Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP. Over 30 years experience in AAC. OMazing Kids AAC and app consulting. Creator of 5 AAC Feature Matching resources (https://bit.ly/5aacFeatureMatchingResources). Includes info about unique features to support Gestalt Language Processors
Updated resource: Basic Feature Chart for Affordable and Free AAC apps & AAC-Related Apps (iOS, Android Google Play, Amazon Fire, Windows + a few Web-Based options). Now also includes info about apps available for Chromebook.
This 90 page PDF resource was inspired by the numerous requests that I’ve received for simple “at a glance” info about features in AAC apps and single page handouts that could be used with parents, caregivers and anyone involved in the AAC decision making process.
Table of Contents:
A Preview Sample PDF is available for this resource on TPT. It includes the Table of Contents and a few sample pages.
This resource includes:
• A hyperlinked Table of Contents to jump straight to a page. Tap in the top left corner to jump back to the Table of Contents (when being used digitally)
• 11 Features At-a-Glance Handouts
• 36 AAC App Summary At-a-Glance Handouts (see Table of Contents for a list)
• 12 Gestalt Language Processing & AAC Handouts
• 4 Just-a-List Lists of Free AAC apps Handouts
• 2 unlisted videos (5 min demo of how to view 2 pages side-by-side using Split View & a 20 min Resource Overview)
• Links to additional resources
• How to contact me with questions (includes my email address exclusive to TPT)
These will be helpful on either side of an AAC evaluation that involves feature matching and trials of a few options:
• Beforehand to help simplify the process of knowing which apps and/or features you might want to consider during an AAC eval
• Afterwards to place at-a-glance sheets side by side as a reminder of apps that were included in the trials and help simplify the process of deciding which ones warrant a longer term trial or which one might be selected for submission in a funding request.
• These can also be helpful during the feature matching process to help provide simple explanations about some of the features and why they might be important.
It would be impossible to include all of the features in a particular AAC app on a single page handout. These are just “highlights”. These handouts should be used alongside (not instead of) in-depth up to date feature matching resources.
This resource is optimized for both printed and digital use:
• Print a single page first to see if you need to choose “shrink to fit” on your printer. Print pages and place them side-by-side to compare features or apps.
• In order to keep the aesthetic of single page handouts the pages are not numbered. If you want to add page numbers, either write them or use a PDF editing app to add them.
• The Table of Contents has hyperlinks to tap a page number to jump straight to that page. Tap the top left corner on any page to return to the Table of Contents.
• There a few other underlined hyperlinks in this resource to take you straight to additional information. I purposefully did not include App Store links since those can vary by country and aren’t always redirected.
• There are several options to view two pages side-by-side to compare features or apps:
• Use two iPads or tablets or open on two windows on a laptop.
• On iPadOS 13.0 or later, save the PDF in two different PDF viewer apps and use Split View to view them. The demo video included in the resource shows how.
• The PDF Expert and GoodNotes 5 apps offer a way to view two documents side-by-side within that one app
Looking for in-depth info about features AAC apps? Check out these resources:
• AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)
Have questions? The best way to reach me with any questions is via messaging on the OMazing Kids Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/. That way AAC related messages don’t get lost among the spam in my e-mail.
Thinking about developing a new AAC app? I do quite a bit of beta testing and am asked pretty frequently for my feedback on AAC app development. Here are my thoughts…
The top 3 needs that I see for AAC apps:
1. Relevant: There is a need for robust AAC apps in a wider variety/diversity of languages and dialects (content, symbols & voices). Ideally these need to be developed in conjunction with native speakers of that language to insure accuracy and cultural relevance of the content, symbols and voices.
2. Portable: There is a need for more AAC apps to be usable on an iPhone & Android phone. I get numerous requests every month for info about the options. Sadly more than half of the robust iOS symbol-based AAC apps can only be used on an iPad. I had several older kids, teens and young adults that preferred the portability and the “look” of pocket-sized AAC on their phone. Some used it as an alternative to their larger device. Others used it as their primary AAC.
Some app developers claim that it would be impossible to offer their app on an iPhone because it would “mess with the motor plan” or “the buttons would be too small”. Hmm… somehow Speak for Yourself did this way back in 2016 and their app has 120 buttons per page and is a “motor planning” based app. In the years since then I’ve seen several posts from AAC users, parents, SLPs, teachers, etc. who all appreciate the flexibility that this offers. The screen on the largest iPhones are only a couple of inches smaller than an iPad Mini. Even on my iPhone 11 with its 6.1” screen I’m able to use this app well enough to do some modeling and use it all the time to take a look at the Settings area to answer questions about the app when I don’t have my iPad with me.
Read these posts on the Speak for Yourself website: https://speakforyourself.org/does-aac-button-size-really-matter/ & https://speakforyourself.org/tiny-speak-coming-soon-iphones/. A quote from the second post: “The buttons are small, BUT they are twice the size of the keyboard buttons that we all use, including our students who flawlessly use mom or dad’s phone to search for videos on YouTube. Many of our users will be able to access Tiny Speak for Yourself (Tiny SfY), but even if they are not able to access it, having the app on an iPhone also puts the ability to model seamlessly into the hands of parents, professionals…and siblings. That may be the biggest game changer of Tiny SfY.”
Look at the data and the button size comparisons. Look at the pictures and video of it in use. Read the linked blog posts about the impact of having this option.
It’s doable. Not saying it’s easy for developers to reprogram an app to make it iOS Universal. I’m sure it takes a lot of work. But if you listen to your customers it’s one of the biggest needs. So listen, roll up your sleeves and make it happen.
3. Affordable: We need more robust AAC options that can be used on the more affordable tablets (Amazon Fire & Android). I’ve been getting numerous messages from folks who don’t have access to getting an AAC device funded or are tired of professionals saying their child isn’t “ready”. In these instances the total cost of an Amazon Fire tablet or basic Android tablet + case + AAC app = affordable enough for the parent to purchase it themselves. Not everyone can afford an iPad.
Here are my other thoughts based on over 30 years of experience in AAC and using lots of AAC apps across all of the platforms:
• Any new AAC app needs to support robust communication for a wide variety of functions. There are already several simple choice making apps on the market. Robust AAC contains many different types of words (verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles/determiners & interjections), includes Core Vocabulary & Fringe Vocabulary (relevant to that user’s culture, interests and needs), includes Prestored Phrases (to support quick participation), Word Forms (verb tenses, word endings), allows editing to add new vocabulary and customize existing vocabulary, and a way to backup customizations.
Most robust AAC apps offer a Search/Word Finder. The lack of a Search/Word Finder can be a significant issue for those supporting lots of AAC users across multiple systems since they may not use that particular app everyday.
There needs to be a balance between safeguards to help insure an AAC app is used as designed to provide robust AAC & flexibility in editing. When AAC apps are too restrictive in editing it makes it difficult to make sure the content and symbols are culturally relevant, honor that user’s and their family’s customs and religious beliefs and that they are not racially biased. It’s difficult to do that when much/most of the app can’t be edited.
There also needs to be flexibility to allow editing in order to allow use of robust elements like verb tenses and word endings even if that individual is using a low cell count grid size in order to support access for fine motor and visual needs.
• Take a good look at the major AAC apps on the market and determine what specific features your new app would offer that are not already available.
• Get input from AAC users regarding features they think would be helpful.
• Do lots of beta testing to insure the app is intuitive / easy to use.
• You should only offer an AAC app that is truly worth having and meets needs. There are several free or very cheap AAC apps on the market. But you rarely see them mentioned or recommended because they are so poorly designed.
• Offer a fully featured free trial for at least 30 days (preferably at least 60 days) & include access to any extra pagesets / vocab files / grid sets / board sets during that trial. This access needs to be available on the device that the individual might actually be using (as an example, having a free trial on Windows isn’t really going to be totally helpful if they will be using an iPad). SLPs/SLTs and others supporting AAC use can typically get access to the full apps to trial but there are often waiting lists and not everyone has access to an SLP or access to getting an AAC eval. (Note: The various app platforms pose barriers to app developers for some of the options to offer free trials or free promo codes so there are constraints to what they can do regarding this. There would also be a need for companies licensing voices and premium vocab files to allow for these types of free trials)
• Offer purchasing flexibility. Subscriptions offer easier access for individuals (but don’t work well for schools, state run facilities and funding sources). The option to purchase a multi-year subscription can be helpful in some situations. If it will have a subscription, also offer a 1x purchasing option for those who can’t do subscriptions. If it’s an in-app purchase, also offer an option that will work for schools and state run facilities.
• Price your app where it is affordable & sustainable.
• Beyond the initial costs of developing the app, make sure that you also have a very well thought out long term plan and finances for supporting and keeping an AAC app updated.
I’ve received numerous messages over the years on my OMazing Kids AAC Consulting page from parents and therapists with very heartbreaking stories of AAC users losing their voice when Apple released a new iOS and the app wouldn’t work as expected. Several AAC app developers have not updated apps in 5 years or more. It’s one thing to lose a favorite game or therapy app but a whole different thing to lose an AAC app.
Want to read more about affordable AAC and/or pocket sized AAC? See these blog posts:
AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)
Tips: If you are using an Android tablet & an Amazon Fire Tablet with the Google Play App Store side loaded, be sure to toggle on Family Sharing before making app purchases & make the purchases from the Google Play App Store on your Amazon Fire Tablet. Those have been recognized by Google Play on my Android tablet. The reverse was hit and miss (likely due to the side loading).
Are you a parent or caregiver who wants to try out AAC options for your child? I highly recommend that you pursue an AAC eval (including feature matching and trial of options) with an SLP who has expertise in this area.
This is not meant to put up a roadblock or to “gate keep”. I like to compare it to decisions made regarding wheelchairs. Could you just go pick one out and buy it? If you had the money, sure. But it may not be the best “fit” for that person.
But don’t feel that you HAVE TO wait.
Unfortunately it’s still common to see comments from parents and caregivers who have been told “no”, “only after we try _____”, or “only after they demonstrate ________ skills”, etc.
Another reality is not every parent or caregiver will have access to this type of evaluation. This may be even more challenging in the midst of the pandemic despite the best efforts of SLPs to provide these services remotely.
It may just be a little trickier to determine what the best AAC option will be for your child since many parents don’t have unlimited resources to buy several AAC apps to try.
If your child is a Gestalt Language Processor, be sure to also read the section specifically related to Gestalt Language Processing & AAC at the end of this post.
I am not implying that a free or inexpensive app is always the ideal way to meet most communication needs. But these can be helpful to use until an AAC eval can be completed, a more robust option can be purchased, to meet a short term need or as a secondary tool to offer features that might not be available in their main AAC app, etc.
You may need to use a combination of several apps and add it to existing communication such as True Object Based Icons (TOBIs), facial expressions, gestures, vocalizations, etc. That individual can then pick what methods work best for them in any given situation. We all use various modes of communication (words, gestures, emojis, texting, drawing, etc).
Even when choosing a free or affordable AAC app you’ll want to consider the features that will best match that individual’s needs
Here are some resources that can help you make informed AAC purchasing decisions prior to purchasing more expensive AAC apps:
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. Find the AT Lending Library in your state: https://www.at3center.net/stateprogram
Even if your state’s program isn’t loaning out equipment due to the pandemic they might have the option to do a short term loan of the software/app.
The AT Program in your state may also know of SLPs who do AAC evals and funding resources (including grants) specific to your area.
You can see the pricing history for any iOS app on the App Sliced website (gives you an idea of the pattern of when it goes on sale): https://appsliced.co. Many AAC apps tend to go on sale in the USA in April (Autism Awareness / Acceptance Month) and in October (AAC Awareness Month).
I have several free resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers:
I’ve received lots of messages from parents asking what the “best” AAC app is for Gestalt Language Processors. I wish there was a simple answer for this but there isn’t.
Of the thousands of AAC users that I’ve worked with each one had unique needs. For some it was the language(s) that app needed to support, the method of access (tapping to select, drag and release to select, switch scanning, head tracking, eye gaze, etc.), how many navigational hits it took to get to a word, the sensory aspects (type and color of symbols, voice options), etc… This was in addition to unique features that might be helpful for GLPs.
That’s why it’s important to consider the bigger picture of all of their needs and hopefully try a few AAC options before making a purchasing decision.
If you are a parent and don’t have access to an SLP to help you navigate the AAC app options, feel free to message me on my OMazing Kids AAC Consulting Facebook page. I’m glad to answer basic questions about AAC apps and share links to unlisted YouTube videos related to those apps.
Why are those videos unlisted? Those particular videos were created as part of my in-depth feature matching resources that are primarily designed for SLPs and other professionals. Of course anyone can purchase them but they might be way too much info and overwhelming for those just getting started with AAC. I don’t want parents to feel like they have to purchase that type of resource just to see the videos.
So parents please message me if you’d like to see a video about a particular AAC app. I answer quickly on my Facebook page.
I’m not currently offering in-depth virtual AAC consultation or coaching but may consider doing that at some point in the future.
I have over 30 years of experience in AAC, have used almost every iOS AAC app in the USA iTunes (Apple) App Store, Android AAC apps, Amazon Fire AAC apps, Windows AAC apps + lots of AAC-related apps. I am always glad to share what I know about the features in these apps and refer you on to where you can get good / accurate additional info.