Thursday, July 3, 2014

ChatAble AAC App

The invention of the iPad has changed the way people access augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).  Prior to 2010, AAC devices were dedicated to speech only and were quite cumbersome to program. The iPad opened the door by creating a multidimensional tool for communication and many of these apps were developed for specific tasks: text-to-speech (TTS), voice dictation, and AAC among others.

When deciding on which AAC apps to use, I look at a few areas: creating and editing buttons/pages, vocabulary page sets available, symbol libraries and importing pictures, vocabulary pages/file sharing, scanning features, and the ease of programming for parents and caregivers.

Therapy Box Ltd. is jumping into the grid type AAC app genre with its new ChatAble app. This app joins their already produced Predictable, Scene & Heard, and Mouse Track apps.  It features quite a few options including a variety of display options such as a traditional grid (see picture above right), visual scene displays, and a hybrid display (both grid and visual scene).  The app includes over 12,000 Widget symbols, which are similar to PCS Boardmaker or Symbolstix symbols.

ChatAble Features:
  • 1x1 up to 8x8 grids
  • Three types of page templates
  • Symbols and words are displayed into message box
  • Use with email, sending messages, Twitter, Facebook
  • Pre-loaded pages
  • Scanning ability

Creating and Editing Buttons/Pages
ChatAble is user friendly and passes the can-a-parent-program-this-easily test.  There's nothing fancy about it.  Find the icon in the user hub and add a button to a page or create a new page.  The simple format makes it easy to figure out with a little practice.  The menu allows you to insert pictures, manipulate the text, link to audio (text to speech, iTunes, or recorded audio), and change the appearance of the button.

Vocabulary Page Sets
ChatAble includes a variety of beginner communication pages that feature traditional grids, visual scene displays, and hybrid displays.  These include conversational starters, food/drink, weather, feelings, jokes, and more.  These pages can be easily customized to the user.  For example, I made a Lego page for a student who was working on making requests during a play activity.  Overall, ChatAble gets you started, but it's ultimately up to the user to customize it and make it his or her own.  I'd highly recommend consulting with a licensed speech language pathologist to steer you in the right direction.



Symbol Library/Importing Pictures
ChatAble includes over 12,000 Widget symbols.  This is a great feature for an AAC app.  The symbols easily recognizable and are in the same genre as Mayer Johnson PCS and Symbolstix symbols.  Additionally, you can import your own pictures or take a picture and instantly insert it into the button.

Vocabulary Page/File Sharing
Therapy Box's website offers a couple of grids on their Resource page, which should increase in time.  Many users are limited on time, so this feature will be a big bonus when more boards are added.  I would love to see some core vocabulary pages shared!

Scanning Features
ChatAble has the ability to be used with a Bluetooth switch for those who cannot use direct touch.  The app would be a great way to introduce users to automatic linear scanning (one at a time) or row/column scanning (select the row first then the picture).  You can customize the scanning rate, give auditory cues, and visually highlight the buttons when scanned.

Ease of Programming for Parents and Caregivers
Before programming the ChatAble communication boards, parents and caregivers should consult with a licensed speech language pathologist.  Although ChatAble comes pre-loaded with a handful of vocabulary pages, users will quickly find a need to increase their vocabulary as they become more proficient with the app.

Overall, ChatAble is a nicely designed AAC app.  Its clean and simple design along with its many features makes it visually appealing and user friendly.  ChatAble was well designed by including features that are essential in augmentative and alternative communication.  To learn more about ChatAble, visit their website at www.therapy-box.co.uk/chatable.aspx.