iPads are Game Changers!

The first iPad debuted on April 3, 2010 - a mere 5 years ago. It was a game changer. It literally brought the world to our fingertips.  iPads replaced books, cash registers, portable video players, gaming systems, laptops….and often costly dedicated “speech generating devices.”

Wikipedia explains that “speech-generating devices (SGDs), also known as voice output communication aids, are electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems used to supplement or replace speech or writing for individuals with severe speech impairments, enabling them to verbally communicate their needs.” Before 2010, these devices were generally expensive - often in excess of $10,000. Now, the tablet, in tandem with an AAC app and sturdy case, cost around $500.

 The AAC apps for the iPad and other tablets make this exciting communication support more accessible to more children.

There are over 250 AAC apps on the market. Some are free and some cost up to around $250. A child does not have to rise to a high level of need or severe impairment to benefit from the communicative support of an AAC app. 

Is it ever appropriate to recommend an AAC solution as a communication aid without an in-depth team assessment and trial of a variety of systems?

Yes.

Not all children require this analysis to benefit from communication support through an AAC app. The stakes just aren’t that high anymore. Communication support through a robust AAC application can be a tool to help: 

  • a frustrated child
  • a child’s speech when he difficult to understand
  • to enhance her language complexity
  • to expand his vocabulary
  • to engage with other children and adults
  • frustrated parents who struggle to understand

As you know, many very young children successfully use an iPad or other tablet. They know how to use the power on/off, navigate open apps, browse through screens, dig deep into apps, and even remember passwords. All of these skills are necessary for independent and generative app use. Babies and toddlers are intuitively learning these skills. They are surprising adept. 

If a child has demonstrated the ability to use a tablet, is understanding more than she can express and seems frustrated, an extensive AAC assessment process may not be necessary. The AAC app can act as a support, not a replacement, for organic communication.

There are many feature comparison checklists available online to help ascertain which app would be the most helpful for a particular child.Just type “AAC feature comparison” in your favorite search engine and “voila!” - suggestions will appear.

For sure, some children require a comprehensive team AAC evaluation. This process should include assessment of a child’s thinking, language, literacy, movement, access and level of frustration. In addition, the team considers positioning, weight/size of device, symbol sets and appropriateness over time. AAC evaluation teams can often help navigate the complex funding maze. Often this process includes trying out several different devices over a period of time.

However, professionals often recommend particular toys, books, games or activities for a child to enhance learning and skill development. Communication support through an AAC app can be such a recommendation.

Now, we have effective communication support for the price of a doll house, Wii system, KitchenAid mixer or a wall mounted pet bed. What’s not to like!