PODD Communication Books | Novita

PODD Communication Books

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).

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


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What is PODD?

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.

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.


Why use a PODD?

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).

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
  • 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).


How to use PODD

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 AACsystem 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 CCNusing the symbols they are learning.
  •  A number of studies have shown that immersion can assist language development for people with CCNby 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

  • 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 and does rely on people using the PODD system correctly.


Who would benefit from a PODD?

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 and Alternate Access Templates CD is better suited to children, it can be adjusted for a person of any age.

Choosing a PODD?

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 learn the basics about how to start using a PODD straight away, come to one of our ‘How to Use a PODD’ workshops
  • To learn how to assess, trial and customise a PODD yourself, you can attend a longer PODD training workshop. For more information on this, email podd@cpec.com.au or visit the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre

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.

Types of PODDs

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

Symbols and words are shown on one page at a time.

Two-page opening communication books 

Symbols and words are shown across two pages at a time.

Two-page opening communication books with a side panel

Symbols and words display across two pages with page categories always visible on a fold out side panel.

Alternative access PODD communication books

  • 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

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
  • The PODD system is available on iPad and for Windows based communication devices.
  • 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.

How to create a PODD

PODD books are made by hand. Each PODD can be customised to suit the needs of the person who will use it.

You can have a PODD book made through Novita Children’s Services. It is strongly recommended that a speech pathologist who has attended the 2 Day Introductory PODD workshop is involved in selecting the appropriate PODD.

Novita has therapists available who can help you to find which PODD or other AAC tools will suit the person’s needs. If you would like a quote or assessment for a PODD, please speak to someone in our friendly team on 1300 NOVITA (1300 668 482) or visit our Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch.

You can buy a resource CD with all the templates and instructions for how to make a ‘direct access’ PODD book. The CD is called Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Direct access templates CD. You can buy it from Cerebral Palsy Education Centre or from Spectronics. The CD has instructions to help you choose and customise PODD communication books, including a printable reference book and detailed information files for each PODD template. It is very important to read the information and construction files that come with this resource if you are going to make your own PODD. A US Letter paper version is available on CD through Mayer Johnson.

To make a PODD book yourself, you will need access to these things:

  • PODD resource CD
  • Boardmaker™ software is needed to print each PODD page from the CD
  • Colour printer
  • Standard or weatherproof paper
  • Laminator and laminating pockets
  • Scissors
  • Binder and binding coils


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 other team member.
  • 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.
    • For information on Australian workshops contact podd@cpec.com.au.
    • For upcoming workshops in the United States visit www.lburkhart.com.
    • The Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) Communication Books: Direct Access Templates Resource and The Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) Communication Books: Alternative Access Templates Resource contain valuable resources for learning more about  PODDs. Please contact CPEC pod@cpec.com.au for further information.

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.
  • Porter, G. (2017) Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) communication books: Alternative Access Templates. 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.