{AAC Tips} How SLPs can get FREE access to AAC apps, AAC app user groups, funding options & more! (updated 8/2/17)

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{AAC Tips} How SLPs can get FREE access to AAC apps, AAC app user groups, funding options & more!

I have seen no less than 10 posts in a variety of Facebook groups this week from SLPs asking about free lite versions of AAC apps worded in a way that it was clear that the person who posted it thought that was their only option for getting access to AAC apps to trial with patients / students. Of course any good AAC eval would also include consideration and trials of traditional SGDs. Most folks know to contact their local vendor rep to borrow a SGD (the info to find out who to contact is readily available on those companies websites) so that’s not really where the problem is. A good AAC eval should also include consideration of features uniquely available in AAC apps but folks don’t often know how to get access to those. So I felt a need to share info here to help my fellow speechies build a better equipped AAC toolbox. I guess the closer I get to retirement the more I feel compelled to share knowledge accumulated over my 27+ year career.

The problem is even if there is a free or low cost lite version of a particular AAC app, it is not the same as trialing the full featured app. How can you do a true feature-match when you don’t have all the features? Many SLPs see the prices in the App Store and assume they would have to personally purchase apps or try to get their facility or school to do so. Well unless you work in some mythical setting with unlimited funds or have a well established booming private practice, it’s unlikely that you would be able to afford very many AAC apps. Not saying they are overpriced. App developers have significant costs related to keeping robust AAC apps updated and paying licensing fees for high quality symbol sets and voices. So we shouldn’t expect these apps to be priced at the same level as other speech therapy apps or kids educational apps.

But I have good news! There is a way to get FREE access to the full version of many AAC apps but it will “cost” you some time and effort. If you’re willing to work a little, continue reading (I hope you are for the sake of the patient / students you serve).

Free access to the Tobii Dynavox Compass AAC app for SLPs: http://www.tobiidynavox.com/slp-app/. The upside is you have access to premium page sets too. The downside is it’s annoying that it only allows you to have one iPad logged on at a time. This does not lend itself well to AAC evals that may be done in a single appointment and you need to be able to trial on a full sized iPad and an iPad Mini. This would be such an easy fix Tobii Dynavox (in case you happen to read this post)… just allow 2 iPads to be logged in at a time. I’m guessing you set a limit to prevent SLPs from logging on from personal iPads for their full caseload and thus undermining the market for the paid versions of the app but a limit of 2 would be a good compromise. (Update: I was finally able to get connected with the right person at Tobii Dynavox to give me secret access to the ability to log in more that 1 iPad at a time. Based on e-mail correspondence it sounded like they are working on making that more readily available to SLPs. It also sounded like they are working on adding the new Tobii Dynavox Snap + Core First pagesets found on their new Indi SGD to this app so SLPs will be able to trial it.)

keep going

But don’t stop there. You need more than 1 tool in your AAC toolbox. If you are a SLP that frequently does AAC evals and makes purchasing recommendations, then many other AAC app developers will provide you with a free promo code for their app so you would be able to trial it with patients.

How to get codes for AAC apps: The process for doing this is a little different for each app. I always start by contacting that developer via Facebook messaging on their FB page for that app. If I don’t get a response there, then I look on their website for an e-mail address or to see if they have a formal process for requesting a copy of the app. This info can be difficult to find so dig a little. It takes some time but is well worth it.  I am a SLP at a non-profit facility that does tons of AAC evals and purchasing recommendations. I have been able to get most of the main AAC apps and therefore have lots of options to trial during AAC evals. Feel pretty tech-geeky spending evenings and weekends doing this but it’s worth it to have access to lots of AAC options that then result in good AAC matches for the kids I serve.
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Here is an alphabetical list of AAC apps that I have gotten by going through this process and the way(s) I contacted those app developers. I hope I haven’t left anyone off the list. If I have, feel free to send me a message. There is not room to keep all the AAC apps loaded on my iPad at the same time so I rotate them on/off based on my patient’s needs. Most AAC apps are very large so I always suggest that SLPs get an iPad with the largest memory you can afford. Even with two 128GB iPad Airs, I am still constantly playing the “app shuffle” where I delete apps to make room to install others. I will be updating this list as I get new AAC apps:

  • aacorn & aacorn+ (Facebook messaging)
  • AAC Genie (Facebook messaging)
  • AlphaTopics (Facebook messaging)
  • Avatalker (Facebook messaging)
  • Avaz Pro (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • BridgeBuilderAAC (Facebook messaging)
  • Click ‘n Talk & Talk’n Photos (Facebook messaging)
  • Clicker Communicator with SymbolStix & Clicker Communicator with PCS (Facebook messaging)
  • CoughDrop (the app developer contacted me)
  • Custom Boards (Facebook messaging)
  • GoTalk Now Plus (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People (the app developer contacted me)
  • iESLp (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • image2talk (Facebook messaging)
  • InnerVoice (Facebook messaging)
  • LAMP Words for Life (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail. The key was to reach out to the app developers John & Cindy Holloran directly. I spent over a year with no success contacting PRC. You have to go through LAMP trainings prior to getting a code)
  • Mighty AAC (got it while it was free)
  • My First AAC (e-mail)
  • Niki Talk, Niki Talk + Tweet, Niki Music (adapted way to play music) & Niki Video (adapted way to play videos) (Facebook messaging)
  • PECS Phase III & PECS IV+ (e-mail – I had helped coordinate bringing a PECS workshop to our facility so that definitely helped)
  • Picture AAC (Facebook messaging)
  • Predictable, Scene & Heard & ChatAble (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • Proloquo2Go & Proloquo4Text (Assistiveware provides a free copy of their AAC apps to Speech-Language Pathologists who conduct AAC evaluations on a case-by-case basis. Because they get a limited number of codes, they typically have a waiting list and prioritize requests based on caseload and geographic location. To request getting on that waiting list, SLPs can e-mail support@assistiveware.com)
  • Say Some More AAC Plus (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • SayIt! (text to speech) (Facebook messaging)
  • See Me Talk (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • Snap Scene (it took multiple attempts to finally get connected with the right person at Tobii Dynavox to get a code for the full version)
  • So Much 2 Say (Facebook messaging)
  • Speak For Yourself (Facebook messaging)
  • Talk Tablet US (contacted this e-mail address: gusinc@me.com)
  • Tools2Talk+ (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • Total Talk (e-mail)
  • TouchChat HD with WordPower (contacted my local Saltillo rep via e-mail. Find your rep: https://saltillo.com/reps. A word of advice… You really need the version that includes WordPower)
  • Verbal Me & Verbal Me Español (website contact form)

keys to success

The key is being persistent. If one contact method doesn’t work, then try another. Another key is building relationships on social media. I put quite a bit of time and effort into liking and sharing posts from app developers pages, announcing when they have app sales and even doing reviews and hosting giveaways for them on my blog and social media sites. Some app developers may require proof of you being a SLP (keep in mind that they may have received numerous requests for a free app from parents or AAC users). The other thing to keep in mind is that app developers only get a certain number of promo codes when they release an app or an update to that app. So if they currently don’t have codes, check back again later. Often good to ask right after an app has been released or it has been updated when they would have a fresh batch of codes.
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Despite numerous attempts, I have not yet been successful in getting access to the full version of following AAC app. Which means I can’t recommend it since I have no way to trial the full featured version during an AAC eval nor do I recommend it when therapists or parents ask about AAC options in the numerous Facebook groups that I participate in since I haven’t used it:

  • Sono Flex (the free lite version has some interesting features but can’t make purchasing recommendations off that for the full app. The app has not been updated since 2014 so it will be interesting to see if still exists after iOS 11 is released.)

If anyone has been successful in getting a promo code for access to the full version of that AAC app, I would LOVE to hear details on how you accomplished it!
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Other AAC apps that I have and use:

  • 2Talk – AAC (got it while it was free)
  • Alexicom AAC (free. They also have several different paid apps. The app developer has indicated that they have purposefully released several apps specific to certain ages, genders & symbol types to keep the app sizes small and affordable. They will be adding info to their website to help SLPs and parents figure out which app might be best suited to a particular user.)
  • BRIDGE Communication (bought it when it was on sale, it has some cool articulation pages built into it, can add video clips to buttons, several other unique features, has a Spanish option in the settings, has SymbolStix symbols, has a history of being updated frequently, price is very affordable for an app with this many features)
  • CanTunes (free, music choice boards, adapted means of accessing music on your iPad)
  • CardTalk (free & got the IAP to unlock all functions while it was free)
  • Choice Board Maker
  • Choice Boards
  • Communicate Easy
  • Communication Adventure – An app for communication training for caregivers of children with complex communication needs
  • Doliris (free, to communicate pain location & intensity)
  • EESpeech Basic
  • Emergency Chat
  • Flip Writer AAC
  • FreeVOCA
  • GoTalk Now Lite (free, has good features for a lite app. Often recommend it as an option while we are working on getting other options in place)
  • iHear PECS: Animals (bought it, a bargain for $1.99)
  • iSpeak Button Collection (bought it, $5.99, large full screen round button (looks similar to a BigMack), swipe screen to see the next button, up to 15 buttons)
  • MenuAssist (free)
  • PhotoVOCA (had gotten an older version while it was free… then was able to udate to the new version for free)
  • Picture Card Maker PLUS (got it while it was free. The app developer is in the process of releasing a major update for it)
  • PlayButton (free, https://appsto.re/us/WZ2lC.i. This FREE app is one of my faves for use as a single message VOCA. The activation area is very large (almost the entire screen). I use Guided Access to lock the “record” button to prevent accidental activations during use)
  • Quick Type AAC (bought it, a bargain for $1.99)
  • SoundingBoard (free)
  • Sorenson BuzzCards (type and show, no voice output, designed for hearing impaired to use to quickly communicate with those who don’t know sign)
  • Speak – Text to Speech
  • Spell Better – Literacy Support (includes text to speech)
  • Spuble – creating live speech bubbles (very unique voice to text app that transcribes what a person says so another person can read it on the screen)
  • TalkBoard Free
  • Talk For Me – Text to Speech
  • TapSpeak Button Plus (won it in a giveaway on PrAACtical AAC)
  • Touch Switch (bought it, $4.99, play any music downloaded onto your iPad with full screen round button. Also plays eye catching animations. Really more for “cause & effect” but thought it was worth mentioning)
  • Verbally (free)
  • Voice4u TTS
  • Whiteboard – nothing more, nothing less

There are several other AAC apps that I have gotten when they were free for a day or two. When I see one, I download it to try out before deciding if it is worth sharing on social media. There are some apps in the App Store that claim to be AAC but are so poorly designed that I chose not to post about them.
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What are my “favorite” AAC apps? I have several based on the features available in them. I know the list above looks overwhelming and I did not get these apps all at the same time. So here is some advice as to where to start in your quest to acquire AAC apps. If I had to narrow down the list to the top 8 robust AAC apps that stay loaded on my iPad all the time and have been a good match for several patients that I serve… they are (list subject to change as apps are updated with new features and other apps are released):

  • Avaz Pro
  • Clicker Communicator with PCS
  • Clicker Communicator with SymbolStix
  • GoTalk Now Plus
  • LAMP Words for Life
  • Proloquo2Go
  • Speak for Yourself
  • TouchChat HD with WordPower

I think of these as the most common tools in my AAC toolbox (like a hammer, pliers, saw, tape measure, drill, level, screwdriver & wrench are common tools at home). The rest are still very important “specialty” tools in my toolbox. They are fabulous for meeting less common and very specific needs. Think of an Alan Wrench. Not something you use very often but when you need one it is the only tool that will meet that need. And sometimes the best solution is a combination of several tools. Remember…. Good builders pick tools based on the task.
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Feature Matching: So I bet you are thinking “oh my goodness… how on earth can I learn about all the features to do a feature-match with so many options?”. The apps I have listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds. I have more great news! Jane Farrall has a fabulous website that she keeps updated with tons of info about the features in AAC apps. Check it out: http://www.janefarrall.com/aac-apps-lists/

You’ll see four links to different pages:

  • Symbol/Picture apps – These are apps that have symbol based pages but don’t make text-to-speech available to the person who uses AAC.
  • Symbol & Text Based apps – These are apps that have symbol pages and make text-to-speech available to the person who uses AAC.
  • Text Based apps – These are apps that make text-to-speech available to the person who uses AAC or that have text only communication pages.
  • Additions and Updates (http://www.janefarrall.com/aac-apps-lists/additions-and-updates/). This is an on going list added to each time she updates the list.

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Unfortunately the AAC Ferret app that had been so helpful in searching for apps by specific features no longer exists. Word is the app developer ran into funding issues. Even if you still have that app loaded on your iPad, it no longer works. That app truly was a fabulous tool. My hope is that maybe it will reappear one day or that someone else will develop a tool like that. In the meantime, Jane’s website and asking questions in AAC related Facebook groups are your best bet.
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Funding

Funding: We are fortunate in Oklahoma that Medicaid will consider funding an iPad with a robust AAC app in a durable case as a SGD / DME but they require us to try the full version of the app in order to do a complete feature-match, submit a video of the patient using it and extensive justification as to why that particular option us being recommended. Here in Oklahoma, we can only get funding once every 5 years for AAC (with very rare exceptions) so it’s very important to be able to get a good match for that individual’s needs. See details here: https://www.ok.gov/abletech/SoonerCare_Provider_of_Speech_Generating_Devices.html.

Oklahoma Able Tech: https://www.ok.gov/abletech/# & great info here: http://okabletech-atdiscovery.org/at-discovery/speech-communication/

Another source that I’ve had good success with for funding an iPad with a robust AAC app in a durable case here in Oklahoma is the New Voices grant through Ability Connections Oklahoma: https://abilityconnectionoklahoma.org/services-2/ (Update: They lost the funding source for that grant but appear to be looking for new funding options).

If you are in Oklahoma, also check out the AAC Funding Guide: http://fundingguide.okstate.edu/

This website has good info regarding potential funding sources: http://ectacenter.org/topics/atech/funding.asp

There are key times of the year that AAC apps tend to go on sale and I always share that info on my OMazing Kids Facebook page and in the AppPeeps group. Some app developers choose to do sales and others do not. When I have inquired about that, they reply that they feel their app is fairly priced given the ongoing costs related to keeping it updated and licensing fees for symbol sets and voices.

Why do many AAC apps cost so much? Drives me a little nuts when I see unkind comments regarding pricing of well designed AAC apps. Where else would we demand that something be put on sale or even worse demand that it should be free? Really?! The well designed robust AAC apps are a bargain even at full price if you stop to really think about being able to get a “voice” for a patient for a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional SGDs. It has been a game-changer and allowed many parents to be able to no longer have to wait on a SLP to be the decision maker / gatekeeper. Many parents post about “going rogue” in buying an iPad, AAC app & durable case for their child after being told they weren’t “ready” for that. News alert…. the old school mentality of there being a “hierarchy” that a child has to go through to “prove” they are “ready” for robust AAC is antiquated. Not saying that every AAC app or SGD is a good match for every child but I am saying that the days of kids with very complex needs being stuck with just a single message VOCA or a few PECS symbols have to end. See this presentation from Jane Farrall: http://www.janefarrall.com/lets-communicate-plenary-presentation-at-qaselcon16/ , this post about “What is “Beginning” AAC?“: http://www.janefarrall.com/what-is-beginning-aac/, and this powerful post on the Uncommon Sense Blog’s Facebook page: http://bit.ly/230RT5r.
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start
What about parents who want to try out AAC options? I highly recommend that you pursue an AAC eval with a SLP who has expertise in this area. Many larger school districts have an AAC team. But don’t feel that you have to wait if you are a parent who has been told “no” and want to proceed on your own. It may just be a little trickier to determine what the best AAC option will be for your child since most parents don’t have unlimited resources to buy several AAC apps to try. All states in the USA are supposed to have an Assistive Technology Lending Library program where parents & professionals can borrow AAC devices, iPads with AAC apps & other AT for short-term trial. It’s a great way to try various options out before making purchasing decisions. There are lots of great AAC devices and apps. It’s important to do a good feature-match and trial of options. Find the AT Lending Library in your state: https://www.ataporg.org/programs

The AT Program in your state may also know of SLPs who do AAC evals and funding resources specific to your area.

You can also search for AT Reuse programs: http://www.passitoncenter.org/reuse_locations.php)

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AAC user groups on facebook
Need support with using an AAC app? Most app developers have a Facebook group for that app. I highly suggest joining these groups for an incredible amount of support from the app developers as well as other parents, therapists & teachers. Every group has it’s own “culture”. Some are very open to discussing any topic. Others are pretty strict about only posting info or questions directly related to that particular app. Here is a list of the Facebook app user groups (updated to include support groups for traditional SGDs & PODD):

I have suggested to the developers of the GoTalk Now app that a group be started but so far I’ve only seen a parent led one in Swedish. I have also suggested to the developer of the new Total Talk AAC app that they start a group. He was very open to the idea so I hope to see that soon.

There are also numerous other AAC-related Facebook groups. Again each having it’s own culture and dynamic. I’m not going to list all of those here…. but if you are a SLP, I definitely suggest joining the AAC for the SLP group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1539830846285663/. Also take a look at the 21st Century AAC Practitioners group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/475548015977014/. If you see me “tag” Lauren Enders in a post or comment, it’s because I know that she has a wealth on knowledge about AAC apps, cases, mounting options, etc. You should seriously follow her on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lasenders/. I also know that she will provide an unbiased opinion and always comments in a very supportive way. You may also see me “tag” Carole Zangari from PrAACtical AAC for the same reasons. http://praacticalaac.org/

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{AAC Assessment} “Just like driving a car, when you’ve been doing AAC assessments for a long time, you almost don’t have to think about the details of what you are doing.  I automatically pull out the devices and apps, YouTube, iPad, snack, bubbles and wind-ups, and start playing.  Unfortunately, it is less than helpful to tell people new to AAC to just play with students and watch what they do. In an effort to describe our process, I created a data sheet to break down the steps, and typed up the procedures and suggested apps.”  This post by Vicki Clarke from Dynamic Therapy Associates Inc​ on PrAACtical AAC​ is full of awesome tips for AAC assessment! I was excited to get new ideas for several apps that I already had and was inspired to buy an app that’s been on my “wish list” for awhile. I will also confess to buying the hippo toy pictured. It’s been on my “wish list” for awhile too (gotta love shopping on Amazon with free shipping). 😉

http://praacticalaac.org/praactical/aac-assessment-corner-with-vicki-clarke-aac-skills-assessment-for-direct-selectors/

Also: http://praacticalaac.org/praactical/aac-assessment-corner-by-vicki-clarke-is-aac-feature-matching-still-relevant/

Inspired to read more? Check out her other featured posts: http://praacticalaac.org/?s=vicki+clarke

Also check out her fabulous YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/patientmovies, Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dynamic-Therapy-Associates-Inc/120054654686483, Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/aacchicks/ & Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/AACchicks

 

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conflicting one way signs

What’s the best AAC approach? What’s the best dedicated speech generating device? What’s the best case? What’s the best ______….. Several times a week I am either asked this question or I see it posted in one of the many AAC Facebook groups I follow. Occasionally it seems to end up in a rather heated debate of ______ vs. ________. Even arguments over core vs. fringe vocabulary. For a balanced approach in use of core & fringe vocabulary, check out this fabulous post on PrAACtically AAC: http://praacticalaac.org/praactical/the-baby-the-bathwater-and-core-vocabulary/. This is counterproductive. Although there are key best practices when considering AAC options, there is not any one best AAC option (or one best therapy approach, or one best anything) when it comes to best meeting individual needs. I have added a lot of tools to my toolbox over my 26+ year career as a speech-language pathologist. There have been pivotal moments where new tools were added that forever changed my perspective. Although shiny new tools may be exciting they did not replace the old tried & true tools. The exciting thing about tools is that you can use them together to build & repair. Would it make sense to ask “What’s better…. a hammer or a drill? a saw or a tape measure? a wrench or a flashlight? Of course not. Each tool has it’s specific purpose. You select the tool based on what job you need to accomplish.
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Have questions? The quickest and most reliable way to reach me is via Facebook messaging on my OMazing Kids page. Thank goodness it seems to be immune from spammers unlike my e-mail.
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Are you an AAC app developer? I’d be more than glad to help beta test your app and then post about it when it is released for sale. I don’t charge a fee. Just would need a free promo code for the full version of that AAC app so I can add it to my toolbox. I never post about apps that I haven’t tried out first. Oh and a word of advice to app developers… state run facilities and schools have difficulty with in-app purchases or subscription-based apps as do potential funding sources such as Medicaid or insurance companies. So you will have a wider audience if you also offer a full paid version of your AAC app.
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Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC – inclusive wellness & educational activities for kids of all abilities
Home E-Mail: amoorad1@juno.com
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Blog: http://omazingkidsllc.com
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Angela Moorad is the founder of OMazing Kids, LLC and is an ASHA certified & licensed pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Kids Yoga Teacher with over 27 years experience working in a variety of settings (early intervention, schools, teletherapy & a nonprofit pediatric rehab hospital for children with developmental disabilities). She is an app beta tester for educational & therapeutic app developers and loves sharing info about great apps, products, books & toys to use with kids of all abilities.
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{please ignore any ads that may appear below. This is a free blog and I don’t have any control over ads nor do I profit from them}

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