TapSpeak Choice

TapSpeak Choice

by Ted Conley ($159.99AUD)

There are a great number of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps available on the market for people to purchase and download. Mobile digital devices, such as the iPad, are becoming the most popular vehicle to enable communication in adults and children with communication impairments. TapSpeak Choice is an AAC system designed for the iPad. It can be used for children and adults with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, or any other disability or impairment that affects a person’s ability to communicate. TapSpeak Choice is an ideal solution for people that can’t afford to purchase a dedicated AAC device but want something that is just as good, if not better for their needs.

I was very excited to review this app because it is one of the few AAC apps that are designed to be used with or without a switch interface. In special education settings, I see a lot of young children and teenagers that would be given a voice if they could just access an app such as TapSpeak Choice. One and two-switch scanning using RJ Cooper’s iPad Cordless Super-Switch and iPad Switch Interface can be selected by simply selecting the Settings icon and then the Scannings Settings option. This is also where you can select to use one-switch scanning with just the iPad screen. For the purposes of this review, I have tested the app from a one-switch scan using the iPad screen.

When you first open TapSpeak Choice, a great deal of the initial set-up has been done already. You can quickly and easily create a communication board with buttons so that it meets your individual needs, from a beginner AAC user to an advanced AAC user. The board can be customised to grow dynamically with the user and can house up to 56 buttons on a board. I think this feature is great, it means that the user or caregiver does not have to create a new board as communication expands. All they have to do is find and add appropriate buttons from the extensive library or create their own using meaningful and relevant photos from the iPad photo library. Alternatively, the board can be configured to a set number of buttons in different grid layouts.

The board can be customised further by changing the background colour and changing the name. Prior to setting up TapSpeak Choice, I went to the TapSpeak, LLC webpage and viewed the many short videos that are available to support a user or caregiver to successfully implement this comprehensive AAC. I recommend that if you have purchased or intend to purchase TapSpeak Choice, go to the website and look at the information and videos there. As with any AAC system, you will need to know how to use and edit it effectively. This information helped me in my ability to create boards and individual buttons easily.

To create my custom board I simply clicked the Boards menu and then the + icon. This prompted me to label and edit the board to suit my needs; however, all of these settings can be changed quite easily at any time. I selected dynamic to allow the board to grow with me as I added buttons. Once I had the board title and button layout selected, I tapped saved it and went to my board. I still had to add buttons. To do this I chose the Libraries menu. You can choose from some preloaded categories or you can add your own category. As I was creating a board for indicating food preferences, I chose food. Some pre-selected choices came up, which I was happy with, so I swiped my finger down the page to get back to my Favourite Food board. After this it is quite simple, I could tap the rectangle or swipe down from the top of the board to bring up the food options I had just viewed. They appeared in a slider bar across the top of the screen and I just dragged and dropped the choices I wanted and my board grew bigger and bigger.

Some of the buttons were not quite what I wanted because they were not the correct words or spelling that I use in Australia. This was quite easily fixed. I tapped the button I wanted to change and then went to the edit icon. I could edit the image, the speech or delete the button. I chose edit image and another menu came up. From here I could see some image and name alternatives (for example, mom vs mum). I could also search for images from the database or add my own image/photo to the button. A really great feature when editing buttons was the ability to change the size of the text. This is quite important for people that may have vision difficulties or for small children that often need to see the word written in a larger print to help make the connection between reading and speaking.

As a user of TapSpeak Choice, I liked the ability to use the sentence strip for longer sentences. The voice speech and rate could be customised to suit an individual user’s needs, which is important for the user as well as other people involved in communication interactions with the user.

What could be included in future updates?

I had a little difficulty when I first set up my board when adding the buttons to the board. Adding the first button was quite simple; however, the other buttons needed to be dragged right over the other buttons to be added. it would be great if this could be adjusted so that the button could be added to anywhere on the background of the board instead of just on other buttons. I had a similar issue when moving the buttons around on my board in edit mode as well. I had to make sure that I dragged the button right over the top of the target button I wanted to swap it with.

Further Thoughts

As I sit here writing this review, I know an important update is coming up which I am excited about. Pixon symbol set will be the new image library; however, existing users will still have access to the Dynovox image library if they need to re-enable it. There will be new access modes to enable users with varied fine motor capabilities, such as anti-stem mode, detect touch on release, and touch averaging – to support for handling with multiple fingers on the screen of the device.

Another new and exciting feature will be the ability to add buttons to a board with just two taps. Although quite easy to do, it was a little labour intensive and sometimes a little confusing for a novice user to add buttons from different libraries. I am quite excited to see this new feature implemented and will update my review when it comes through. Other new features include the ability to back-up the system to drop-box to make management of them easily accessible from anywhere in the world. A new Australian voice will be added, and I know I will not be the only Aussie that is excited about this! These are just some of the new features. Ted Conley is passionate about making TapSpeak Choice the ultimate option for an AAC user and this is reflected in the upcoming update.

Conclusion

Overall, I am very impressed with TapSpeak Choice. As a special educator, I know the importance of communication and making sure that it is supported for our students with communication difficulties. I am pleased to see switch interface supported. Well done Ted Conley!

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So Much 2 Say

So Much 2 Say

by Close 2 Home Apps, LLC ($25.49AUD)

So Much 2 Say is an alternative augmentative and communication (AAC) iPad app which incorporates picture systems. Picture systems are used in many special and general education classrooms (and beyond) when a student has a limited capacity for speech. Every individual has the same desire to communicate and participate in the world around them. Although communication needs vary from person to person, there are four main reasons people communicate:

  1. To refuse or reject items that we do not want or activities that we do not wish to participate in.
  2. To obtain or ask for items that we want or request activities we do wish to participate in.
  3. To engage in social interaction with our peers, friends, educators, family and the community in which we live.
  4. To provide or seek information about our peers, friends, educators, family and the community in which we live or to seek or use information in the educational process.

So Much 2 Say can be used for people with a range of communication needs. It is designed to generate communication, initially by teaching the user to request a single item, and then adjusting as the user masters that level of communication. The administrator can change the settings to include more features as the user’s communication improves and they become more proficient at using the app. Cards can be added so that the user can comment, refuse, obtain or seek information.

What’s included in So Much 2 Say:

  • Flexible layout options – card or category-based navigation and  the option to have 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, or 12 objects per page (depending on the user and their specific needs) – this is good news. I can customise the layout to suit my own needs!
  • Simple and fast card creation – using symbols, your library or taking a photo – so simple and easy to use!
  • Nearly 9000 SymbolStix® symbols – this is fantastic!
  • A sentence strip for beginning sentence building – an exciting new feature to help with conversations!
  • The ability to Drag ‘n Drop to share card/categories between multiple iPads – this is a big positive!
  • The ability to customise the Homepage using Drag ‘n Drop gestures – this is very easy to use!
  • A scroll-lock button to prevent unintentional swipes between pages – this also prevents frustration!
  • The option to record your own audio – I am Australian, so this suits me perfectly!
  • Card filtering – great! I can show only cards I want to use for now!
  • An option to put a passcode to protect the ability to edit – what a good idea! This will stop the user from changing my settings!

It is great to see that So Much 2 Say is developed for both the Learner and the Administrator who both use the app. The learner is the person who needs to communicate through the device, and the administrator is the person who makes changes to the app’s configuration as the Learner progresses (such as a parent, teacher, or professional working with the user). When a user first enters So Much 2 Say, there are two picture cards showing – this is the card layout option. The administrator can edit from here by clicking the edit box at the top of the page. Settings will appear on the other side of the page and this is where you customise the app. As an added bonus, Close 2 Home Apps, LLC are dedicated to supporting users of So Much 2 Say and have a website which is packed with useful information, video tutorials and a FAQs section to assist with starting up and maintaining the app for optimised communication success.

As an administrator using the device, I found it quite easy to navigate. Within 15-20 minutes, I had set up some new cards using symbols and my own audio, changed the layout to categories (instead of cards), added some new categories, added the sentence strip, and created some simple 2 card sentences.

I really enjoyed making new cards because they are fully customisable. I could use Australian spelling and terminology. I chose to use symbols from the nearly 9000 or so in the SymbolStix library. If it is a symbols based picture AAC app you are looking for, then you won’t need any other library to supplement your needs. If you want to use real images, there are some photo cards in the pre-existing categories; however, you can create your own cards using your own photo roll or by taking photos using the iPad camera. This makes So Much 2 Say a tailored solution for each individual user. Existing cards can also be edited by changing the audio or text.

While using So Much 2 Say as the end-user, I found it easy to navigate and select cards in both card and category layout. A beginning user will need a little training to understand how to use the app and the sentence strip; however, this type of initial training is required for any new AAC device or application.

Close 2 Home Apps, LLC have a real understanding of the needs of beginning communicators and have included great features in So Much 2 Say, to enable users to have successful communication interactions. The founders of Close 2 Home Apps, LLC, Kirsten and Eric Ferguson, are committed to creating apps and online resources that will support effective and meaningful communication, strengthen cognitive skills, provide behaviour support, provide developmentally appropriate leisure activities, and offer tools designed to facilitate instruction in the home as well as in the classroom. Close 2 Home Apps, LLC believe in supporting both learners using the device and administrators configuring So Much 2 Say for the learner.

The only suggestions that I have for future updates and improvement to So Much 2 Say is the ability to store frequently used expressions, comments or questions that would be used in the sentence strip on a regular basis as a one-swipe gesture. I like the way that Close 2 Home Apps, LLC listens to the suggestions of their customers and makes changes to improve their product. For example, I know that some users requested the sentence strip functionality for communication. The latest update to So Much 2 Say included this new and exciting feature.

Overall, So Much 2 Say is a total communication solution for beginning communicators. It is suitable for young children and adults that need to communicate with a single picture right through to small sentences. So Much 2 Say is different to other communication apps in that it is based on a ground-up approach. It is introduced as a basic communication tool that gets built as the user’s communication needs grow. So many other apps available require a lot of time and effort to configure them to suit the individual user. So Much 2 Say is highly appropriate and suited for home and school use.

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Disclaimer: The opinions on this blog are entirely the authors.