Communicating Through Touch

Five free Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps.

GUEST COLUMN | by Allison Yourechko

An iPad serves as a great tool for students and others who have trouble communicating. Although traditional users of the iPad rely on the device to check e-mail, play games, watch movies, and take pictures, others truly rely on the iPad to communicate with friends, family, and teachers. The iPad can be used as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device that can be of great educational value to a number of students who struggle to communicate.

Using iPads in education engages special needs learners by targeting specific learning needs. A wide variety of applications can be downloaded to address varying disabilities and needs such as application to improve behavioral skills, social skills, and communication skills in addition to applications that can strengthen students’ knowledge of mathematics, language arts, and problem solving. Here I’ll focus on apps that are specific to communication deficits and how each app can help a student to increase communication using specific tools within each application.

From an educator’s perspective, using technology generally adds a level of excitement to the traditional classroom. This sentiment holds true for the iPad and seems to increase a student’s willingness to learn. An iPad serves a great tool for special education classrooms because the device is simple to use and of a high-quality. The absence of a mouse works especially well for students with limited mobility as opposed to the traditional computer. Using an iPad with specific apps as an Augmentative and Alternative (AAC) device allows users the benefit of communicating and socializing by using words, phrases, audio, and pictures to convey a message.

Five Free Communication Based Apps:

Locabulary LiteLocabulary Lite

Created by Red Mountain Labs, Inc., Locabulary Lite uses an intuitive interface to communicate words, phrases, and sentences. Words and expressions are created from categories such as Quick Phrase, Moods, Assistance, and Restaurants. The ability to select a location and specify the gender of the voice allows users to customize the device based on individual needs. Updated versions allow users to save phrases by location and to type abbreviations to speak phrases. Saved locations such as “Home” allow a user to quickly pull up phrases that are commonly used within the home and abbreviations can be saved to quickly pull up commonly used phrases. Locabulary Pro ($129.99) can be purchased to increase the amount of words and phrases and make words available based on GPS location.

Model Me Going Places 2Model Me Going Places 2

Created by Model Me Kids, LLC, Model Me Going Places 2 is a visual teaching toll for helping people learn to navigate within the community. This version contains locations such as mall, playgrounds, grocery stores, restaurants, and doctor’s offices and photos of children modeling appropriate behavior within each location. The app includes audio narration of each scenario and easy to navigate forward and backward buttons to transition between photos.

See Touch LearnSee. Touch. Learn.

Created by Brain Parade, See. Touch. Learn. replaces traditional flash cards and includes a starter set of high-quality picture cards designed by professionals specifically for those with autism or other special needs. In addition to teaching specific lessons, picture cards are used to help teach new words and foster self-expression. Picture cards can be saved and used with multiple students. This app can be upgraded to See. Touch. Learn. Pro ($34.99) which allows access to additional libraries of flash cards and the ability to create personal picture cards.

MyTalk Mobile LiteMyTalkTools Mobile Lite

Created by 2nd Half Enterprises LLC, MyTalkTools Mobile Lite is an AAC device that makes it easy to customize how you communicate through a variety of images, pictures, symbols, and video using audio files. This app also has basic text to speech functions. A fully-functional version of this app is available for purchase ($99.99) allowing users to add increased cell capacity to the full version.

Tap To TalkTapToTalk

Created by Assistyx LLC automatically turns an iPad, iPhone, or iPod into an AAC device. By tapping a picture, TapToTalk speaks. As each picture is tapped, a new screen of similar pictures will appear. TapToTalk can be modified for child and adult voices as well as male and female voices. This is known as a must have app for special needs children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other speech delays.

For Future Consideration

If you are looking for more communiation tools to use to help students communicate, a variety of paid apps are available starting at $0.99 in the app store. You may consider purchasing Proloquo2Go ($219.99), an award winning AAC device created by AssistiveWare. Proloquo2Go, introduced in 2009, was the first app to include genuine children voices and 14,000 high-resolution symbols in additional to the ability to create your own photo library. Another app, Speak it! Text to Speech ($1.99) created by Future Apps, Inc., is an inexpensive way to convert text into speech. This app can read emails, news articles, documents, web pages, and more. Words can also be highlighted as they are spoken to incresae reading skills.

Each of the apps discussed within this article can be downloaded or purchased within the iTunes App Store and work on an iPad, iPhone, or iPad handheld device. All information regarding the apps listed in this article was obtained from the iTunes App Store.

Allison Yourechko is an Educational Technology Leadership Doctoral Student at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Write to: allison.yourechko@wilkes.edu

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