In our last post, we talked about the use of low-tech/no-tech visuals to help with expressive communication. Now, we will look at some high tech visual support options that provide speech output. High Tech Visual use is typically done with a communication device that is either a dedicated communication device, or an iPad with a communication app. In this post, we are going to focus on iPad communication apps. Later posts will feature dedicated communication devices.
There are two free apps that I have regularly recommended to students/clients, their families, therapists and other educators working with them. Free apps are a great place to start because they are: FREE. Here they are:
GoTalk Now Lite is the free version of the GOTalk Now app. This app is based on the popular static display GoTalk device (a static display device is one that is not computer based, relies on physical overlays, but has speech output). The free version of this app will:
- Allow the creation of up to 5 individual boards that can be saved for future use (the paid version allows for an indefinite number of boards).
- The boards can have from 1-25 icon spaces for pictures per page
- The boards can be set up to link to each other
- Capable of having message window to show combined pictures for a sentence, or not having a message window
- Speech output can be either recorded human speech or synthesized computer speech
- Pictures can be photos (uploaded or pulled into the boards from google images), symbolic pictures from GoTalk Now’s symbol library, or text
Verbally (free version) is a keyboard based app that also has a list of frequently used words available for quick selection. Once a message has been created in the small message window, the speak button can be selected to play the message. There is also a paid version of this app that has more complex features such as the ability to save a variety of predetermined messages.
There are also a large (and growing) number of communication apps available for iPad. From my years of specialization as an AT Specialist/AAC Specialist I can vouch for all of these apps as being strong, functional apps. The apps I will be listing below (which are by no means all the communication apps that are available at this time) have the following features:
- They are robust: capable of containing a very large number of symbols and vocabulary
- They are dynamic: capable of having pages link to other pages with different vocabulary
- They can use either recorded human speech or synthesized computer speech
- They can be used with either picture based symbol systems or keyboards (the exception is Proloquo4text which is only text based)
- They have word prediction capabilities built into their keyboards (word prediction is what happens when we try to text and are given a list of possible options for words)
- The icon spaces can have photographs (imported from personal photo library or downloaded), symbol set based pictures or word based icon spaces
Lamp Words for Life: by PRC-Saltillo
Proloquo2Go: by Assistive Ware
Proloquo4text: by Assistive Ware
Snap Core: by TobiiDynavox
Tobii Sonoflex: by TobiiDynavox
TouchChat HD AAC with WordPower: by PRC-Saltillo
So which one of these apps is best? The answer is: it depends. All of these apps are complex apps that are best trialed first before investing in a purchase (price ranges from $50-300). I ALWAYS recommend to families that they work with a licensed SLP (speech therapist) to thoroughly evaluate their child/loved one’s communication needs first, then look into determining with the SLP which, if any app is the best fit for those needs. It is imperative to have the most up to date information about communication needs, across a wide variety of areas, in order to make the best possible determination about the use of high tech communication devices. This allows a good fit to be made, as well as a comprehensive plan for teaching both your child/loved one and your family how to use their communication device to meet these needs. The process for looking into the best fit for a communication device would be through a specific type of speech therapy evaluation called an AAC (Alternative & Augmentative Communication) evaluation. This is sometimes called an Assistive Technology Evaluation (AAC is a type of Assistive Technology).
So where do you start when looking for someone to help with an AAC evaluation? First, it is always best to start with the school system. As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, this is free. Talk to your child’s school SLP about your interest in looking at device options. Another option is to look for a private SLP in your local area who is an AAC Specialist. An AAC Specialist is an SLP who has spent dedicated time learning how to work with people who use AAC. Ideally, your private SLP will be able and willing to work with your school system, so that both the private SLP and public school SLP are on the same page in regard to device acquisition and use.
If you live in the Rockwall, Dallas or Collin County area I would love to talk with you for a free consultation about your child’s needs to see if I might be able to help you. I spent the majority of my career to date working as an AT Specialist (AAC Specialist) in both OH schools and in TX schools before starting my private practice. If you live outside those areas, and are in need of guidance, you are also welcome to contact me, and I will do my best to guide you to someone in your local area who can help.
In future posts we will delve into more details on some of these apps, as well as looking at how communication needs are evaluated, and how we can help you help your child with those needs. Sign up on the right to follow our blog.