A couple months ago, I reviewed a great little app, Timer+ Touch. In the review, I focused on how great it could be for using with adults with developmental disabilities (as well as almost any other population). The developer of this app recently contacted me saying that they now have a brand new app, Talk+ Touch. Since we are right in the middle of International AAC Awareness Month AND Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I thought it would be a perfect app to share and discuss.
App: Talk+ Touch
What It Is: A basic AAC app by SixAxis.
How It Works: The app is designed to be a simple AAC option. The app is pre-loaded with four buttons: two “yes”, two “no”. The user is able to add customized buttons with text, voice, and images. One or two buttons (depending on your settings choice) are shown on each page. The user can be allowed to scroll through any of these pages, or there is a “Fav Only” option that makes it so only ones marked “favorite” can be used. (This is helpful if you want to limit the available options or make it so that the user is only able to access one page at a time.)
The app’s main purpose is expressive, and the voice output is digital for the four pre-entered buttons (and your own voice recording for customized buttons). There is a male adult, male child, female adult, and female child for the pre-entered. The word is spoken each time the button is selected. The two yes/no presets are represented by text or text and symbol; the customized ones are represented by photograph and text.
Photographs are imported from your photo stream or camera roll, or you can take a picture within the app to use. The display depends on which button you select–it may be text or text and symbol/picture. The app is set up in a very basic choice boards fashion with the option of one or two buttons per page. It only supports horizontal orientation.
You can customize the scrolling features by selecting “Fav Only?” in the settings menu. This makes it so that you can choose to only show one page (or more) as desired. The app can be accessed via direct selection or the use of a pointer/stylus. It requires motor competence in isolated pointing and swiping (if there is more than one page). Support is available through online tutorials, their website, and email.
Who Could Use It: In several of the settings I have worked, I have seen individuals who have a very simplistic understanding of making choices, cause/effect, and categorization get a device that is cognitively not appropriate for them. Of course, theoretically most of these devices can be simplified. The idea is that you don’t want to limit someone’s communicative potential or waste financial resources by picking a device that will be too elementary for them in six months, so you pick the device with the most options and work up to the full capacity over time. Unfortunately, I have yet to see this actually happen. (I’m not saying it doesn’t…but I have a feeling it is rarer than it should be.) In real life, the device arrives, and the person/family/therapist is so enthused that they try to use all of the device’s capacities all at once. In their minds, it becomes the magical device on which anything the person is thinking could be communicated. In actuality, it becomes an expensive accessory, because the person does not yet have the skill set to communicate on such a complex level.
Thankfully, using this kind of app allows for learning of some of the basic prerequisites to getting a more complex app/device. It can be used to teach basic cause/effect (touch the symbol, it lights up and says something), making simple choices (yes/no, food/drink, etc), symbolic representation, categorization, and simply becoming familiar with the concept of using an electronic device to communicate instead of vocalizations or gestures. And because the app is so incredibly cost-effective, the insurance money is not “wasted” on something that the individual may grow out of.
In other words, this app could be useful for a young child who is just beginning to learn language, an adult with a developmental disability who needs to learn how to select from two symbolic options, an individual who has had a stroke and needs to be able to communicate basic yes/no responses to answer medical questions, people who have visual acuity deficits, and more. Some people may get use out of this app for years to come, while others may use it as a stepping stone toward a more complex system.
Pros: 1. Price! For $.99, this is an easy purchase if you are trying to assess/teach early AAC skills.
2. Simple. (Again, this is not going to be the app for someone who already communicates in full sentences. For most, it is a “starter” AAC app, if you will.)
3. Unlimited pages/buttons.
Cons: 1. I wish there were a couple more customization options. Specifically, I would like to be able to add a background color (e.g. red for no, green for yes), since that is a great visual cue for someone who has limited understanding of how to use AAC.
2. Some of the settings didn’t feel as “fluid” as I hoped. I quickly figured out the system, but it initially felt a tad cumbersome.
The Take-Away: This app is a great, incredibly affordable option for individuals who are not (yet?) appropriate to use a more complex option. Since it is so inexpensive, it is a fantastic way to assess and teach pre-AAC skills. It can also be a wonderful means of communication for someone who needs basic AAC for a limited time (e.g. during a hospital stay) or in the long-term (e.g. someone with severe intellectual challenges).
My Questions for You: How could your clients use this app? What features fit or don’t fit some of your clientele? Are you a believer in starting basic or do you think it is best to start with a more complex option?
Looking for more expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!