Posts Tagged ‘assistive technology’

Communication Aids for the Elderly

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.

Menuboard

Menu Board Communication Device

A simple, communicative menuboard

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

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

Talking Mats Communication Device

Talking Mats Low-Tech Communication Aid

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 Deaf People

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.

VV-Talker.

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.

A child using a device that helps deaf children learn to talk

More infomation about the VV talker can be found by clicking the image. Photo credit: Yanko Design

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.

 

Amplified Phones

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.

ClearText Textphone

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

Communication device web cam

Skype Compatible WebCam

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

 

Single Earphones

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
says:

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

iPad helps American Boy find his Voice

iPad helps American Boy find his Voice

The benefits of iPad apps and technology for those living with disabilities proven again

Hunter benefits for iPad AAC support

Hunter in a speech therapy session

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

iPad and Proloquo2go

iPad featuring Proloquo2go AAC app

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

QR Codes Communication Ideas

QR Voice and using QR Codes for Communication

How QR Codes can be used for communication

Communication Aids QR Code

Try this QR Code

Quick Response (QR) Codes appear everywhere. You’ll see them in magazines, on bus stop advertisements and pretty much anywhere you can reach with a smart phone. They have become an integral part of modern mobile society but what exactly do they do and how can they be used to aid communication? We look at QR Voice and Symbol Boards.

What are QR Codes?

QR Codes are simply a particular type of small barcode which is extremely quick to read via the right device and can load up large volumes information in comparison to traditional bar codes. You can scan a QR Code with most smartphones, tablets and also specifically built QR reading devices. After scanning they connect to a webpage, sound bite, video or other digital information source.

How can QR Codes be used for speech and communication?

This is where QR Voice comes in. As mentioned any digital information source can be encoded simply into a QR barcode and this includes verbal responses, statements and more. QR Voice encodes text messages into a QR code and then this message can be stored in a smartphone or tablet and used multiple times. Once created and scanned the QR Voice clip can be used regularly to aid communication for those who have non-verbal issues or may just have specific times where verbal speech becomes difficult.

The QR Voice site was developed for regular use but it can be easily adapted as an extremely simple AAC device that’s completely free for anybody to access. You could programme in some specific phrases such as ‘I’m thirsty’, ‘I’m hungry’ and simple ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ utterances and support the user to select specific codes when trying to communicate verbally through their smartphone or tablet.

QR codes on a Symbol Board

You could create a symbol board using these QR codes. Usually Symbol Boards have letters or pictures but using QR codes and a smart phone takes the board to another level of sophistication. The QR symbol could be used with QR Voice to create small sentences that are spoken when the code is read, or the Symbol could lead to a website or image online.

Symbol board mount, using a trabasack to secure a symbol board on the lap

A Trabasack Mini Connect could be used to hold a QR code symbol board

With a little practice, it should be quite simple to get used to and for more advanced users of technology messages of up to 100 characters can be crafted, allowing for a short conversation where possible. Another use could be a series of instructions or a set of sentences, weblinks or images for a talk or presentation.

This short video shows QR Voice in action:

We think trabasack would make an idea bag for QR codes on symbol boards and a smart phone for communication. Please send us your pictures or videos if you have used a  trabasack in this way. We will send you a free T-shirt!

AAC Image-based iPad Apps – Part 5

Following on from part 4 in our series of blog posts covering the extensive and ever-growing range of AAC apps available for iPad, we have a collection of symbol-based applications that are designed to aid your child with their communication, without relying on verbal prompts.

Each of the apps chosen for our AAC Apps blog compendium were individually assessed and compiled by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.

Image icon for the Gabby Tabs iPad appGabby Tabs was developed by the parents of a child whom is non-verbal autistic, to provide an app with an in-depth understanding of the methods required to allow a parent to communicate with their child with AAC needs. The emphasis of this iPad app is to provide carers with an immediately easy-to-use, “ready-to-go” interface, filled with pre-installed commonly used symbols and audio. The simple and brightly-coloured interface of this app will immediately appeal to younger children, and hopefully encourage them to communicate their wants and needs with ease.

 

Image icon for the GoTalk Now iPad appThe GoTalk Now app has been created by an educational company with over 25 years experience of creating tools specifically for AAC. The app allows you to create templates or “books” of information directly related to your child’s lifestyle and needs, using voice recording, text-to-speech, video and either Imagine Symbols or your own, user-uploaded images. Your completed books can also be shared online or stored online for use no matter what your location, as long as an internet connection is available.

 

Image icon for the Grace iPad AppThe Grace – Picture Exchange app comes is a highly commended AAC app that won both the 2010 Irish Web Award and the United Nations World Summit Mobile Award. The app focuses on simple a picture exchange system to allow children and adults with autism to communicate with ease. The user can select images to create sentences, which are then used to encourage the child to attempt their own vocalisation. This intuitive app comes with a basic collection of images with the function for uploading your own, and also supports the iPad’s 3-axis “gyroscope” to allow even further interactivity.

 

Image icon for the I Click I Talk iPad app.The I Click I Talk iPad app features some unique technical add-ons that are generally unavailable on other AAC apps, most specifically the ability to monitor and analyse your child’s usage data and statistics. It can help the carer to monitor the frequency each image has been activated, or whether a child prefers photograph symbols over cartoon-style images. This is an excellent tool for helping to create a truly individual AAC aid for your child, allowing you to cater to their specific visual tastes and interests.

 

Image icon for the IAssist Communicator iPad appThe iAssist Communicator app is aimed at children on the autistic spectrum whom are more cognitively challenged – therefore the app moves away from the use of abstract, cartoon-like symbols, and relies purely on photo-realistic images for communication. As with many of the AAC apps we have featured so far, iAssist was created by a parent, therefore usability and the ability to customise categories has been taken well into account. This app comes pre-installed with 240 photos and voice-recordings, and also with every purchase made of this dynamic app, 10% of the cost will be donated to non-profit autism organisations.

 

Image of the packaging for the Trabasack Media Mount, showing the mount holding an iPad

The Trabasack Media Mount is a “truly inclusive” invention, allowing users to utilise iPads with ease.

We hope that these intuitive AAC apps provide both yourself and your child with a fun and interesting communication experience, and to provide your child with an even more carefree learning experience, why not consider the new Trabasack Media Mount? The Trabasack Media Mount is a flexible, multi purpose mounting device, useful for supporting iPads and other tablet computers at just the right angle, leaving your child’s hands free for touch screen interaction.

The Trabasack Media Mount is made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself, and can be secured to the Trabasack Curve Connect lap tray with ease.

AAC Apps for Self Expression – Part 4

In our recent posts covering some of the best AAC apps currently on offer for both iPad and iPhone, we have featured contemporary and easy-to-use AAC aids that we hope will provide both you and your child with a modern and fun way to communicate via touch screen technology.

In part 4 of our AAC iPad app guide we have yet more innovative titles as provided by Jane Farrala speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.

 

Image icon for the Expressionist AppThe Expressionist iPhone app comes highly acclaimed by schools and therapists world-wide, for providing an intuitive and easy-to-use aid in helping children learn about self-expression and emotions. Each scene includes a cartoon character of a little boy, who’s easy to understand facial expressions and gestures inspire children to imitate and then utilise for expressing their own wants and needs. This straight-forward app includes a wealth of over 120 commonly used expressions, which are organised in to several different categories, including; greetings, feelings, senses, activities, questions and more.

 

Image icon for the Expressive appExpressive is a Smarty Symbol based app for both iPad and iPhone that helps those with communication disorders (such as autism and apraxia) express their wants and needs via a powerful yet easy to grasp interface. This app has been specifically designed for ease of use, and little to no previous programming experience is necessary to get started with the app. The app includes over 600 pre-installed symbols and allows you to upload your own personal images and record audio, to provide a truly bespoke AAC aid, to fit your child’s personal needs.

 

Image icon for the Flashables appFlashables is a flash card style app that utilises the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to help children to communicate via images rather than words. The symbols are designed so that the child chooses their desired object (food, toys or activity for example) and it is then up to the parent or caregiver to instantly provide the child with the expressed object, helping to reinforce the understanding of cause and effect for children whom struggle to communicate via verbal prompts.

 

 

 

Image icon for Gabby appThe Gabby iPad app is a fun and informal app that allows children and adults with learning difficulties to express themselves easily via images and audio. It includes an abundance of features of tailoring the app experience to fit your child’s specific needs, and also includes an admin setting to make sure little hands can’t modify or change important settings.

 

 

Image of a Trabasack Media Mount holding an iPad upright

The Trabasack Media Mount is an intuitive and easy-to-use mounting device, perfect for use with iPads and other tablet computers

Thanks to leaps in technology, providing children with smart and intuitive AAC aids is easier than ever before, and Trabasack understand that usability is all-important in assuring your child has a relaxed and fun learning experience. That’s why Trabasack have created the new Media Mount – a mounting device that can be used with electronic equipment such as iPads, tablets and slates, to ensure they remain steady and upright whilst in use. The soft hook and loop receptive material, along with a Velcro strip attached to one side, means that it fits perfectly onto the Trabasack Connect tray surface and can also be manipulated easily into many different shapes to achieve the right angle and hold for the object you’re trying to support.

AAC Apps for iPad and iPhone – Part 3

Simple Yet Intuitive and Easy-to-Use AAC Apps for iPad

Welcome to part three in our series of blogs covering many of the useful and innovative iPad AAC apps as researched and compiled by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.

Image icon for the Communicate Mate iPad appThe Communicate Mate iPad and iPhone app is a very basic and therefore simple to use communication tool for children, with useful selection of symbols and sentences that once activated via touch, are spoken aloud via a pre-recorded human female voice. Once this app is downloaded and installed, Communicate works entirely offline, therefore it does not require an internet connection or 3G connection to function.

 

Image icon for the Connect Cards iPad app

Connect Cards utilises the online image hosting website Picasa to allow users to create their own personalised communication tool for children. Images are firstly uploaded and tagged on the Picasa website, and then the app syncs with the user’s online account, to populate one of three card categories (food, drink and activities). This allows the child to touch the “I want” icon, then activate a symbol relating to their need – Connect Cards will then provide the correct sentence aloud in speech.

 

Image icon for the DIME iPad appThe DIME iPad app is a collection of 5 AAC tools that provide an intuitive aid for helping your child to express their needs. The main feature of the DIME app is the “Communicator” – a tool that creates sentences using 3 language elements; person, verb and compliment. The other tools included with this iPad app are “I Want/I Am” – a simplified version of the Communicator that allows children to immediately express their needs. The “Clock” function is a fun way of helping your child understand the concept of time. Choose a task and then start the timer; the aim is for your child to complete their task before the animated snail finishes eating their tasty leaf. Lastly there is a “Blackboard” function, which provides a creative on-screen play area for drawing, and “Album” – an interactive gallery of pre-installed symbols and a place to view your own personally uploaded images.

 

Image icon for the Discover My Voice iPad appThe Discover MyVoice for iOS iPad app has one main aim – to provide a simple and easy to set-up AAC app for caregivers and children alike. Perhaps an app for those whom struggle to understand the plethora of options and excess date input associated with other apps; the Discover My Voice app allows you to quickly and easily use your own images to create categories, and then either attach a recording of your own voice or allow the app to utilise text-to-speech to provide audio.

 

Image icon for the Easy Speak iPad appEasy Speak is a powerful AAC iPad app that comes with more than 800 pre-installed symbols with corresponding audio, to provide your child with the ability to express an extensive range of emotions, needs/wants, actions, questions and more. The Easy Speak app is fully customisable, providing the user the ability to upload personal, familiar images into user-defined categories.

 

 

 

The Trabasack media mount holding a book in position

The Trabasack Media Mount holds devices in the position you need them

If you’re looking for new and innovative ways of helping your child to play or learn via the iPad, the Trabasack Media Mount is the latest addition to the Trabasack family of ingenious AAC aids. The Trabasack Media Mount is a flexible and multi purpose mounting device, perfect for supporting tablet computers such as iPads. The malleable mount can be twisted and shaped to provide the correct angle for any device, support for wrists and even to create a boundary or target area for switch users.

Diagram of iPod secure in a Trabasack Media Mount

The flexible fabric can be shaped with ease to ensure items remain upright and secure

The Trabasack Media Mount is made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself!

 

AAC Apps for iPad and iPhone – Part 2

Part 2 – Autism AAC Apps for Children and Young Adults

Following on from part 1 of our compendium of blogs covering interactive iPad apps for AAC, we have yet more innovative teaching aids that will help to ease difficulties with communication via a fun and uncomplicated interface.

Image icon for the Augie AAC iPad AppAugie AAC is a modern and portable communication app specifically designed for those with AAC needs. The iPad app lets you organise information into two categories; home and school, where everything from schedules, vocabulary and tasks can be arranged for quick and easy access and usability. This voice output app comes with a library of high-frequency vocabulary, which covers both the home and school environment, and can be user-defined to provide even more freedom and independence of communication.

 

Image icon for the AutisMate iPad appAutisMate is a unique and fully customisable communication app is specifically aimed at children and young people with Autism. The app allows you to create “scenes” of familiar family, home and school settings by uploading photographs of surroundings, which can then be layered with interactive prompts matched to the user’s current location. The unique feature of this AAC app is its ability to track the user’s location using GPS, and thus updates the current displayed “scene” to match your child’s environment. The interactive prompts can include text-to-speech, video or static images, to help provide a fun way for your child to connect with their surroundings.

 

Image icon for the Baluh iPad appBaluh is a simple iPad app for creating communication pages using either the pre-installed 400+ ARASAAC symbols or user uploaded images. You can create category pages which can include 20 options, and then each option page can include 4 interactive communication buttons.

 

 

Image icon for Click n' Talk iPad AppClick n’ Talk is another simplified and easy-to-use communication aid that allows caregivers or children to create photo albums on specific subjects, using their own photographs. Each photo can have text and voice attached with ease, to provide a fun way of revisiting past events or helping to educate about everyday activities.

 

 

Image icon for the ComApp.i iPad appThe ComApp.i3 iPad app is a fun, bright and attractive AAC aid that allows children to quickly and easily communicate basic everyday needs and wants. The icons and interface are incredibly child-friendly, with a simple navigation that will help children express their needs almost immediately, without prior demonstration or experience with the app.

 

 

These AAC apps were chosen and appraised by Jane Farral, a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.

 

Image of the Trabasack Media Mount holding an iPad

The Trabasack Media Mount provides the perfect angle and ultimate stability for iPads whilst in use

Trabasack are pleased to announce their newest communication device mounting aid– the Trabasack Media Mount; a multi-purpose, flexible mounting device, ideal for use on help support mobile electronic devices or as Ipads or other tablet computers when people are seated. The Trabasack Media Mount can be used in conjunction with the Connect Curve lap desk bag to ensure iPads, books or even remote controls and bottles remain in a sturdy position, and at the desired angle for use; it can be easily twisted into shape to hold almost anything upright, with the Velcro along one side ensuring the device remains firmly in place.

Trabasack is available from these Communication Aid companies (to add your company to the list, please email duncan{at}trabasack.co.uk)