Low Cost AAC Apps for Speech
The range of AAC apps on the market is vast and working your way through them all can be a daunting task. Some of the more established brands may seem hugely expensive, especially if you don’t have funding in any way and especially in light of recent benefit cuts.
An extremely helpful and valued group on Facebook called More Than Words has given us plenty of food for thought and inspired this post. The group is managed by Kati Lea, who has previously appeared on our site as a Trabasack user and advocate of many AAC apps and devices.
We’ve learned a lot in our time in the group and are sharing some of the fantastic low cost AAC apps for speech available if you can’t stretch to the more expensive options on the market.
An iPad app designed by two experienced speech language pathologists who specialise in AAC. The app is built upon evidence and research and uses a word-based vocabulary. The vocabulary is built up from the most frequently used words in general communication and gives access to over 13,000 words. It’s available for £139.99 which is significantly less than many of the more established apps.
ClaroCom is an iOS app which aims to take the place of speech for those who are unable to communicate that way. It’s designed to be suitable for adults and children with some or complete literacy. Users can simply type into ClaroCom or they can use word prediction or phrase prediction functions. A range of voices are available and they are programmed with English accents which can make all the difference. You can make the in-app purchase of further accents including Australian, Scottish and South African. ClaroCom may be a good first app for users new to AAC as it’s available for just £9.99.
Speech Assistant AAC
This app is for Android users and is completely free! Being free doesn’t necessarily make it a great choice although we think it has some basic, valuable features which make it worth trying. The app is loaded up with 12 categories and within each category are several set phrases which can be vocalised as they are and you can also add in important personalisation.
Grid Player is another highly valuable FREE AAC app which could be perfect for you or your family. It is accessible for a wide range of people including those who are more comfortable with symbols than words or text. It includes over 24,000 different symbols and has both male and female voices so it can be personalised. You can personalise it and add in your own features including photographs, words and symbols.
Some of these apps may not be perfect for your situation but they could be part of the learning curve to find the right app or device for you or your family’s needs. If you have found some low cost apps to help with communication or wish to comment on the post above please do so below. You will also find more useful apps for communication under ‘Related Posts’ below.
Communication Aids for Older People
As we age many of us succumb to conditions and the natural effects of ageing which means communication and the use of other faculties becomes difficult. From macular degeneration to dementia, many conditions can affect communication and finding communication aids and devices for the elderly is a sensible move when looking to ensure quality of life is maintained. Obviously depending on the particular issues faced by the individual elderly person in question the requirements from a communication device will differ. The communication devices that we look are particularly valuable to the older people and can make a huge different to daily life.
Due to conditions such as dementia causing a decline in cognitive abilities, modern technologies are usually avoided when considering communication aids for the elderly. There is nothing to say that some people may be capable of communicating via an electronic AAC device in most instances introducing this new technology would just provide more confusion, hence the devices mentioned below being quite simplistic in comparison to many on the market.
Simple and straightforward, Menuboard allows an elderly person who may have become non-verbal or has non-verbal periods to put across what they want to eat. Obviously eating is a basic human right and choosing your own meals is something integral to remaining independent. Alternatively, this board can be used in a care home environment to signify to groups of elderly people what’s arranged for meal times.
Aquapaint has been developed specifically for those living with dementia and is designed to promote conversation and communication through art therapy. Not only do they promote communication, water-based aqua paints are able to provide endless stimulation and the finished product can instil a sense of pride in individuals who are struggling to deal with the rapid onset of the disease.
We’d also suggest users trying out Aquapaints could consider a Trabasack lap tray as the perfect painting surface, especially when topped with a Trabasack non-slip mat, keeping the surface of the lap tray perfectly clean thanks to the non-slip mat’s protective covering. The Trabasack sits comfortably on your lap without exerting pressure and provides the perfect portable table.
This video shows Aquapaint in action:
Talking Mats are a further low-tech communication device, simply comprising pictures, words and the requirement of the individual to point out or nod towards their specific request or requirement. They can help with the expression of feelings as well as giving directions and are extremely simple, providing an anxiety-free communication method without the need to worry about modern technology.
These are just thee communication devices which could benefit the older people. There are many more on the market which may suit individuals and of course, each person has their own personal requirements, strengths and weaknesses so may suit a different type of device altogether.
Communication Aids for Children with Autism
Autism is a developmental disability which affects the way an individual is able to communicate with and understand other people and the world around them. There are varying degrees of autism, which is why the condition is considered spectral with individuals diagnosed with the condition to a particular degree. Individuals with an autistic spectrum disorder will all share similar qualities but they may be more or less pronounced depending on the severity of the condition. There are individuals with autism who can communicate verbally with no significant difficulties whilst there are others with no verbal communication whatsoever, as well as many in between.
There are over half a million people in the UK who have autism and many of these are children. Developing communication methods with children with autism is key to ensuring they enter adulthood with the tools required to head towards independence. Below are some key communication aids you can use with children with autism, but first this video gives some tips and ideas with regard to choosing communication devices:
Low-Tech Communication Devices
Makaton is a simple form of sign language which combines signs, images and speech. My First Makaton Symbols and Signs Book is the ideal place to start when introducing Makaton to your child. It includes all essential symbols and helps with the initial process of expressing basic needs, wants and feelings, as well as encouraging interaction.
We’ve looked at these before on this blog but Picture Exchange Communication Keyrings are a great portable method of communication for children with autism who can become non-verbal in situations where they become anxious and find verbalising their feelings difficult. They’re also useful for those who are permanently non-verbal. They come in a wide range covering food and drink, instructions and behaviour and much more, allowing for all needs to be quickly put across and met, as with standard speech.
High-Tech Communication Devices
Tobii produce a range of high-tech communication devices which are tailored to support the needs of children with autism and also adults who have the condition. The Tobii S32 for example plays back pre-recorded messages or sounds which can be activated by simply touching a printed sheet including symbols relating to the devices’ sounds. It’s a technological step up from picture cards and signs and gives users a voice when they are unable to find their own.
The Toby Lightwriter Range
Similarly, the Lightwriter range of products is a great option for those with high-functioning Autism who sometimes require assistance with their speech. Lightwriters allows for keyboard based text-to-speech ideal for when an older child with autism loses their ability to communicate verbally but wants to put across their needs through text.
Accessories for Communication
All of these communication devices require a flat surface to be used, to ensure they are easy to access and communication doesn’t get confused. A Trabasack lap tray is ideal for providing a sturdy and secure surface for all communication devices in use by children with autism. Keyrings can be clipped to the side of the Trabasack when it’s used as a bag and other devices can be safely stored in the bag compartment when not in use on the tray surface.
The tray is lightweight and can be rested upon any lap without causing any discomfort and the communication device, whether it’s a simple book being read with a parent or a high-tech Tobii AAC device, can be put on top of the tray and easily accessed.
For more information about using trabasack for communication please click here
Kids using Tablets for Educational Purposes
American Advertising Group Produces New Infographic
The popularity of the iPad is nothing new, we all know it’s a huge hit but did we know how much kids loved it? New statistics have been put together by Florida agency MDG Advertising in this new infographic. It shows exactly how into tablet technology our children are. More than just fun and games, there is evidence of more kids using tablets for educational purposes rather than anything else.Infographicby MDG Advertising
What does it all mean?
We’ve talked before about how positive iPads can be for children’s education. The modern world is digital. Children born today are already prepped for using new technologies just by seeing their parents doing so. What’s more, Apple haven’t missed a trick. They target every market group, even those under one, with apps and products to suit their ‘needs’. The pre-teen market is completely packed out with kids wanting to use tablets and kids using tablets for education is becoming the norm.
We were particularly interested in the section of the infographic which deals with special educational needs technology. The section is entitled Making Special Education Needs Easier and looks at the statistics relating to autism and AAC technology in particular. It highlights there are currently 900 autism-specific apps available for the iPad. It also points out the shocking fact that specific devices for communication, before the iPad, could cost as much as $15,000. Another great figure from the graphic is that 90% of AAC users have turned to using iPads for communication. This shows how beneficial these products are for education and communication more clearly than anything else.
The final statement “Although iPads aren’t the most integral tool for a child’s education quite yet, Americans can expect that to change in the next decade’ is extremely exciting and we can believe it. The iPad has revolutionised education for many and kids using tablets for education report better results than those without access and there is hope in the future, as prices decrease that even more pupils may have access to these devices.
Communication Aids for Deaf People
Living with a hearing impairment can make communication difficult. In most instances those living with a severe degree of deafness learn some form of sign language which makes communicating with their family, friends and other deaf people much easier. Unfortunately the rest of the population are less likely to use any form of signing. However, there are a range of devices developed for deaf people, allowing them to communicate more easily when signing isn’t possible.
Below are some communication devices which could be useful to those living with hearing impairment or even profound deafness. Please note, the development of modern technologies, especially in telecommunication means many of these devices may seem defunct but this isn’t necessarily so as every individual is different.
The VV-Talker is a wonderful gadget that could enhance the interaction abilities of deaf children as they learn to talk. Deaf youngsters hold the device against their throats and it provides feedback vibrations, helping them to ‘hear’ their attempts at speech. It also has a visual display so they can see the sounds they are making as a sound graph on a screen. This helps them to improve their speech by producing vocal vibrations that are comparable to those shown on the display.
Induction loop systems
Hearing loops are now common in public buildings. They produce amplified sound using an electric field, that can then be picked up by a device used by a deaf person. Often it is by changing a setting on a hearing aid to ‘T’.
Hearing Loop Systems in the Home
In the, you might install a loop system so that the sound from your tv, hi-fi or radio could be amplified. A loop could also be used with a microphone so that you could be able to pick up a conversation with someone close by in an otherwise noisy place. Induction Loop Systems can now be bought online for the home and need no specialist knowledge to set up or install.
An Amplified Telephone is a fantastic option for those living with a degree of hearing impairment. They’re designed to ensure that you can hear more clearly as the volume can be increased much higher than that on a regular telephone. What’s more, many also feature additional features including one-touch dialling and spaces for photographs of individuals so numbers don’t need to be remembered and you can simply press the corresponding button.
Textphones are available to those who are unable to used amplified telephones and the Cleartext model featured in the video below is one of the simplest on the market, making communication simple and fast. Featuring a large screen and buttons, communication via text can be quick and efficient. It also automatically inserts the prefix number for TypeTalk which allows for text communication with many companies making it easy to use for professional purposes as well as personal.
The below video explains more about this item:
Communication Uses for Mainstream Technologies
Of course plenty of technologies developed for regular usage can be adapted and used easily for communication for deaf people.
You may not need a textphone if you have a mobile phone for example, as you can send messages without difficulty. Similarly, the Skype free internet calls service is ideal if used in conjunction with Skype compatible webcams. This video capacity removes the need for text as deaf people can communicate as if face to face using their sign language although there is still the option to include text messages.
These types of communication are best accessed using a laptop or tablet, allowing for easy communication wherever you may be. Additionally, to provide a sturdy surface so the user doesn’t need to keep hold of their laptop or feel it wobble on their laps, we’d suggest using a Trabasack lap tray. The Trabasack provides the sturdy, level surface you need, allowing conversation to flow via your computer screen and cam without fail. What’s more if you opt to use a Trabasack Media Mount you can also position your devices exactly where you need them. As Mark Mayer who describes himself as “Hard of Hearing with cerebral palsy” and who is chairman of a children’s charity, Worster-Drought Syndrome Support Group, http://www.wdssg.org.uk/ says
@trabasack never leave home without my Trabasack
— Mark Mayer(@Markinsutton) October 30, 2011
For people who have deafness in that is worse on one side, there a also a range of Stereo to Mono earphones that can help amplify sound to one ear or convert talking books or podcasts so that they can be heard in one ear only. As this person on Amazon
This product is primarily designed for runners and cyclists to let them listen to music while having an ear on traffic and surrounding noise, but it’s also brilliant for people with hearing loss – I’m deaf in one ear and can finally listen to “stereo” music through a mono earphone after years of only hearing half the track I’m listening to. The quality of the sound is great – I must be honest and say that my hearing means that I didn’t use earphones a lot, so I don’t really have much else to compare it to, but it sounds fab to me – and the noise isolation means that I can listen to loud music at work without anybody hearing a single annoying tinny beat of what I’m listening to. Overall a really great product.
Communication aids and gadgets for Deafness
So there are a range of useful communication aids for helping deaf people, some very specialist but many being widely available and needing no technical knowledge to buy or install. To browse a wide range of products click here
Apps for Autism: Behaviour Management Analysis
Apps to support discipline and behaviour management in the home and classroom
Some apps can be used to help monitor and manage behaviour at home and in the classroom for children with autism. The role of the iPad in the special educational needs classroom cannot be underestimated. As we have previously discussed research has shown exactly how effective these devices can be in an educational setting as well as when used for play and this also applies when considering students and pupils who have an autistic spectrum disorder. This post is part of a larger collection bringing together some of the fantastic apps available to people living with autism.
There are many challenges and difficulties that come with caring for and educating a child with an autistic spectrum disorder and finding an appropriate and workable behaviour management strategy is amongst these. However, there are apps on the market which are designed to support your behaviour management strategies and aid your understanding of the behavioural issues that you may be facing.
Behavior Assessment Pro is an App that is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod (USA only) devices and identifies factors which relate to challenging or problem behaviours. Designed by a certified behaviour analyst in the USA, this app is valuable for use by a number of professionals as well as parents and carers. The app allows for a quick assessment of the behaviours of your child, or class from a teacher’s perspective and allows you to recognise particular triggers, problem areas and produces a range of useful graphs and charts to help map behaviour changes. Extremely advanced and supportive of your behaviour management techniques, BAP can be of extreme help in producing end of year reports, support plans and related documents.
Behavior Tracker Pro is another well regarded and recommended app which allows anybody to track specific behaviours and graph them immediately. Can be synched with Excel for easier management and can make teaching and working with children with autism much more straightforward. Designed by a certified behaviour analyst who also has a child with autism, parents and educators using this app have faith in its abilities and data can be shared between all those involved with the child, making all round behaviour management easier as everyone can sing from the same hymn sheet.
Chore Pad HD is an affordable and popular app which takes the form of a virtual reward chart. Although originally designed to get kids to do their chores, the app has many more uses and can be used to encourage daily and life skills. Very basic but also very affordable, a great option for connecting the idea of good behaviour with positive reinforcement.
First Then Visual Schedule is a simple and manageable way of introducing your child or class to a virtual visual schedule, much like those they may use in paper form. You can split the day into sections such as ‘morning routine’ and ‘lunchtime’ so an understanding of the order of things can be instilled, hopefully avoiding the anxiety that triggers some challenging behaviour as control is maintained. Fantastic for use with a single child or can be utilised in the class environment with different schedules stored for different pupils.
iPad helps American Boy find his Voice
The benefits of iPad apps and technology for those living with disabilities proven again
Despite the iPad being popular with absolutely everybody, we are convinced they help and support learning and communication for people with disabilities. Hunter Harrison is a five year old boy uses his iPad to communicate. Hunter lives with a neuromuscular disability which effects his motor abilities including those needed for verbal communication. Despite this, Hunter is learning to read, knows his numbers, letters, colours and shapes and will be attending mainstream school in September.
Hunter needs a communication system that works. It’s clear he has the facilities to flourish in a mainstream classroom environment. This view is shared by Jane Kleinert from the University of Kentucky who has been working with Hunter. She highlights how popular the iPad has been for use in classrooms, particularly with pupils with autism. The adaptability of the device is one of its most popular features.
Access to AAC Devices Limited, despite iPad affordability
Research in the US has shown that less than 50% of children who require AAC support have access to it. We don’t have statistics for the UK but we’re sure they won’t be significantly different. Access to AAC devices is essential for supporting communication development in children with disabilities. Professor Kleinert and a UK colleague are working together to develop an initiative to build communication systems for children with disabilities. The scheme has allowed Hunter his own iPad loaded up with the popular Proloquo2Go App. The app allowed Hunter to find ways to communicate but over time it has also led to improvement in his oral speech.
Unfortunately in America, the leading funding options won’t supply iPads as they restrict their funds to dedicated instruments designed for communication. The iPad doesn’t fit this category. However, dedicated AAC devices are often heavy and extremely expensive. The iPad of course has many portability and cost advantages and the success Hunter has achieved is something that every child should have access to. This video shows Hunter in action:
Trabasack can be used successfully as a low cost iPad or communication aid mount for more info click here
Using Switches for Communication
Access our new Guide to Switch Technology
We have published a new guide on using switches for communication and a range of other purposes, with the aim to introduce assistive switch technology to those who know very little about it. Our guide is an introduction to a world of knowledge regarding switches and their uses and we believe readers of this blog could really enjoy and benefit from the information we’ve put together. The guide is available via PDF and is split into several categories:
Introduction – What is Switch Technology
Advantages of Switch Technology
Types of Switches
Determining Correct Switch Positioning
Simple Switch Activities
More Useful Information and Links
Each category takes a quick, introductory look at its topic and allows the reader to begin to understand the basics of switch technology and how it can be used by a range of individuals with different needs. The guide focuses on providing information for parents, carers and perhaps educators who want to understand more about switches and how they can be used positively for users with a range of disabilities.
Switches for Communication
There are a number of switches on the market that are specifically designed to aid communication and even the development of speech. Switches can be preprogrammed with specific phrases and answers that are commonly used by the individual in question or they can be more free reign like many AAC devices, requiring the touch of a button or the blink of an eye to cause the correct utterance to be heard.
Switches can be programmed with a single response or a range of message choices to suit the user and the extent to which you can customise a switch to the individual should not be underestimated. Another important factor to consider in the use of switches for communication is the positioning of the switch and our guide covers positioning and mounting in depth to ensure all readers are aware of the necessary questions to ask themselves before positioning their chosen switch.
The team at Trabasack have been busy working away for the last few months on a brand new product. The Media Mount has been under wraps for some time but it’s due its nationwide launch very soon and is an exciting new addition to the Trabasack family. In particular, this product is something we think will work fantastically with a range of communication aids we have discussed via this blog.
A Closer Look at the Media Mount
On first looking at the Media Mount, you may wonder what exactly it is. Flexible and extremely easy to manipulate, the Media Mount is a brand new multifunctional mounting device, which allows items to be held in specific positions on the Trabasack Connect tray surface. Whether it’s your iPad or your bottle of juice, the Media Mount is designed to ensure your item of choice stays strictly in its specified place. Maleable and easy to manage, the Media Mount is also fitted with two large grab handles to make shaping extremely straightforward. The Mount can be twisted and bent in any shape to accommodate your item and is an addition to the Trabasack range which significantly enhances and furthers its usability.
The Media Mount is made from soft hook and look receptive material with a Velcro strip attached to one side, making it extremely straightforward to attach to your Mount to the Connect surface of your Trabasack and therefore secure your item in place.
The Media Mount and Communication Aids
As already mentioned, we believe that the Trabasack Media Mount is a product which can be used effectively in conjunction with many communication aid devices to make use even more straightforward and simple. For example, a Media Mount could ensure your Lightwriter Swift or iTalk2 is perfectly secured to your Trabasack surface, in the right position to ensure you can use it with ease and without having to stress or strain.
We have talked many times about how useful iPads are for communication and the Media Mount was designed with iPad and tablet technology in mind and can be perfect for positioning your iPad exactly where you need it to access your apps comfortably and add a further ease of use to your communication needs. What’s more if you’re thinking of undertaking a feat of innovative genius and creating your own Frankenkindle, the Media Mount could come in use once again. The many uses of the Media Mount should not be discounted and it can make your Trabasack even more versatile and essential to every day life.
Currently, the Media Mount is available via the Trabasack website but will soon be launched via Amazon and other platforms.
The Trabasack Mini Connect, ideal as a Logan Proxtalker bag
If you’re looking for an appropriate Logan Proxtalker bag, look no further than the Trabasack Mini Connect. It’s purposefully designed to securely contain your Logan Proxtalker but has many other additional benefits too. Firstly, let’s look a little more in depth at the Logan Proxtalker and its uses.
The Logan Proxtalker is billed as the first movable picture communication system that can talk. This video gives a live demonstration of the Proxtalker in action and answers many questions you may have about the device:
The Logan Proxtalker is a device that can benefit people of many backgrounds in many environments from their own home to classroom or work environments and when out and about with the device, it’s integral that you have the right protective Logan ProxTalker bag. This is where we look in more depth at the Trabasack Mini Connect and its dual functionality.
Trabasack Mini Connect: functional and attractive
The Trabasack Mini Connect is an attractive Logan ProxTalker bag that can be carried in many different ways. It’s a flexible design which means you can carry it on your back, over your shoulder or even in your hand like a briefcase. Additionally, the bag space is more than sufficient for your ProxTalker and any added extras you may need. The second function of the Trabasack Mini Connect is that it can be used as a lap tray, which is extremely useful in many situations. The Trabasack Mini Connect tray surface is a great place to put your ProxTalker when using it and because the bottom side is complete with a soft beanbag, your lap won’t feel any pressure.
If you invest in valuable equipment like the Logan ProxTalker, you should really make sure you have a Logan ProxTalker bag, like the Trabasack Mini Connect that can fully protect and support it. If you invest in valuable equipment like the Logan ProxTalker, you should really make sure you have a Logan ProxTalker bag, like the Trabasack Mini Connect that can fully protect and support it.