{AAC App Review} Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People

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{AAC App Review} Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People

 

Info from Lisa Domican, co-creator of the Grace App and mother of Liam and Gracie Domican who both have autism, about how it was developed:

“Many children with autism or speech delay use pictures attached to a board to ask for what they need or say how they feel. These boards are stored in a book which the user carries around with them. Even when they begin to speak, they may be difficult to understand, so they rely on a growing picture vocabulary which can become very unwieldy.

As a mother of a little girl with autism with few words but a lot of pictures, I wanted to keep encouraging her speech development, but I wanted to be sure we always had the pictures we needed, wherever we went. This is why I created Grace App for Autism.

The Grace App stores a basic picture vocabulary of Sentence Makers, Colors, Shapes & Numbers, My Body, Food & Drink, Things I Like, Things I Need and Places on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch with a function for creating a sentence that can be read together. There is also an option for finding and taking photographs of all the other things that each individual user may need.

It is a portable means of supporting the communication development of the user, wherever they go and is proving invaluable in improving vocalizations through consistency of use over time. Grace and the other children have also learned to share what they see and photograph independently, as a result of using the App.

The app is simple as we want the user rather than the carer to take control of choosing and saving pictures, creating sentences and presenting the sentence to a Carer, Teacher, Tutor or Peer in order to have their needs met. I felt that the Grace App was filling a different niche – a much simpler App that could be owned and updated by the user, themselves. It was intended as a follow on from pecs books, with the capacity to add as many photos as you needed.”

See more of her story in her TEDxDublin presentation: https://youtu.be/vYe2Vp6YxK4

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Additional info and my thoughts about the app:

  •  The app description indicates that the app takes 18.1 MB of memory before any customization is done and will run on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 8.0 or higher. I tested the app on an iPad Air running iOS 10.1.1 and an iPhone 7 running iOS 10.2 and it showed up as taking a tiny 20 MB of memory out of the box on my iPad and 19.8 MB on my iPhone.

 

  •  The default setting is for this app is to not have voice output when pictures are tapped (see their website for info about why this was designed this way) but you can toggle on basic iOS voice output in the “Settings” area for the app on your device. Scroll down until you see the pink Grace App logo and click on that. Then look all the way down through the settings until you see “Tap to Speak” and select it.  This is also where you will find options to toggle on/off editing & choosing the card size (normal, large & extra large). The app supports 7 iOS languages: English, Arabic, Danish, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. It took quite a bit of searching online to figure out how to do this (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204031; later received: http://www.graceapp.com/blog/grace-app-on-holiday/). Keep in mind that adjusting those settings changes the language for the entire device not just this app. The upside of this is that it also automatically translates the text that you have entered for symbols on the Grace App. I don’t know any foreign languages well enough to know how accurate that translation is but still could be helpful for an adult to program in their native language and then convert it to one of the other 6 languages. The English (U.S.) language option only results in an adult female voice. I could not find options for a male voice or kids voices. This is the downside of relying on the iOS voice options but since this app was not designed to be a voice output AAC option it’s just something potential users need to be aware of if they intend to toggle on the “tap to speak” feature.

 

  •  This app will be a useful tool as a specialty niche app as the app developer has designed it to be. The possibility of teaching an individual with Autism or other special needs to add pictures to customize the app to best suit their interest and needs is empowering.

 

  •  The app was not designed to be a large robust AAC app so it does not come preloaded with thousands of words. It includes 140 pictures divided into 8 categories.

 

  •  In doing a comparison to other AAC apps in my vast collection, I have 5 other AAC apps that have a “PECS-like” feel to them. I looked at the current features & pricing for those apps. I also looked at the pricing history for the Grace App on AppShopper.com and found that the price has ranged from $37.99 to $9.99 (with an exception of being free twice way back in 2011). Based on the features in the Grace App compared to my other similar apps (see list at the end of this post), the current price of $29.99 seems slightly high. In my opinion, a price of $19.99 would be more in line with the features currently offered in this app.

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Bottom Line: The Grace App is a specialty niche AAC app that could be helpful for parents or therapists wanting to transition a child from use of PECS to an iPad-based communication option. I am glad to have the app in my AAC toolbox of options to consider during the feature match process in an AAC eval. I liked that the app can be used on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, the high contrast between the black background and white symbols, that there are three options for symbol sizes, that editing can be toggled off in a secure area and especially liked how easy it would be for the AAC user to take their own pictures within the app as a way to participate in what they want added to it. The ability for an AAC user to do this was a feature unique to this app. It would be nice to have a different way to remove a symbol from the sentence strip since the current method of double tapping caused the symbol to be spoken again. An upward flicking/swiping motion might be more intuitive. The current price of $29.99 would be more fitting if the app contained at least a male and female voice within the app rather than relying on the one native iOS voice for a language. Given the current features and a comparison to other PECS-like AAC apps, a price of $19.99 would seem more fitting.

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App Store: https://appsto.re/us/G7EFv.i, iOS Universal, $29.99

Website: http://www.graceapp.com

App Guide: http://www.graceapp.com/guide-to-grace-app/

Video Tutorials: http://www.graceapp.com/media-press/videos/. If needed, a much more in-depth paid webinar “Six Steps to Success with Grace App” is also available: http://www.bigbraindrain.com/six-steps-success-graceapp/.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GraceApp

Twitter: http://twitter.com/graceapp

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List of other AAC apps that I have with a “PECS-like” feel (listed by current price):

  • PECS Phase III: $5.99 (has ranged from $3.99 to $9.99; not intended to be used as an AAC system but I have had one patient who used PECS at a single symbol level and had a limited number of symbols in her book that transitioned to this app; http://www.pecsusa.com/apps.php)
  • See Me Talk: $9.99 since January 2016 (has ranged from $9.99 to $59.99; https://www.seemetalkapp.com/features)
  • So Much 2 Say: $18.99 since April 2016 (has ranged from $7.99 to $24.99; https://close2homeapps.com/?q=our_apps)
  • Niki Talk: app is free but costs ~ $42.00 to get access to the full version http://www.nikitalk.com/Talk.aspx)
  • PECS IV+: $84.99 (has ranged from $69.99 to $99.99; obviously the most robust option in this category would also be the most expensive. It includes 1,000 Pics for PECS pictures, has the option to include up to 20 tabbed pages and visually looks the most like a real PECS book; http://www.pecsusa.com/apps.php)

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I will be adding this app to my larger post about AAC apps: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/06/11/aac-tips-how-slps-can-get-free-access-to-aac-apps-aac-app-user-groups-funding-options-more/

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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

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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 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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