What’s the best out there? Will my child benefit from one?
Last I read, I believe it was stated that about half of those with Autism will be unable to communicate their wants, needs, and thoughts verbally. This is why AAC strategies are so important for these children, including my own Aidan, who is nonverbal. AAC can help him and others like him to express himself. He doesn’t have to ever speak a word the rest of his life, but the benefits of learning to use a device with an AAC program installed will improve his quality of life exponentially. We never really think about the impact that being able to communicate with one another has, until we have a loved one who doesn’t have the ability to communicate. Frustration with being unable to communicate wants and needs can lead to behavior problems. Developing and maintaining social relationships is also challenging for those who have no means of communication. Learning is harder, employment, and on and on.
What is AAC? Any communication other than verbal speech, is considered AAC. Sign language, hand gestures, picture symbols, and devices and/or programs that generate speech, are all considered AAC.
Why use AAC? http://www.aacandautism.com/why-aac/why-use-aac, this site is amazing at explaining AAC, why it’s beneficial, what it is, etc. Check it out.
Technology has made it possible for parents/caregivers to provide their child(ren) with apps loaded onto devices such as the iPad, or their smartphone, that would allow for them to communicate with others. AAC devices have been around for decades, and still are, but are rather expensive and let’s face it, dealing with insurance can sometimes be a pain in the arse. The iPad and other tablet devices and smartphones, have provided a more affordable alternative.
Before we get into the different AAC apps that are out there, let’s first talk about the possibility of getting an AAC preloaded onto a device (iPad, iPad mini, etc) paid for by your insurance (private or Medicaid). I know that I said that insurance is a pain to deal with, but sometimes, that is the best and for many, the only route that they can go. While the iPad and others are more affordable, even with the $150+ AAC app, than…let’s say, the Dynavox, $500+ is still quite a bit to spend. Even with the iPad mini, with it being cheaper than the iPad, it’s still several hundred bucks, then add a couple hundred to that for the app. Cha-ching. Piggy bank cracked. My advice, before you go out and spend hundreds on the iPad and an app, is to work with your child’s speech therapist. See if your child is ready for the AAC app. Most likely your child is using one while working with their speech therapist. Insurance companies need data that the app and the device is working for your child and that your child knows how to use it. They don’t need to be perfect at it, they just need to demonstrate a basic know how and that they generally know what the app is for. Once the data shows that your child has shown that they know what to do with the app and the iPad, your therapist will then put in the request for the insurance(s) to cover the cost of the device with an app already loaded. Thing is, you cannot have the iPad loaded with any other apps, it’s to only be used for communication. So we have two iPads and I would end up getting a third through insurance because the others have all kinds of other games and things on there my kiddos love. I would have loved to just get the app, but the therapist and my insurance company said that they don’t do it like that. My kiddo still hasn’t gone through the process with the insurance, we want to make sure that the progress he is making with the app and the iPad is something that he is going to keep up with. We need a little more data…but I’m optimistic. So, I’m going to hold off on saving the money necessary for an app. It might be beneficial for some of y’all to do so as well, and check with your child’s speech therapist. For now, we stick to the free apps on his iPad for practice and he has some homemade binders with printed Boardmaker pics I found online for free. It sucks tremendously to locate, print, laminate, cut, categorize, Velcro, stick, etc. them, but so worth it because my son is finally beginning to be able to communicate with us.
For those of you who want to check out some AAC apps out there, I have a list of several that I have either heard about, found online while searching for something else, or have some firsthand knowledge about as my son has used them in therapy a time or two before.
Proloquo2Go: This is the most well known AAC app that is out right now, but is it the best. My son has used it in the past and has had some success with it, however the screens appear to be a little difficult to navigate, but there was an option to make my son his own custom page/screen that had all of his most known requests. That was extremely helpful. I had no real issues with the program, besides the cost. It is extremely costly, at $219. Right now, it only appears to be available via the iPhone, iPad. So, sorry for the Droid users out there.
TouchChat HD: This is the app that my son’s current speech therapist uses with him. For the most part, it seems similar to Proloquo2Go but without as big of a price tag at $149.99. Apple only. Well, is anything on a Droid? TouchChat Lite is $9.99, but is considered non-communicative being as it does not have audio playback. It appears to be more for informational/instructional purposes.
Avaz: I’m doing a trial version of this app right now. You can get a week free trial with access to the entire program. I really like the option to do this as I can actually see and navigate throughout the entire app as it is intended to be used. None of that download and you have access to two pictures thing. So far I am really liking how detailed it is, the voices are clear, and there are like six voices to choose from. You can add your own categories and pictures. I haven’t really gotten too much into playing around with it. For my son and his abilities right now, the app appears to be a bit advanced for him, but I think that there is an option where I can make his own screen for him, so he isn’t having to navigate through too many folders to tell me he wants juice. After the week trial is up, you have the option to pay monthly at $9.99 or keep forevaaah at $149.99. I’m really liking this app and I am hoping that I can learn whether or not I can make a more simplistic screen for my son. They do have a “basic” folder on there, but I would like to make an even simpler screen as my son is just starting this AAC out.
The above are the ones that I have some experience with. The following are ones that I have heard about (both good and bad), but have yet to check them out for myself, but I plan on doing so.
I Can Speak
iCommunicate for iPad
If you know of any good AAC apps out there, please pass them my way.