Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP. Over 33 years experience in AAC. OMazing Kids AAC and app consulting. Creator of several AAC Feature Matching resources (https://omazingkidsllc.com/omazing-kids-aac-resource-links/). Includes info about unique features to support Gestalt Language Processors
This new FREE handout has info about how individuals can access a free trial of several robust AAC apps to try out on their own iPad, Android tablet, Amazon Fire tablet, or Windows tablet. Or use online.
If you are an SLP/SLT making funding/purchasing recommendations or another professional supporting AAC users and need ongoing access to robust AAC apps, see this blog post: AAC Test Drive & Getting Access to Robust AAC Apps,https://bit.ly/AACtestdrive. It has links to four FREE handouts with the details on how to get access to these apps.
Each app has its own minimum spec requirements. You can find those either in that app store or on the website where you download it.
Did you know that PRC-Saltillo added a new “Open Website” button action? I immediately checked it out as a way to finally be able to open a specific YouTube video in LAMP Words for Life. It works but isn’t ideal. Want to learn a secret hack to remove the extraneous clutter and remove the “Share” icon? I’ve shared all the details in this latest update for the Feature Matching Chart for the Top 12 Robust iOS Symbol-Based AAC Apps: https://bit.ly/SymbolBasedAACapps. I added an exclusive unlisted YouTube video showing how to do this that’s only accessible to those who have this resource. Why this might be helpful? Many Gestalt Language Processors are drawn to particular segments of videos and may replay them over and over. These may be used as communication but it often takes some detective work to figure out the meaning for that individual. These videos may also play a part in self-regulation. Individuals with some speech may recite these lines in a scripted way. Our Gestalt Language Processors who use AAC deserve the opportunity to do this. Adding video clips for gestalts that are uniquely meaningful to that individual may be an instant “spark” for increased interest in using their AAC.
My latest tech rabbit hole to go down is use of an external Bluetooth keyboard with AAC. I’ve gotten a few inquiries related to this recently so I decided to see what I could find.
Features: I wanted something that could be used across all of my tech (iOS, Android, Windows), is affordable, portable, reliable, easy to pair, has a nice feel to the keys, has a slight incline, etc. This keyboard has three separate Bluetooth buttons to be able to toggle easily between three different devices that have been paired to it (not used simultaneously on three devices but makes switching between them very quick).
It’s been surprising to discover how many AAC apps (symbol-based & text-based) support use of an external keyboard. I’ll be adding this info to the next update for my feature matching resources.
I’ve been impressed with the Arteck Universal Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard that I bought on Amazon.com: https://a.co/d/2Qn2f9d. Great price ($17.99 – an extra 20% off = $14.39), has a good feel to it and it fits perfectly in a Vera Bradley pouch that I already had.
See more about this Vera Bradley item and what will fit in it on my Vera Bradley YouTube channel:
This item was on sale for a good price when I purchased both of them back in December ($20.75). It’s priced higher now but prices on Amazon change frequently so it’s something that you may want to save in your cart and watch for a good sale: https://a.co/d/dSPfFhM
Important Considerations: These keyboard features would likely be the top features for folks who are able to type on a keyboard on a laptop or computerand are wanting something portable to use with their AAC. A couple of the inquiries that I received were regarding adult AAC users who preferred to type on a keyboard vs. on a device screen, a couple were from folks wanting a keyboard for use when editing & a couple were related to children who have a passion for letters and keyboards (based on the info that I was provided they are likely Gestalt Language Processors with Hyperlexia) and those supporting AAC use thought that they might prefer using an external Bluetooth keyboard. Each situation is unique. If you are wanting to explore external Bluetooth keyboard options for individuals with complex access needs then it’s important to consult with an OT and/or AT Specialist. There are several alternative assistive technology keyboards on the market but those are very specialized, typically much more expensive and may not work across multiple platforms.
It’s important to find a keyboard that’s compatible with whatever operating system is used on that device. I read through tons of reviews prior to deciding to try this particular keyboard. I took the time to add my own review for it on Amazon to help others find it more quickly than I did. That’s also the reason that I decided to post about it on social media and write this blog post.
The feature matching charts for both the symbol-based and text-based AAC apps have been updated to add a row with details about whether or not that app supports use of an external Bluetooth keyboard and info related to whether or not you first have to tap the Message Window to place the cursor, if the Enter key can be used to speak the contents of the Message Window, etc…
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.
Decisions about when and how to secure devices need to be made based on individual needs, age of the user, how long they have been using AAC, etc… The needs of a young child first learning how to use AAC are very different from the needs of an older teen or adult who uses tech to multitask.
I would never hand a young child a totally unlocked / unsecured iPad, tablet, smartphone, laptop or any other tech that then could access all of the internet. There are several reasons why that could be very risky.
You also need to consider financial risks. Several years ago I had a patient who had run up over $1,000 in credit card charges making app purchases and in-app purchases on the parent’s unsecured iPad. Fortunately they were eventually able to get it refunded but that’s not always the case.
There are ways to choose how secure a device needs to be by using a combo of options. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”.
And there are a few important settings to adjust in order to prevent the AAC app (or any other apps) from being deleted. This is also where you need to toggle off the ability to download apps and the ability to make in-app purchases. Be sure to set a strong password.
Use Screen Time alongside Guided Access to provide even more control.
If you have a Samsung Android tablet, also look at Samsung Kids as a way to create a secured area where you can add any combination of apps:
Can use the included My Camera to take pictures and videos and then view them within My Gallery. The included Bobby’s Canvas app has a fun drawing area. Exiting Samsung Kids is secured with a PIN. More info: https://www.samsung.com/us/apps/samsung-kids/
The YouTube Kids app (https://bit.ly/3O0FpIT) or the Video Collections app (https://bit.ly/3zEuW1k or on Samsung Galaxy Store: https://bit.ly/3zGG7q7 ) can be used as a way to save links to specific YouTube videos or channels. Adding one of these apps within the secured Samsung Kids area would allow Gestalt Language Processors to access videos as part of their communication system in a secured way.
Windows: Set up a single-app kiosk on Windows 10/11: https://bit.ly/3Ocxdo3 (applicable for Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education & Windows 11. Unfortunately you can not set Kiosk mode for Windows 10 Home edition (the operating system on my AWOW AiBook 10 Windows tablet / mini laptop: https://bit.ly/3IJRBf8).
Like anything else related to AAC it’s wise to weigh the pros & cons to help decide what model of iPad, case and speaker may be the best fit for that user’s needs and the environments they will be in. This should be part of what’s considered during an AAC & feature matching.
Traditional SGDs have built in speakers but not everyone has a funding source to pay for those much more expensive devices and the weight of them can be too heavy for many AAC users to carry.
Some wheelchairs for very young children are too lightweight for that type of heavy SGD to be mounted to it.
The weight of traditional SGDs is a common factor that I see mentioned related to device abandonment. So that should always be considered during the AAC evaluation and feature matching process.
I get pretty frequent requests for info about ways to amplify the sound on an iPad when using it for AAC. Thankfully Apple has improved the sound loudness and sound quality in the basic iPad model over the years. But in noisier settings it can still be a little difficult to hear.
This blog post is focused on sound amplification when the iPad is being used for AAC.
There are primarily three options:
Purchase an iPad Pro. It is louder than an iPad 8th gen or iPad 9th gen since the iPad Pro has four speakers vs. two speakers in those base models.
Purchase an external Bluetooth speaker that can either be attached to a carrying strap or worn.
Purchase a case with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (or one that allows that to be added).
See a 4th app-specific option at the end of this post.
Option 1 (iPad Pro): Here’s a video showing the sound on my iPad Pro 9.7”. Sound loudness was ~ 80dB (measured with the Decibel X app on my iPhone 11) which was just slightly less than the Tobii Dynavox Speech Case (see info below). It’s likely that newer iPad Pro models would have even better sound output.
iPad Pro 11 inch
Pros: Having the increased volume without having the extra weight associated with having a case with built-in speakers or the drain that using Bluetooth speakers puts on the iPad battery.
Cons: Significantly higher price and kid-friendly cases can be more difficult to find for that model of iPad.
At the time of this post the price for the least expensive iPad Pro 11” was $799. The price for the least expensive iPad 9th gen 10.2” was $329 ($470 less than the least expensive iPad Pro on Apple’s website. Even less expensive if you get the $269.99 deal currently available on Amazon Prime).
Kid-friendly & AAC-friendly iPad Cases for the iPad Pro 11:
PRC-Saltillo’s new VersaWrap Case has a built-in stand and the Bluetooth speaker is optional so you won’t need to purchase that if you have an iPad Pro 11”. The VersaWrap 10.1 case was designed to fit several different similarly sized iPad models (iPad 7th 8th, 9th, 10th Gen; iPad Air 4th, 5th Gen; iPad Pro 11 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Gen). This will hopefully will allow it to remain a sustainable option for years to come. It is available on Amazon (https://a.co/d/4buZfTy) and their website (https://store.prc-saltillo.com/versawrap-f19142). It comes in 5 colors (black, grey, blue, pink, purple). Weight: 9.6 oz. (.6 lb). They also offer one sized to fit the iPad Pro 12.9” so be sure to look closely prior to ordering. Price: $75.00.
Total cost: iPad Pro 11 ($799, 128GB) + VersaWrap ($75) = $874 (+ taxes and shipping)
The iPad 9th gen, $329, 64 GB is currently my top pick for an affordable iPad being used just for AAC and AAC-related apps (like Pictello and alternative keyboard apps). Sound loudness of iPad 8th gen and iPad 9th gen in a Pepkoo case: ~ 76.6 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11).
If you plan on embedding lots of videos or saving music on that iPad or you are an SLP who will also be loading therapy apps, then you should get the 256GB model ($479). There aren’t enough features relevant to supporting AAC use to warrant the huge price difference in the new iPad 10th gen ($449, 64GB or $599, 256GB) and the case options would be very limited for that model. If you plan on using external eye tracker hardware then you need to research the exact model of iPad needed to support that before making your purchasing decision.
If an iPad is out of your price range, see my blog posts about affordable AAC:
Option 2 (External Bluetooth Speaker): Options for good Bluetooth speakers has changed over the years. My “go to” for an inexpensive lightweight Bluetooth speaker that had great sound quality and didn’t drop off the first part of the message was the iON Clipster. I often clipped it onto a carrying strap or attached it with super strength Velcro.
Here a blast from the past. The iON Clipster + the GripCase case in 2014. I own two iON Clipsters and they still work. The maximum loudness is about 85dB (measured with the Decibel X app on my iPhone):
Unfortunately the iON Clipster hasn’t been available for several years.
Links to current recommended options (will likely change as these options disappear and new ones come on the market):
Anker Soundcore Icon Mini (Amazon, $29.99, 8 hrs of use per charge, waterproof, 6.4 oz. While I haven’t personally had a need to order one I’ve seen a couple of AAC specialists recommend it for use in especially loud settings but they indicated that the weight and design may not be as good as the Noxgear 39g): https://a.co/d/iS91sD9
Noxgear 39g (Amazon, $59.95 (usually $69.95), 39 grams (1.38 oz.), 15 hrs of use per charge). While I haven’t personally had a need to order one I’ve seen several AAC specialists recommend it. Occasionally I’ve seen comments that it wasn’t quite loud enough for a school cafeteria or community outings. To be honest if a speaker could get that loud I might be concerned about the risk of hearing damage. I’d also be teaching the AAC user skills to approach a communication partner and gaining their attention. Amazon: https://a.co/d/fUlqlC6
The JBL Clip 3 isn’t recommended since some folks reported that it sometimes cuts off the first part of the message.
Kid-friendly & AAC-friendly iPad Cases for the iPad 10.2” (iPad 7th, 8th & 9th gen). I’d add a high quality tempered glass screen protector. I prefer that over cases that have a built in flimsy plastic screen protector. A shoulder carrying strap could be added to thicker foam cases by drilling holes. See a picture in my in-depth blog post about cases: https://bit.ly/iPadCasesPepkooAndMore.
Pepkoo (My favorite case, lightweight, affordable, available in several fun colors, attached sturdy rotating stand that doubles as carrying handle (lays flush enough that the case doesn’t wobble when laid flat on a table); $20.99 on Amazon): https://a.co/d/5zJmNO0. Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in a Pepkoo case = 1 lb, 12.2 oz. (weighed on my postal scale). Sound loudness with iPad 8th gen and iPad 9th gen in this case: ~ 76.6 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11)
Pepkoo Triple Shockproof (I prefer the original Pepkoo but this model has the extra feature of a shoulder carrying strap; $26.99 on Amazon): https://a.co/d/0fvvQsm
Go Now Case. Weight not listed, $99.00 case, $10.00 shoulder strap, $39.00 cover stand. If you need the ultimate protective case that requires a screwdriver to remove it, my top pick is the GoNow Case + add the accessories for a a shoulder carrying strap and cover stand. I’d get a high quality tempered glass screen protector instead of the one that they offer. This is my “go to” when it’s needed for protection. The cons are this case is heavier, more expensive and I don’t like this type of stand as well as a rotating ring stand: https://www.attainmentcompany.com/gonow-case-for-ipads-10-2-and-10-5, accessories: https://www.attainmentcompany.com/gonow-case-accessories
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + external Bluetooth speaker ($29.99-$69.95) + one of the cases with an attached rotating ring stand ($20.99-$29.99) = $379.98-$428.94 (+ taxes and shipping)
Option 3 (iPad Cases with a built-in Bluetooth speaker (or one that allows that to be added). The options for these have also varied over the years. Every time Apple changes the specs for the base model of iPad many companies that used to offer cases haven’t been able to afford to keep offering different models of cases.
Info about current recommended options (will likely change as these options disappear and new ones come on the market):
They also have one for the iPad Pro 12.9 but I’m not sure that would be needed for sound amplification reasons since an iPad Pro is loud on its own.
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + LogansVoice 10.2” case ($399) = $728 (+ taxes and shipping)
PRC-Saltillo’s new VersaWrap Case has a built-in stand and they will have a VersaSpeaker Bluetooth speaker that can be inserted to transform this into a case with an embedded speaker. There is also a spot to add an Apple AirTag.
The VersaWrap 10.1 case was designed to fit several different similarly sized iPad models which hopefully will allow it to remain a sustainable option for years to come. It is available on Amazon (https://a.co/d/4buZfTy) and their website (https://store.prc-saltillo.com/versawrap-f19142). It comes in 5 colors (black, grey, blue, pink, purple). Weight: 9.6 oz. (.6 lb). They also offer one sized to fit the iPad Pro 12.9” so be sure to look closely prior to ordering. Price: $75.00 (on sale for $60.00 (20% off) during their Cyber Sale event 11/25/22 through midnight 11/28/22. Sale is available on Amazon & their website)
The optional VersaSpeaker will reportedly be $149.00 but it isn’t available yet. The VersaWrap user guide shows an optional carrying strap but I haven’t seen any details about that yet.
*** I hope to be able to borrow the VersaWrap after the VersaSpeaker is available so I can do sound and weight tests and try out the various stand positions *** So be watching this section for more info…
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + VersaWrap ($75.00) + VersaSpeaker ($149.00) = $553 (+ taxes and shipping)
I was able to borrow the 10.2” sized Speech Case to try out so I have firsthand info to share on this particular case.
Here’s my sound comparison test of an iPad 8th gen in a Speech Case vs an iPad 8th gen in a case without an external speaker. Sound loudness with iPad 8th gen in the Speech Case: ~ 85 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11)
Here’s a video showing a close look at the features:
And a video showing it disassembled so you can see the parts:
Weight: Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in the Speech Case = 2 lbs, 12.4 oz.
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + Speech Case ($399) = $728 (+ taxes and shipping)
Rehadapter Case: I’ve only seen it mentioned online and was not able to find any pricing info. Here’s the website in case you want to research this option: https://rehadapter.com
Three different models available: 10.2” iPad (7th, 8th & 9th gen), 10.9” iPad (10th gen), and the iPad Pro 11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gen.) and Air (4th and 5th gen.).
Sound loudness with iPad 8th gen in the Rehadapter Case: ~ 82.8 dB (measured with Decibel X app on my iPhone 11)
It’s great that the iPad is secured within the case with 12 self contained screws (can’t be lost) that require use of an Alan wrench (included). It’s very easy to put on & take off with that tool (took about 2 minutes) but should be impossible to do so without it. So this is a case to consider if you have users prone to peeling off cases and then damaging the iPad.
Weight: Combined weight of iPad 8th gen in the Rehadapter Case = 3 lbs, 0.7 oz. Note: This weight includes the mounting plate on the back of the case.
Total cost: iPad 9th gen ($329) + Rehadapter case ($599) = $928 (+ taxes and shipping). Price in USA.
Price for the 10.9” model case: $599. Price for Pro model case: $699. They offer a variety of keyguard options, screen protectors, carrying strap, carrying bag, padded protection sleeve, and mounts for the Irisbond Hiru eye tracker and the Origin HeadMouse Nano.
Proloquo2Go has Whisper, Loud & Shout volume buttons in the Tools Popup. I created a test phrase “This is a test of the Ella voice on Proloquo2Go” on an iPad 8th gen in a Pepkoo case and measured the loudness with the Decibel X app on my iPhone 11:
Whisper = 63 dB
Loud = 73.8 dB
Shout = 81.8 dB (digitally boosted sound with minimal reduction in sound quality)
Manually setting the iPad to the loudest setting = 76.6 dB
The GoTalk Now app has an option in the app Settings – Text to Speech Settings – Acapela TTS Volume Boost – options for No Boost, Slight Boost, Medium Boost & Heavy Boost. Whether or not that “boost” made a difference varied by the voice being used. This setting would then always be used vs. having a way for the user to choose a loudness option based on the situation.
Several other robust AACapps offered a way to adjust the volume within the app but the “shout” or highest setting didn’t boost the sound beyond the iPad loudest volume. I’ll be adding a row related to those settings in the next update for my AAC feature matching resources.
Know of great options for cases or Bluetooth speakers that I should take a look at? Have questions? The best way to reach me is via Facebook messaging over on my OMazing Kids page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/
Disclaimers: This blog post may be updated in the future as options change. Prices & availability were correct at the time this post was published but could change at any time. It’s wise to double check info prior to making purchasing decisions. I am not making patient-specific recommendations and am not liable for any purchasing decisions.
They have several fabulous FREE apps: https://tech.beitissie.org.il/en/our-apps/. Watch their webinar for in-depth info and fun implementation ideas. Info about IssieDocs starts at 42:43 in the webinar (note: the webinar was recorded prior to English being added to the app but use and editing info is the same)
My video shows a great protective sleeve that will fit the Pepkoo and Rud-Ed Buddy 10 cases:
I always take my iPad with me when I travel and have tried TONS of protective sleeves but had a difficult time finding one that would fit my iPad 8th gen in the Pepkoo case or my iPad 9th gen in the Rug-Ed Buddy 10 case.
Most iPad or tablet sleeves are designed to fit an iPad that either isn’t in a case or is in a very slim case. Or there were oversized sleeves designed for a Chromebook or laptop. Those were too bulky.
I finally found the perfect option on Amazon: Dadanism 9-11 Inch Tablet Sleeve Case for iPad 10.2 2019-2021, iPad Pro 11 2018-2021, iPad Air 4 10.9 2020, Galaxy Tab A7 10.4 2020, Lenovo Tab M10 Plus 10.3, Tablet Protective Sleeve Bag, Night Blue, https://a.co/d/6DAfnoh. Exterior Dimensions: 12.2” x 9.45” x 0.98”.
I’ve received quite a few requests for info about using AAC to clarify spoken communication and for info about “communication repair” ideas for AAC users. Quite a few AAC apps have this type of content or there is a way to import it. These screenshots are examples of “Communication Repairs” vocabulary. See caption under each pic for more info.
Info about the Senner-Baud social pages can be found on the Technology & Language Center, Inc. website: https://talcaac.com/add-on-social-pages/. They have “how to” videos that show how to import/add them to each app. It’s important to follow the exact steps in their videos for it to work properly.
A communication repair page in the Motor Plan 30 pageset in TD Snap (UK version is available now, the USA version is coming in January/February 2023). I added more to it by copying and pasting buttons from the Aphasia pageset and some from the Senner-Baud social pages that I had imported into the Core First pageset.
The Quick page in Avaz AAC (40 pictures per screen grid size, most recent update with new interface)
A screenshot of the Messages page from Super Core 50 in Grid for iPad (or Grid 3 on Windows devices)
A screenshot from Voco Chat in Grid for iPad (or Grid 3 on Windows devices). This page is found under My Toolkit – Can I give you a clue.
This is a page within a fairly robust communication book that I built with the largest grid size (49 buttons, 7×7) in GoTalk Now Plus. It was influenced by this type of content in other apps. The “!” button has an eight button popup with quick words that can be accessed while on any page in the app.
The free download link for the fairly robust Communication Book that I built is available by request for members of the GoTalk Now AAC & GoVisual Visual Scene Apps – Ideas and Sharing Facebook Group: https://bit.ly/GoTalkNowAACappGroup. Join the group and then send your request to me via a private message on my OMazing Kids AAC Consulting Facebook page. I will then check the group to verify your membership.
I have only created this Communication Book in English since that is my native language.
This Communication Book is way too large to upload to the GoTalk Now Online Gallery.
Please only request it if you have GoTalk Now or GoTalk Now Plus.
There is NOT a way to import a Communication Book into the free GoTalk Now Lite app or the inexpensive GoTalk Start app.
The Clues page from Proloquo2Go. On 7 x 11 grid in Crescendo Intermediate Core this page is found on Home 2 – Clues.
The Repair page in the subscription-based Proloquo + Proloquo Coach app.
The Clues page from Clicker Communicator AAC. This is found in Clicker Core 3 vocabulary – Chat – Clues.
The Repairs page from the Senner-Baud social pages imported into the WordPower 60 Basic vocabulary in TouchChat with WordPower. The zipped file has these for nine different vocab file sizes.
The Repairs page from the Senner-Baud social pages imported and added to the Sidebar in Quick Core 60 in CoughDrop.
The Phrases area in Speech Assistant AAC. This very affordable text-based AAC app is easy to customize and allows an emoji, picture or symbol to be added to a button to help it stand out. I’ve rearranged some of the phrases to group them for conversational repair and added to it.
I am sharing these as examples in case you were looking for apps that offer this type of content or are thinking of adding this type of vocabulary to an your AAC app.
As always, it’s best to include the AAC user in customizing their own system… including what they want added, where they want to add it, what symbols they want to use, etc…
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%)