Avaz for Autism

App: Avaz for Autism

What It Is: An AAC app by Invention Labs.

Price: $99.99 (though it is currently on sale for $49.99)

OS: Apple

Version: 1.0

How It Works: The app comes with a basic set-up of quick, getting started, basic, and advanced. The quick portion of the app is for phrases and words that would be needed in very specific activities of daily living. The other three (getting started, basic, advanced) are a hierarchy of categories to accommodate for different skill levels. All customization and settings changes are done within the page you are already on. You can choose words from pictures or use the keyboard (which is predictive) to type. The app’s developers make careful note that it was designed with children with autism in mind; however, it could easily be used by other populations.

Features: As you may have seen from my previous reviews of AAC apps, I like to adapt Jessica Gosnell’s feature matching chart to show what the app offers. I explain my reasoning more in an earlier post, but basically my intent is to offer readers an objective analysis of the app that they can use to compare their needs to what the app offers. See the screenshots below for the checklist of features, and I’ll explain the general categories more below each one.

The purpose of this app is for expressive output. Voice output is synthesized and can be switched between male (adult, child) and female (adult, child, Indian). Speech settings include options to speak after each letter when typing (this can be turned off), speak after the word is selected (this also can be turned off), and speak upon selecting the message window at the top. You can customize pronunciation of all words. The rate of speech can be changed to slow, medium, or fast. Representation is through picture or text, depending on your input mode. You also have the ability to add your own photos.

Words chosen are displayed through symbol or text in the message window with text-to-speech capabilities. While the app is not necessarily set up in choice board format, it is quite easy to play around with how many tiles are on the screen to make this possible. Tabs are easily selectable, and there is also a “go back” option if you want to return to previous pages quickly. The grid view can be with 15, 8, 4, 3, 2, or 1 pictures per screen. The keyboard is readily selectable by a button near the message window. The app only works in horizontal view. Sizes of symbols and text are also customizable.

The app has an “edit” button embedded in each page for immediate editing, which includes cutting, deleting, enabling, and disabling tiles. You can hide the message window if it is not appropriate/necessary for a child’s skill level or preferences. The keyboard can be QWERTY or ABC. Feedback features include symbol enlargement and auditory review (both optional). Rate enhancement features include word/letter prediction during keyboard mode and ability to store phrases from keyboard mode.

Selection can be direct or with a stylus. The main motor competency required is isolated point; however, for scrolling/editing/deleting purposes it may be necessary to swipe/drag/double tap. Support includes the developer’s website, email, and video tutorials/screenshots.

Editing occurs directly on the iPad.

Who Could Use It: As the app name indicates, it was intended for children with autism; however, I think the app could be used with people of a range of ages, populations, and abilities. From my experience, this app would be best for someone who already has fair language/AAC skills. Of course, you can easily choose to simplify the app by only having a limited number of tiles on the screen and not having a message window. In that case, you could use it with someone with very basic AAC skills. However, my observations have been that AAC users/parents/teachers/SLPs often don’t want to start with the basics if they have a device that is capable of more. 🙂 If you do choose to use this app with a child or adult who is a new AAC user or has more of a beginner skill set, just keep in mind that it is necessary to walk before running. On the other hand, someone who is a very advanced AAC user may find the app too cumbersome. I would particularly recommend this app to our users who have attention difficulties, because all customization and settings changes can be done on the page you’re working on. This means you don’t have to interrupt the process of communicating to make changes.

Pros: 1. Great customization options. I was impressed that the developer included things that I haven’t seen on a lot of AAC apps so far, but that are usually included on devoted devices: pronunciation, speech rate, type of keyboard, etc. I love, love, love the ability to easily enable/disable words or categories. This is phenomenal for children with “fast fingers” who are busy touching 20 other buttons while you’re trying to teach them one particular carrier phrase!

2. Seamless transition between pages, keyboard vs symbols, settings, and editing. Everything is available right on the page you’re working on, so if something like the tile size or pronunciation of a word isn’t to your liking, you change it right there–no need to go to a separate settings page, save it, and return to where you were.

3. Easy way to change number of tiles shown on the screen. This could be nice for individuals with visual impairments or those who need a narrower field to stay focused and make selections.

4. Good hierarchy of levels.

Cons: 1. The app isn’t as intuitive to use as I would have hoped. Using it involved a lot of searching and scrolling to find the right words, and the categories weren’t formed the way I would naturally think. Of course, this may just be a difference in brain organization. 🙂

2. This is slightly picky, but I would like more options for feedback upon selection. I love that you can turn on/off the enlargement of symbols once they’ve been chosen, but I wish I could control the rate of this. It would be too slow for some of the individuals I’ve supported when it’s on, but having it turned off meant no feedback at all to show it had been selected.

3. The message window doesn’t keep the message between keyboard and symbol modes. For example, if I am mostly using symbols but want to switch to keyboard to type in an unusual word, all the symbols in the message window disappear. This interrupts the fluidity of use–you basically need to just use one or the other.

The Take-Away: This app would be good for someone with intermediate AAC skills, although it could be customized to fit people at any level. Because of the set-up and lack of ability to comprise a message with both text and symbol, it might not be appropriate for an individual with highly advanced AAC skills. I hope to see a few of the kinks ironed out in the future, but as of right now I would recommend it as an option for individuals with basic/intermediary abilities. The customization options are certainly wonderful!

My Questions for You: What are some benefits/barriers that you could foresee if you used this app with an individual with a communication disorder? What suggestions do you have for the developer? What features match/don’t match the needs of some of your clients?

Looking for more expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!

Disclosure: Invention Labs provided me with a copy of this app to review. I was not compensated in any way for the review, and they were aware that I would be discussing the app’s strengths and weaknesses.

1 thought on “Avaz for Autism

  1. Pingback: Avaz for Autism | speechie apps | Communication and Autism | Scoop.it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s