Maybe you've heard about this craze in school called "iPads". With this technology at our fingertips, it's becoming increasingly easier for students to have access to communication "devices". What was once a $2000-8000 investment is now an affordable way for families to give their students access to communication. Like many apps, there are some that are good and some that are a waste of money. The nice thing nowadays is that app creators either offer free or "lite" versions to give users a trial before they invest their money. Most people in the AAC world has heard about Proloquo2Go by now. It's probably the most comprehensive communication app out there, especially since it includes the Symbolstix library. Proloquo2Go costs $190. Is it worth it? It really depends on the user's capability to navigate through the pages. I will say, though, that I love Proloquo2Go. They are the trailblazers. Several parents and teachers have asked about Proloquo2Go and I'm always hesitant to tell them to pay $190 for something that may or may not work. If you have a communicator that is at the beginning level or one that doesn't need a lot of pages, then I'd suggest a couple of other, affordable (free) apps to try first.
When I look at AAC apps, I ask myself three things:
- How easy would it be for a novice to create a button or page?
- Does the app have a picture library and how easy is it to import pictures?
- Is it worth the money?
These are two apps that I like that meet those criteria.
You might know Ablenet from its products like the Big Mack and the iTalk2, which are both recordable communication switches. Ablenet jumped in the app game with SoundingBoard by providing a cheap (free) app that is very simple to use. You can create quick buttons on the fly during group lessons by either using some of their free pictures or by importing (or taking) your own. You can create boards with up to 9 message locations. Ablenet makes its money through in-app purchased boards, which are professionally made for the user. The nice thing is that you can edit those boards to your liking. SoundingBoard also offers basic data collection, auditory scanning, and an edit lock that disables accidental editing.
Do you remember the green Go Talks? You might even still use them. They were nice and sturdy. The only problem was that you had to create and print new overlays for different activities which made the functionality decrease with inexperienced or unmotivated users (or facilitators). Attainment offers a free version of the full version of GoTalk. This is a GREAT free version of an AAC app and is quickly becoming my favorite. For $80 you can get the full version, which I believe is well worth the money. Here's what's cool. You can make a page with 1, 4, 9, 16, or 25 buttons/locations using symbols from your photo library, camera, Imagine Symbols, or use the internet in the app. The images can be cropped, scaled, and rotated easily. The app uses a free text-to-speech voice or you can record your own voice. Okay, it sounds like the others, but here's where it gets really neat (and remember--free). One of the ways to display a communication board is by creating a "scene" page. You take a picture of the inside of your cabinet, for example, and then make each item in the picture reactive. So when you touch the box of crackers, you can record, "I want crackers." and will play when you touch that area of the screen. Finally, I love that you can link buttons to multimedia such as controlling your iTunes library and watching videos. The app comes with a nice tutorial page that explains it all. Then, when you've got it, you can edit that page for your own use.