Eye Gaze Communication

Eye Gaze

UDL 4.1 UDL 4.2

Eye Gaze Communication is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication System (AAC) where students use sustained eye-contact with images, words, and symbols to communicate wants, needs, and observations instead of using their voices to speak. When prompted by the teacher or a familiar communication partner, the student responds using a predetermined eye gaze system (e.g., high-tech device with keyboard, low-tech communication board with pictures or letters). Eye Gaze Communication is also used, with the support of a communication partner, to demonstrate attending and allow for participation (e.g.,Teacher points to illustration and says, "Look at the brown bear." The student scans the book, locates the the image, and gazes at it.). Eye Gaze Communication empowers students who are unable to communicate in a traditional method, yet have the ability to utilize controlled eye movements, to communicate ideas, express needs and have greater participation in the learning environment.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Flash Cards

Illustrated Word Cards: Preferred Items

A set of highly-preferred item words cards illustrated with icons. Use these as a reference when teaching students new vocabulary words, as labels for AAC devices, or as word icons for students using a picture communication system. Included are PDFs and a Word Document version with a customizable, blank template.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · English Language Arts, Reading, Speaking, Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Implementation Tips

Determining Eye Gaze Response Method
Determine, with the support of a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), the student’s best mode of communication (e.g., high-tech device with keyboard or pictures, low-tech communication board). Students need the ability to communicate a variety of messages while still maintaining efficiency.
Personalizing Response Systems
Use pictures and icons that are salient to the user. Most high-tech devices let you take pictures and then add them to the user’s screen. When using a low-tech system, use relevant images (e.g., photo of actual cubby vs. generic clip art picture).
Reinforcing Communication
Reinforce the student’s use of Eye Gaze Communication through immediate feedback (e.g., “You’re telling me you’re ready to go outside, but it is not yet time.”). This helps students learn that their behavior is communicating a message, even if you cannot grant the request.
Establishing a Confirmation System
Develop a yes/no system for confirming students’ responses based on the student’s cognitive and physical abilities (e.g., blinking twice to communicate “no.”).
Displaying Images
Display a limited number of pictures or icons initially as too many on a board or screen can be overwhelming. Add more later as the user becomes more proficient.
Incorporating Student Input
Consider student input regarding how their response system is designed (e.g., how device is programmed, what images are included on communication board). Messages should reflect the student’s personality and should be organized in a way that makes sense to the student.
Integrating Prompts
Utilize verbal prompts and visual cues when signaling students to use eye gaze to attend to specific individuals or objects (e.g., teacher points to illustration and says, "Look at the _____."). Take note of which prompts are effective and adjust the frequency of prompts based on students' needs.
Avoiding Fatigue
Observe students closely while using Eye Gaze Communication for signs of fatigue (e.g., watery eyes, rapid blinking). When signaling students to use eye gaze to demonstrate engagement, consider keeping exercises brief (e.g., a five page picture book read aloud).


Responding to a Question
During lunchtime, a paraprofessional works with a student using an electronic AAC device. The paraprofessional asks the student to identify a desired vegetable as a side dish. The student shifts eye gaze to access the keyboard on the device. When the keyboard appears, the student uses eye movements to select the letter “p.” Once the letter “p” appears in the box, the student continues to use eye movements to select the remaining letters (i.e., “e,” “a,” “s”). When the student completes the word, the device generates the desired word, “peas."
Establishing a Topic
At the start of the school day a student appears upset, however, the adults cannot figure out why. The paraprofessional sets up the “feelings” board on the student’s AAC device, asking if the student is hungry or sleepy. The student blinks twice to indicate “no.” The paraprofessional moves the screen to the home page. The student selects the “family” icon. The paraprofessional says, “Are we talking about your family?” The student blinks once to confirm “yes.” The paraprofessional asks, “Are we talking about your mom?” The student blinks once to confirm “yes.” The paraprofessional says, “ Are you upset because you miss your mom?” The student blinks once to confirm “yes.”
Attending to People or Objects
During small group literacy instruction, the teacher has prepared a read aloud mini-lesson using a familiar picture book. The teacher holds up the book and says, “It is time to read our favorite book, [[ | Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?]]” The teacher scans the group to ensure that students are using eye gaze to attend to the cover of the book for at least three seconds. The teacher continues to read each page, pausing to check for eye gaze. When a student struggles to attend to one of the pages, the teacher uses a verbal prompt and visual cue to support the student in attending to the page (e.g., the teacher points to the page and says, “Wow, look! Here is the blue horse right on this page!”). The teacher observes the student's eye gaze shift toward the illustration in the book.

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