Posts Tagged ‘AAC apps’

Top 10 AAC App Updates in 2017

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It’s amazing to see how much the field of AAC has changed over the course of my 28 year career as a SLP. Long gone are the old days of it taking years to see any major changes or improvements in AAC options. We are living in an era of rapid advancement thanks largely to social media that provides the opportunity for AAC users, therapists, teachers & parents to provide direct input to app and technology developers regarding what features we need. Most good AAC apps are now updated several times a year. Here is my list of top 10 updates that occurred for AAC apps in 2017:

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#1: Proloquo2Go – in March 2017 version 5.0 added an amazing Search feature & Progressive Language. If you haven’t checked out this AAC app in awhile, I invite you to take a look at it again. These new features are a game changer. It also now includes English, Spanish, French & Dutch languages.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/proloquo2go/id308368164?mt=8

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#2: Speak For Yourself – in January 2017 version 2.6 made this a Universal iOS app that can be used on an iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad. It also includes room for up to 40 different users (a great feature for SLPs trialing AAC with several different patients). Other updates this year added options to share vocabulary via AirDrop, more buttons became editable, the sentence bar background color can be changed & a “Manual Whisper Mode” was added to allow users to create a whole sentence prior to speaking.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speak-for-yourself/id482508198?mt=8

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#3: LAMP Words for Life – in July 2017 version 1.6.0 added a bilingual Spanish/English pageset, Word Finder updated to show and take you through the path to a word and added the option to backup to DropBox.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lamp-words-for-life/id551215116?mt=8

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#4: TouchChat with WordPower HD – several updates added new pageset options, Arabic language added through an in-app purchase, Canadian French vocabulary files available as free upgrade and vocabulary files can now be backed up to DropBox and can be shared via E-mail and iMessaging.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/touchchat-hd-aac-w-wordpower/id412351574?mt=8

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#5: GoTalk Now Plus – in March 2017 version 4.11.6 added PCS Thinline symbols as an option through in-app purchase. In September 2017 version 4.11.11 added the option for Hybrid Scene pages (visual scene + up to 4 buttons) & the option to share messages from the Express Bar to Facebook, e-mail and text messaging.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gotalk-now-plus/id742150885?mt=8

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#6: Snap + Core First – this new app was just released in June 2017 and in December 2017 already had a major update to add a bilingual Spanish/English pageset option & Spanish voices. At the end of October 2017 they added access to voice output in the free version of this app for ASHA certified SLPs as part of your MyTobiiDynavox account.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snap-core-first/id1072799231?mt=8

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#7: Avaz Pro – in May 2017 version 4.2.6 added the option of having up to 77 buttons per screen. In September 2017 version 4.3 added the option to share via AirDrop and the Search now takes you through the path to a word.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/avaz-pro-aac-app-for-autism/id558161781?mt=8

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#8: ChatAble & Predictable apps by TherapyBox both had major overhauls in 2017.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chatable-symbol-based-app/id803004748?mt=8

& https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/predictable/id404445007?mt=8

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#9: BRIDGE Communication – in January 2017 version 1.17 added the option to add video clips to buttons. The price was lowered to 99 cents.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bridge-communication/id983660714?mt=8

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#10: Custom Boards Premium by Smarty Ears had a major overhaul. New templates and updated Smarty Symbols were added. A great affordable option for making printable choice boards and visual supports.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/custom-boards-premium/id463344117?mt=8
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See this updated post for info about how SLPs can get free access to several AAC apps, funding tips & links to AAC user Facebook groups: 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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2017 was a years of ups & downs in the world of AAC apps. It was exciting to see so many great improvements in apps and a couple of new apps released but at the same time very sad to see a few AAC apps either disappear or no longer function properly after the release of iOS 11. I’ve received numerous messages on my OMazing Kids page from parents and therapists with very heartbreaking stories of AAC users losing their voice when iOS 11 came out. Several small AAC app developers had not updated those apps in almost 5 years. It’s one thing to lose a favorite game or therapy app but a whole different thing to lose an AAC app. It’s a cautionary tale to anyone who has thoughts of developing a new AAC app. Beyond the initial costs of developing the app, it is imperative that you also have a very well thought out long term plan and finances for supporting and keeping an AAC app updated.
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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
Facebook Messaging for OMazing Kids: http://m.me/OMazingKidsYoga (note: Facebook frequently changes the link to messaging so if this one doesn’t work head over to my page and click on the “Send Message” button)
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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 28 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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{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

Facebook Messaging for OMazing Kids: http://m.me/OMazingKidsYoga

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

AppPeeps Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OMazingKidsAppPeeps/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/amoorad

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Boardmaker Share:http://www.boardmakershare.com/Community/FriendsProfile/10916/Angela-Moorad

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 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 so I don’t have any control over ads nor do I profit from them ]

{AAC Tips} How SLPs can get FREE access to AAC apps, AAC app user groups, funding options & more! (updated 3/10/18)

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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 28 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.)

Updated 12/26/17:

Tobii Dynavox has added free access to their Snap + Core First AAC app with voice output for ASHA certified SLPs. It’s the same software offered on their new Indi & I-110 SGDs. I’ve used it with a few patients and am  loving it! Much better and more intuitive to use than their Compass app. And they just released an update that added a bilingual English/Spanish pageset option and several Spanish voices!

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FREE app, doesn’t have voice output until you activate it via the process described in the posts below: Snap + Core First by Tobii Dynavox LLC, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snap-core-first/id1072799231?mt=8

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See these posts for info about how to activate the free voice output in the free version of the app: 

https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsYoga/photos/a.433610663356611.117461.174264525957894/1643765069007825/?type=3&theater

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They also have this free companion app filled with videos, tutorials and tips. It’s a very large app so make sure you have plenty of free space and a strong WiFi connection before downloading: Pathways for Core First by Tobii Dynavox LLC, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pathways-for-core-first/id1187433636?mt=8

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Tobii Dynavox has finally started an official Facebook group for users and several of their staff are quick to answer questions & troubleshoot issues: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tobiidynavoxcommunity/?fref=ts

 

How to sync between the Indi & an iPad:

https://m.facebook.com/groups/127748650590859?view=permalink&id=1780888018610239&_rdr&hc_location=ufi

 

https://m.facebook.com/groups/127748650590859?view=permalink&id=1779827495382958&_rdr&hc_location=ufi

 

Training info & videos: https://www.tobiidynavox.com/en-US/support-training/snap-1/

 

Free PDFs of printable versions of the core pages in Core First are available in all grid sizes: https://www.tobiidynavox.com/en-US/support-training/downloads/snap/printable-core-first-communication-boards/ (Note:  Editable versions are available in Boardmaker Online by typing Core First into the Search All Activities box.)

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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 by Attainment Company (combo of Facebook messaging & e-mail)
  • GoVisual Scene Maker by Attainment Company (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. UPDATE: They now have this formal application form: https://aacapps.com/lamp/partners/apply.)
  • Make a Choice – AAC Buttons by pkclSoft (received a promo code after helping to beta-test this new app)
  • 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 9 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
  • Snap + Core First
  • 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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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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I am asked pretty frequently for my thoughts on AAC app development. Here is my advice:

  • Any new AAC app needs to support robust communication for a wide variety of functions. There are already lots of simple choice making apps on the market.
  • 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.
  • Do lots of beta testing to insure the app is intuitive / easy to use. Even with the best intentions some AAC apps never take off. An example is Total Talk. It has several unique features but is not very intuitive to use and they initially only let you pick one voice (that has since changed but they lost the initial momentum that comes with a new app release).
  • You only should 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.
  • Determine what platform you will develop the app for (iOS or Android). It’s very rare for app developers to be able to tackle both platforms and do it well. Most AAC app developers stick with the iOS platform because it is uniform and thus easier and less costly to develop apps for.
  • 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 on my OMazing Kids page from parents and therapist with very heartbreaking stories of AAC users losing their voice when iOS 11 came out. Several small AAC app developers had not updated those apps in almost 5 years. It’s one thing to lose a favorite game or therapy app but a whole different thing to lose an AAC app.

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Looking for info about PODD augmentative communication? See this post dedicated to that:

https://omazingkidsllc.com/2018/01/10/i-have-something-to-say-about-podd/

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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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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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