Augmentative Communication Apps


How I use this app in speech therapy:
For $189.99 you get all that you would in one of those expensive $5,000 devices plus an immediate “WOW” and coolness factor. We have this program installed on a classroom iPad used exclusively for middle school students with autism. I have one student in particular who has responded very well to this app. His speech is unintelligible, but he is high functioning and can cruise through the picture symbols to find the words he wants to express. In fact, he has used this device to request computer use on multiple occasions, especially during work time when computer use was not appropriate. There are many pictures for lots of topics. The “basics” category includes picture symbols for a variety of comments, friend talk, hi/bye, jokes, keyboard, manners, news, questions, thoughts and yes/no questions. Using this category, my student is able to say hi and bye to peers as well as “what’s up?”, “how are you?” and “want to play a game?”. Touching the little house button at the bottom takes you back to the home screen, where you can choose another topic. Topics include: Categories: bathroom, body parts, clothing, colors, computer stuff, continents and bodies of water, countries and flags, expansion sets, famous people, feelings, food and drinks, full core word list (list of words in alphabetical order for students who can read), holidays, kitchen, living creatures, math, money, musical instruments, nature, parts of the day, people, places, plants and trees, school, shapes, sports, supplies, things, time, transportation, weather and work; Comments; Help; Hi/Bye; I need; I want; Keyboard; Manners; My spaces; Questions, Quick sets; Spaces; Starters; Word spaces (and, it, the); and Yes, No, Maybe. I wish my student could have a iPad exclusively for his own use, but in a public school setting that is not always possible. To use the program as a communication device, simply tap the pictures you want to verbalize and then tap at the beginning of the sentence to hear the entire sentence.

In addition to the multitude of picture symbols available, this comprehensive program allows you to add more pictures within the settings section. To find the settings section, tap on the two boxes in the bottom left. A menu will appear which includes: Grid, Recents, Typing (allows the user to type words) and A/B options. Settings are found under A/B options. Within the settings screen you can choose the voice type, choose the volume and speech rate, and voice personalization (to make the voice higher or lower in pitch). You can choose the topic to be displayed as the home screen and the size of vocabulary available to students. The “Grid” takes you back to the main screen and “Recents” takes you back to previous conversations (back to the day before yesterday). If you need to return to the main grid screen, choose grid.

Overall, in my opinion, I’m questioning why anyone would want to continue using the old type of devices when this iPad app can do everything they can do, is lighter to carry around and just looks generally much cooler!!

Talking Cards

How I use this app in speech therapy:
The perfect app for the beginning Augmentative Communication user! Talking Cards is a simple to use big button augmentative communication device app that, once it’s set up, is very easy for children to access and use independently. There are beautiful illustrations for more than 500 clearly represented objects and actions (with narration) and the ability to add your own pictures via iPad camera and or object uploads. There were several cards that did not translate into American English (i.e., crisps for chips) but I was able to easily change both the word and narration (recorded my voice). Picture categories include: animals, bathroom, body, celebrations, clothes, colors, drink, fruits, emotions, food, home, letters, numbers, medical, medical aids, outside, people, places, play, snacks, time, to do (action), tools, vegetables, vehicles, weather.

What I really like about this app is how simple it is for my students with autism to use… much like the old school augmentative communication devices. I can set up different “pockets” (cards are held in pockets on the main screen) of cards for multiple activities throughout the day. For example, I have set up Advisory (similar to morning meeting for little kids) for my students and have included pictures about their emotional status for the day, the day of the week, month (I had to add this picture) and weather. In addition, my students are able to use this app during classroom based activities to provide one word answers to questions about story items.

It was a little tricky to set up, so here are a few basic instructions. When you first open the app, there are two sample pockets (play and snacks). In the upper right corner are two buttons, “settings” and “edit”. Settings allows you to change the background color, the picture card layout (2, 6 or 12 cards displayed at once), language (English or Swedish), multi-user mode and secure mode (to password protect your boards). To edit the pockets or add pockets tap on “edit” and then “slide to edit”. The dual edit keeps little hands from choosing edit accidentally (great feature). From edit, you can either choose to edit a current pocket or add a new album. To edit an existing pocket choose “edit”. After tapping edit, you can choose a new image (import your own image or take a photo) to represent the overall category and rename. When finished, tap blue “done button. If you want to add new pictures or change the pictures in each album/pocket, tap the pocket and then tap the edit button at the top. You can add new items from the extensive category list, remove pictures and change name or narration. To get back to the home screen tap arrow in upper left hand corner.