See our Special Needs Header Page for a full list of special needs information and resources
Assistive technology is a generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices with a focus on facilitating communication (sometimes also called Alternative and Augmentative Communication, or AAC). Modern new electronic machines (hi-tech) have become the new way for many individuals to communicate. However, assistive devices do not have to be expensive or electronic, they can be lo-tech (picture cards, communication books, sign, objects), and often the simpler lo-tech option is the better more functional option depending on the client and their disability. Whatever assistive device is used the end goal is to improve communication and independence.
Assistive technology can be a huge facilitator to children with learning difficulties, helping them learn and communicate. Assistive technology can be broken into 2 sub-categories – hi-tech and lo-tech:
Hi-tech generally refers to electronic devices. These tend to be a more expensive option, but encompass powerful machines which can include voice output. Hi-tech options can also include software which includes applications to help with literacy difficulties, sound discrimination and auditory memory. Specialised software can also be added to computer and hi-tech machines to provide voice output and word prediction. To access hi-tech devices some individuals may need scanning options, special switches or an eye-gaze system. More recently, smaller more portable devices such as ipads have become popular options for individuals with learning and communication difficulties. For a fact sheet giving a greater explanation of some of these devices, go to our Download Section.
Lo-tech refers to less technical options such as picture communication cards, communication books or an E-TRAN frame. Although often overlooked because of the obsession with technology, these options can actually be more effective than a hi-tech option for many children. For a fact sheet giving a greater explanation of some of these devices, go to our Download Section.
The important aspect to note when choosing an assistive communication option is that it is crucial that you do a thorough trial of several different options to really find the best fit. The higher tech, most expensive option is not always the best. You have to take account of many variables including portability, functionality and speed of use.
The use of assistive communication devices, both hi-tech and lo-tech, are very much part the icommunicate philosophy. This website is all about communication and a total communication environment. This means we focus on every modality that can be used to facilitate communication. At icommunicate we plan to have a heavy focus on assistive communication and technology.
Using ipads and tablets as communication devices
In recent years ipads and tablet devices have started to contain apps that turn the simple tablet into a dynamic communication device for individuals with speech difficulties caused by disorders such apraxia, stroke, autism, neurological disease etc. This portable device now contains apps that provide voice output, visuals, and pre-recorded words and messages.
For more information about special needs and other communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets with helpful hints about Special Needs go to the Downloads section.
For a wider range of books, click here to see our Bookshop.
Below are some apps that provide assistive communication options (Click on the pics for more information:
Proloquo2Go is a full-featured augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solution for people who have difficulty speaking. Proloquo2Go provides natural sounding Text to Speech voices and a high resolution library of over 14,000 symbols, word prediction, multiuser support, and the ability to fully customize vocabularies for users along a broad continuum of abilities, from beginning symbolic communication to full literacy. The vocabularies are based on language development research, and have been carefully designed and reviewed by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) with extensive AAC experience. The vocabularies are easily customizable to suit the personal needs and preferences of individual. Proloquo2Go is for anyone who cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars on a dedicated AAC device and yet wants a solution that is just as good if not better. SLPs, teachers, and parents recommend it for children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, developmental disabilities, apraxia, ALS, stroke, or traumatic brain injury. Proloquo2Go can be used on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Educational institutions can get a 50% discount on Proloquo2Go if they purchase 20 or more licenses through Apple’s Volume Licensing Program for Education.
TouchChat HD – AAC TouchChat HD – AAC with WordPower
TouchChat HD for iPad is a full-featured communication solution for individuals who have difficulty using their natural voice. TouchChat is designed for individuals with Autism, Down Syndrome, ALS, apraxia, stroke, or other conditions that affect a person’s ability to use natural speech.
The TouchChat HD with WordPower series contains vocabularies designed by Nancy Inman. WordPower24 is a word-based vocabulary that allows for easy and intuitive communication. WordPower24 with Phrases incorporates phrases for easier language generation.
Words, phrases and messages are spoken with a built-in voice synthesizer or by playing recorded message. Page sets are linked pages, each of which is divided into a number of buttons. The buttons are programmed to have specific actions. Text generated with TouchChat pages can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or via text message and email. It’s simple too, just generate a message, push on the text and choose a service. Touch send and the message is automatically posted. Text from other applications can be copied to TouchChat so that it can be spoken out loud. Also, text generated in TouchChat can be copied to other applications. The pages, grid layout, buttons, messages, and symbols are fully customizable. Over 10,000 Symbolstix symbols are included for customizing buttons. Use any image or take a photo with the built-in camera. Users can program buttons to play audio files such as music from the media library or video files from the Photo Roll.
Tobii Sono Flex is an easy to use AAC vocabulary app that turns symbols into clear speech. It offers language to nonverbal users who are not yet in full control of literacy. Sono Flex combines the benefits of structure and flexibility, providing a framework for language development, quickly matching individual and situational communication needs.Tobii Sono Flex has been designed to be easy to operate and easy for SLPs, teachers, parents, caregivers or other communication partners to setup and customize. It comes with more than 11,000 SymbolStix® symbols. Use the camera and photo albums of the iPad to create your own symbols.
For other apps, see our ipad / android section.