilled partner. Some of the considerations for choosing a PODD to test out might include:
    • Current communication:
      • how they respond to other people’s communication
      • how they communicate, ie range of message types used, different communication partners, different environments.
      • what may support or limit their communication right now
    • Physical access methods, including fine motor skills
    • Mobility (e.g. if a person is able to move around, do they need a more portable option?)
    • sensory processing challenges
    • Functional vision and hearing
  • This information might be gathered by working with the person with CCN, their family, teacher, support workers, professionals such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, and other communication partners.
  • Usually one or more PODDs are tested for enough time to work out any adjustments required, such as adding extra vocabulary or changing features to suit the individual. A customised copy can then be created. This may take some time to complete, as each page usually needs to be cut out and laminated individually.

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How to create a PODD Communication Book

Resource CD

Additional resources required

The main resources needed to make a PODD communication book include:

  • Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates CD
  • Boardmaker™ software
  • colour printer
  • laminator
  • binder
  • paper
  • laminator and laminating pockets 
  • binder and binding coils.

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For more information

Interested in learning more about PODDs?

  • For enquiries or support relating to clients of Novita Children’s Services, please contact your Novita Speech Pathologist or Key Worker.
  • For all other Australia-based enquiries, please contact the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) podd@cpec.com.au or your speech pathologist.
  • Consider attending a PODD workshop.
  • The Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates CD contains some valuable resources for learning more about  PODDs:
    • a printable reference book
    • detailed information files for each PODD template
  • CD with templates for Alternative Access and Alternative Visual and Auditory Presentation PODD sets is currently in development. Please contact CPEC podd@cpec.com.au for further information.

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'How to Use a PODD' Workshops

Novita provides a number of 'How to Use a PODD' workshops each year. This is a basic workshop covering information about PODD communication books as a tool for assisting people with complex communication needs (CCN) to communicate. These workshops are free for the families of Novita clients.

Books and journals referred to on this page

  • Binger, C. & Light, J. (2007) The effect of aided AAC modeling on the expression of multi-symbol messages by preschoolers who use AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 23, (1) 30 - 43.
  • Bruno, J. & Trembath, D. (2006) Use of aided language stimulation to improve syntactic performance during a weeklong intervention program. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 22(4).
  • Cafiero, J. (2001) The Effect of an Augmentative Communication Intervention on the Communication, Behavior, and Academic Program of an Adolescent with Autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Vol. 16, No. 3, 179-189.
  • Drager, K, Postal, V, Carrolus, L, Gagliano, C & Glynn, J. (2006) The Effect of Aided Language Modeling on Symbol Comprehension and Production in 2 Preschoolers With Autism. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15; 112-125.
  • Harris, M. & Reichle, J. (2004) The Impact of Aided Language Stimulation on Symbol Comprehension and Production in Children With Moderate Cognitive Disabilities. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol.13 155-167.
  • Porter, G. (2007) Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates. Melbourne: Cerebral Palsy Education Centre.
  • Porter, G. (2008) Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates. US Letter paper version. Melbourne: Cerebral Palsy Education Centre.
  • Porter, G. (2009) Advanced PODD Workshop. Melbourne: Cerebral Palsy Education Centre.
  • Roman-Lantzy, C. (2007) Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention. New York: AFB Press. American Foundation for the Blind.

Disclaimer Detail: The information on this website is of a general nature only and does not constitute advice. Novita Children's Services makes no representations as to the accuracy, usefulness, suitability or application of the information to a child's particular circumstances. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the information. In using this site, you are agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of Use for the site. 



Connected with hearing or received by the ear.

Augmentative and alternative communication

Any method a person uses to communicate in addition to, or instead of, speech.

Body language

Communicating a message by the movement or positioning of any part of one's body, for example, by raising one's eyes and sighing.

Communication device

An item of equipment (usually electronic) that helps the child to communicate things by selecting pictures/symbols or letters/words.

Complex Communication Needs

Communication problems associated with a wide range of physical, sensory and environmental causes which restrict /limit a person's ability to participate independently in society.


Made to suit a particular individual.


Of practical use in daily life.


Movement of the hands, head or body to emphasise an idea or emotion.


When all those around the child use the child's augmentative and alternative communication system when communicating with them. The child should also be expected to use the system.


Capable of being understood.


Demonstrating or showing how to do something by example.


To do with one or more of the 5 senses (touch, smell, hearing, taste and vision).

Speech Generating Device

An electronic communication device that produces words and sentences out loud when buttons are pressed.


Simple line drawings used as a communication system for children who cannot communicate using speech. Children point to symbols that represent words.

Visual impairment

Where a person's ability to see is damaged or absent.


The total number of words or symbols used by a person, device or language.

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