Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP. Over 30 years experience in AAC. OMazing Kids AAC and app consulting. Creator of 3 AAC Feature Matching resources (https://bit.ly/3aacFeatureMatchingResources). Includes info about unique features to support Gestalt Language Processors
One of my favorite books for this time of year is “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves”. If you want free printable story props see this post: https://bit.ly/2FFaRy2.
Want a super simple way to make an interactive activity to use on your iPad or to print? Check out the iESLp app by Irmgard Raubenheimer, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/ieslp/id912953895, iPad only, iOS 8.3 or later. A bargain for $19.99 (no subscription required & the app includes a huge library of SymbolStix symbols).
I didn’t see an “Old Lady” symbol that would work for feeding the items so I exported one from LessonPix in PNG format (transparent background), saved it to my Camera Roll and then imported it into iESLp. LessonPix working on mobile devices is a game changer (https://lessonpix.com).
I also imported a PNG “Achoo!” clip art that I found online.
Here’s a quick video to show what the finished activity looks like in use.
See this post for a video screencast showing how to export a picture from LessonPix:
This post is dedicated to iOS apps and mobile-friendly websites that can be used to make printable communication boards, PECS symbols, pictures for visual schedules, visual supports, therapy materials, etc… I’ve also included info about Android options but since I don’t own any Android devices I can’t comment on how well they work on that platform.
It’s 2020… we are all busier than ever and need to be able to make these printable items all from the convenience of our iPad or iPhone (not having to sit at a computer). Imagine creating things in the middle of a therapy session and then being able to email them to a parent or sending them wirelessly to a printer. It’s a common request that I see from busy SLPs especially during the pandemic so this post was inspired by you.
Looking for a web-based option that CAN be used on an iPad or iPhone? (or any device on any platform)
LessonPix has recently updated their website to be mobile-friendly and are frequently adding features SLPs are needing for teletherapy / distance learning (https://lessonpix.com/m/). It’s so cool to be able to create things from my iPad or iPhone! Since it is web based it can be used on any device regardless of the platform.
Save your image tray as a collection to easily reuse later.
LessonPix add-ins for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Don’t have a new enough version of MS Office or work in a setting where your IT department blocks add-ins? You can copy and paste items from LessonPix into these documents. The moveable game pieces, spinner and dice in PowerPoint looks really helpful for those doing distance learning / teletherapy.
New Play Tools side bar. The “Play” tab on their PowerPoint add-in has been a huge hit, allowing SLPs and teachers to share custom Dice, Spinners, Draw a Card and more with their remote clients. Those of you not using PowerPoint need the same tools… so they just added a stand-alone version of the Play Tools that you can launch as a separate window. That means it will work with ANY platform you’re using. See this video for details:
Can be used in Google Slides and Jamboard.
Sharing Center with access to lots of items other folks have created and shared. Love how it’s organized.
So I hope you add LessonPix to your therapy toolbox. But you may need a few more tools. What about situations where you may not have internet access or need other types of symbols? Keep reading…. there are several iOS apps that are affordable (some are even free):
Here’s one that’s easy to use and very affordable:
Here’s one that’s also easy to use and has more robust features specifically for building communication board grids. It’s more expensive but well worth the price and a very affordable way to access PCS Symbols:
Tools2Talk+ Create your own communication aids and chat by Scope (Aust) Ltd, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tools2talk-create-your-own-communication-aids-and-chat/id1074982035, iPad only, iOS 8.0 or later, $47.99. Includes over 20,000 PCS symbols (PCS classic core symbols, PCS ThinLine (sets 1 & 2), PCS classic addenda, as well as PCS Australia and PCS New Zealand.) If you work with adults, look for the ThinLine symbols that have a more adult look to them. Also includes Compic symbols. Plus you can import photos from your Camera Roll or use the in app camera. Has several templates to choose from (ABC board, calendar, chores chart, communication book cover, communication book 1, communication book 2, daily timetable, first-then, personal communication dictionary cover, personal communication dictionary, personal history, phrase list, QWERTY, shopping list, weekly timetable, who’s here today). You can choose any grid combination using a row-column picker from 1-9, you can set a default font, font size and font color. You can print from within the app or send the board as a PDF attachment via e-mail. Unique in that you can also use these boards with text-to-speech voice output. This app is quite affordable compared to the price of Boardmaker software (Boardmaker v.6 for Windows: $399.00 + PCS Classic: 2000-2012 Addendum Bundle: $125.00 + PCS ThinLine Set 1 & 2: $260 = $784) or a Boardmaker Online subscription (Personal: $9.99 per month or $99.00 per year; Professional: $19.99 per month or $199.00 per year) and allows you to make things from the convenience of an iPad (this is a huge plus…. especially since Mayer Johnson has indicated that they are still not going to have iPad compatibility when they launch Boardmaker 7) and is much easier to use than the Snap Core First hack outlined below. See my review: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/06/19/app-review-tools2talk-an-affordable-way-to-access-pcs-symbols. More info: https://shop.scopeaust.org.au/shop/tools2talk-app/. Video overviews: https://youtu.be/YH6EBU96G6U & https://youtu.be/dzoUyxbtrBE (from the developer at TherapyBox). A longer video tutorial: https://youtu.be/cIDa5xUrdHQ. An archived webinar: https://www.callscotland.org.uk/professional-learning/webinars/WEB112/.
Thinking Outside of the Box: Two Creative Uses for Snap Core First:
Idea # 1: Use this free app as a tool to access PCS symbols to use in another app (especially helpful if you need the PCS High Contrast symbols).
Idea #2: Use this free app as a tool to make printed communication boards, personalized core boards, PECS cards, symbol label cards, cards for visual schedules, visual sequences, story props and other visuals.
Here’s an option to consider if you want lots of templates for overlays for several mid-tech AAC devices as well as grids, game boards, etc. and would use it enough to be worth the cost of a subscription:
Custom Boards Elite by Smarty Ears, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/custom-boards-elite/id489935586, iPad only, iOS 10.0 or later. The app is free and has a 7 day free trial. After that ends, it requires a subscription via IAP ($9.99 per month, $49.99 per six months (= $8.33 per month) or $59.99 per year (= $4.99 per month). That’s similar to the cost of a subscription to their online Smarty Symbols website which is designed to work on a computer (not an iPad). See my review: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2016/12/14/review-smarty-symbols-image-club/). The description in the App Store shows other IAPs so watch for those. The app includes over 20,000 Smarty Symbols plus you can import photos from your Camera Roll or use the in app camera. More info: https://www.smartyearsapps.com/custom-boards/. Video tutorial: https://youtu.be/fTDKw44rK3c Smarty Ears used to offer a fully paid version of the app that didn’t require a subscription (Custom Boards – Premium, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/custom-boards-premium/id463344117?mt=8) but it is no longer available for purchase. I own that app so I was able to compare it to the subscription version. The subscription version contains the same templates but offers more symbols (often with various skin tones and hair styles). Tip for finding symbols quickly: Instead of leaving it at the default “All-All-All”, pick a “All-Initial- and then the first letter in the word you are searching for.
Just looking for a very basic free option? There are several free AAC apps that aren’t specifically designed to make printable boards or symbol cards but can easily be used to do so. All involve taking a screenshot of the page and then printing that so I’m only suggesting ones that won’t take tons of ink to print and don’t have extra things besides buttons or those where that can be easily cropped off. Be sure to crop your screenshot before printing to save on ink.
Choices2Go by University of Victoria, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/choices2go/id1182138316, iPad only, iOS 9.0 or later, FREE. You create boards by importing pics from an album on your Camera Roll. The number of pictures you select determines the picture size and number of pics on a grid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6). No way to add text to the buttons or to change the background color on the page (pale yellow). Take a screenshot, crop and print that.
GoTalk NOW LITE by Attainment Company, Inc., https://apps.apple.com/us/app/gotalk-now-lite/id953164338, iPad only, iOS 9.0 or later, FREE. You can create one communication book with up to five pages and can have 1, 2, 4, 9, 16, 25 or 36 buttons per page. This app is super easy to use. You can use images from their free library, do an internet search from within the app, take a photo from within the app and/or import pictures from your Camera Roll. You can change the border color on each button and change the font, font size and font color. This free lite version doesn’t have a way to export a PDF to print so I take a screenshot of a page, crop and print it. Works best if you set the page background and button background both to white to save ink when printing. I know there’s a GoTalk Start version that looks tempting since it’s priced at $19.99 but it doesn’t add the ability to export a PDF. I own the GoTalk NOW PLUS version of this app (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/gotalk-now-plus/id742150885) so I also have access to SymbolStix and PCS symbols and have used it frequently to make printable boards and symbol cards.
MyTalkTools Mobile Lite by 2nd Half Enterprises LLC, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/mytalktools-mobile-lite/id376401959, iOS Universal, iOS 9.3 or later, FREE. The app includes 6 pre-made boards (Adult Male lite, Adult Female lite, Child Male lite, Child Female lite, Hospital Rehab & Basic Starter) that can all be edited plus a Blank Board (up to 20 buttons – build what you want from scratch). Add/delete rows and columns on a page to get grid size you want. Import your own pictures. Take a screenshot, crop and print that.
Alexicom AAC by Alexicom Tech LLC, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/alexicom-aac/id395122088, iOS Universal, iOS 9.0 or later, FREE. Has content included or you can build your own board from scratch. You can create new pages and set the number of rows, number of columns & pic width. FYI…. if you tap on the “info” area and scroll all the way to the bottom there is a list of “pic width” numbers that work best with various combinations of rows & columns. This app developer also has several apps specifically designed for adults in medical situations. Those are all currently free and could also be used to make boards to print (https://www.alexicomaac.com/elements-apps). Take a screenshot, crop and print that.
Choice Boards by Lukasz Wroczynski, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/choice-boards/id1059544273, iPad only, iOS 9.3 or later, FREE. Grid options are 6 or 12, only in Portrait orientation. No way to make larger pictures but you can choose to leave cells empty and that leaves blank space. Take a screenshot, crop and print that.
CoughDrop is an affordable web-based AAC open source option that can be used in a web browser online and works in apps across multiple platforms – iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle, Windows: https://www.mycoughdrop.com. They offer a free 2-month trial. After that it’s either a monthly subscription (currently $6.00 per month).
Info about pricing options: https://www.mycoughdrop.com/pricing. They often offer a 50% off discount on the Lifetime Subscription fee in April (Autism Acceptance month) & October (AAC Awareness month).
Coughdrop has Open Source symbols, has PCS symbols and SymbolStix available as a separate purchases and can be linked to a LessonPix account.
Like Snap Core First, the printing feature was designed as a means to print a no-tech copy of a user’s board. After some trial and error and test prints, I settled on a 6 column x 4 row grid as being really close to 1.5″ x 1.5″ symbols when printed. Be sure to test print a blank grid to make sure you like the size before adding symbols to save on ink.
Web Browser: CoughDrop is a web-first application, and should work with many modern web browsers.
There are a couple of other free apps specifically designed for creating and printing communication symbols but I don’t find them nearly as easy to use and how well they work depends on the version of iOS running on that device:
PictoMaker by Les Applications C, Inc, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pictomaker/id1477449329, iOS Universal, iOS 10.0 or later (but the app crashes when trying to print if using anything older than iOS 11. Worked fine on my iPhone running iOS 13.5.1), FREE. There’s a +/- button on the app to make the pictures bigger or smaller and thus also changing the grid size.
ProxTalker® App – Lite by ProxTalker.com LLC, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/proxtalker-app-lite/id593099176, iOS Universal, iOS 8.0 or later (pictures are not showing up when trying to print if using anything older than iOS 11 but you can still take a screenshot and then print it), FREE. This free lite version includes a few of their symbols (most of those seem more appropriate for kids) but you can import photos from your Camera Roll.
Other apps that can be used to make printable overlays for specific mid-tech AAC devices:
If you want real photos, many of the apps offer the option to use an in-app camera. Or you can search and save images from the internet to the Camera Roll on your iPad. Tips: Look to see what shape of pictures work best in the app(s) you will be using. Most work best with square pictures so I crop them and then organize them in folders to be able to find them quickly later.
📥 Want to suggest iOS apps or mobile-friendly website to be added to this post? The best way to reach me is via Facebook messaging over on my OMazing Kids page.
If it’s a free iOS app or website, please include the link in your message so I can try it out. If it’s a paid iOS app and you are the app developer, please send the link from the USA App Store so I can look at the info before you send a promo code. I want to make sure that one of my iPads or iPhone is compatible in order to try it out.
It took quite a bit of time to compile this list so please mention OMazing Kids when sharing it on social media and do not copy/paste it onto other blogs or documents or upload the post to servers. I have it available here on my blog and plan on keeping my blog up for the foreseeable future.