How Do You Make an E-Tran Board? Free PDF

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An E-Tran (‘eye transfer’) board is a low-tech way to communicate via eye gaze. This is an important option for folks with limited verbal speech and motor control.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How to make an E-Tran board
  • How to use it
  • The types of AAC

Plus, you’ll get a free E-Tran Board PDF!

how to make an etran board

What Is An E-Tran Board?

An E-Tran board is a communication board that enables someone to spell out a message using eye gaze.

This means that they don’t need to be able to speak or point to communicate.

On the E-Tran Board are the letters of the alphabet (plus numbers) organized into separate boxes. The patient ‘points’ by gazing at individual boxes to select a letter. They can then spell out a message.

Boards are typically made out of a piece of clear plexiglass (acrylic), although there are alternatives. More on that below.

Who Needs An E-Tran Board?

Not every patient who uses AAC will need an E-Tran Board.

Again, this is an option for people who can’t communicate by verbal speech and who also can’t point with their hands.

An eye gaze board may be a good fit for patients who only need AAC temporarily. Such as those who will recover verbal speech or are waiting on a different device.

It’s also good to have in case of emergency. For example, if the power is out or the patient is hospitalized, they may not have access to their usual speech-generating device. An E-Tran board is a grab-and-go alternative.

Finally, an E-Tran board may be a good fit for patients who want a non-tech communication option.

Below you’ll find a quick overview of the types of AAC. Or skip ahead to the free E-Tran board.

What is AAC?

dysarthria goals

AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) is any form of communicating besides talking. It’s especially important to help patients with cognitive, communication, and/or motor deficits communicate more effectively.

AAC can be as simple and affordable as an E-Tran Board. Or as complex and pricey as a speech-generating device.

Types of AAC

1. Everyday AAC

Everyday AAC means using what’s already available or easily available to the patient (e.g., can be made at home, affordable online).

Examples of everyday AAC:

  • Nodding yes, shaking head no, shrugging
  • Pointing (with fingers, head, eyes)
  • Fingerspelling (tracing letters in the air or on a table)
  • Writing (felt-tip pen and paper, whiteboard, boogie board™, Buddha Board, etc.)
  • Texting
  • Alphabet board
  • Needs board
  • Code board
  • E-Tran board
  • Typing on a tablet, computer, etc.
  • Text-to-speech apps or narrator programs on at-home devices

2. High-Tech AAC

e-tran board

High-tech AAC is communicating with specialized technology.

Examples of high-tech AAC:

  • Speech-generating devices (e.g, Tobii DynaVox® and Lingraphia®)
  • AAC apps (e.g., Proloquo2go™ and LetMeTalk)

3. Alternative Access

Alternative access are tools that allow a patient to independently use a device if they can’t use their hands and body as they could before.

There are alternative access options for phones, tablets, laptops, speech-generating devices, etc.

  • Switch. A piece of equipment (lever, button, mouth tube, etc.) that controls a device
  • Headmouse. Replaces a standard computer mouse to control a device
  • Eye-gaze. A tool that uses eye-gaze to control a device (Tobii; PRC-Saltillo; Eyegaze, Inc.)
  • Device mounts. Tools to mount a communication device for independent access
  • Stylus and joysticks. To scan and select items on high-tech systems (AbleNet®, Smartnav™, Enabling Devices, School Health®)
  • Trackballs and touchpads. To navigate high-tech systems (School Health, AbleNet)

Which AAC Is Best?

When deciding what AAC communication system to recommend, consider the following:

  • What are their previous and current levels of functioning?
    • Will they regain verbal speech?
    • Can they point or write?
    • How well can they see and hear?
  • What are their desires, preferences, lifestyle, etc?
    • What’s their comfort level and interest in technology?
  • Will they need AAC short-term or long-term?
  • 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?

Read about how to get insurance funding for speech-generating devices.

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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:

Each letter or number requires two gazes to select.

  1. Place yourself eye-to-eye with the patient. Hold the E-Tran board up to your eye level. Watch their eyes.
  2. Ask them to spell out their message using the following technique:
  3. Ask them to gaze at the box that contains the first target letter or number. Check your reference board, if needed (below)
  4. Say the color of the box that they gazed at to confirm. For example, they gazed at the blue box, so you say, “Blue.”
  5. 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
  6. Say the color of the second box to confirm. For example, they next gazed at the red box, so you say, “Red”
  7. 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.

Example of How To Use An E-Tran Board

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”

What Is A Reference E-Tran Board?

A reference board is a mirror-image version of the E-Tran board.

You’ll need a reference board if your E-Tran board isn’t see-through (not made of plexiglass). Use it to check which box your patient is gazing at.

It may also be helpful if you’re new to using E-Tran boards or when training caregivers. A reference board is included in the free PDF.

E-Tran Board 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 (Free PDF!)

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Large Acrylic E-Tran Board

  1. Download the E-Tran Board PDF (above). Use it as a reference.
  2. Copying the model, type the text of each box into 6 separate Word or Google documents. Use text size 36 or larger.
  3. Print each page using color ink. Make each letter or number the correct color (e.g., A green, B yellow, C black, etc.)
  4. Outline each box with the correct color.
  5. Create a SPACE and a MISTAKE box.
  6. Cut out all of the boxes, and place them on the board in the order shown above.
  7. Adhere the cut-out boxes to a large (at least 18″ wide) piece of plexiglass. Home Depot sells the Optix 18-inch x 24-inch acrylic sheet for around $18.
  8. Cut out a square in the middle of the board to help you see where your patient is gazing.
  9. Optional: Cut out handles for an easier grip.

Other Way To Make An E-Tran Board

  • Use a similar-sized piece of foam. It’s cheaper and easier to cut!
  • Attach the E-Tran Board to an acrylic clipboard
  • Print out both the E-tran Board and the Reference Board. Place them back-to-back then laminate them
  • Don’t forget to cut a rectangle out of the middle of your board to see where your patient is gazing

More AAC Boards

See the AAC pack for more AAC boards designed for adult speech therapy patients!

AAC Pack Adult AAC Boards Printable Patient Handouts image 0
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