The Southern California Augmentative and Alternative Communication Network... a support group for professional development, problem solving, leadership, mentoring, and training in the use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to develop communication in non-speaking and minimally verbal individuals in the Southern California Region.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SCAAC-N Winter Meeting Notes - 2/21/12

Our SCAAC-N Winter Quarterly meeting at Villa Esperanza Services was a great success!  Cindy Cottier presented expertly to an audience of 22 students, clinical fellows, SLPAs, SLPs, AAC specialists, a parent advocate, a special ed lawyer, and device reps.  "Using AAC iPad Applications with Children with Multiple Disabilities" introduced some excellent apps and customizations we can't wait to share...

Cindy's benefits of the iPad versus traditional speech generating communication devices:
- larger display allows for easier access
- customization quick and easy
- lightweight and portable
- affordable
- appears age appropriate
- easy to support (every assistant/instructional aide knows how to use iDevices, SmartPhones, etc. so that the overwhelm-factor that so often accompanies communication devices is minimized in the case of the iPad)

The "get ready to talk" cue:
Cindy encourages clients to leave their message in the display or window after message construction and DIScourages the go-home-and-clear impulse that many clients seem to adopt.  Leaving the message in the display allows time for discussion, correction, re-statement as needed. (from my personal experience) Many students with autism get in the habit of clearing immediately after 'speaking,' allowing for little discussion particularly with iPad apps (ProLoQuo and TouchChat) that do not have an easy Go Back or Undo function (alternatively, Dynavox does).  Instead, she teaches "get ready to talk" as the prompt to go-home-and-clear your display in preparation for the next phrase.
Great idea!

Sounding Board app by AbleNet. Quick and easy to program, switch accessible (1 and 2 switches), iPhone and iPad versions, from 1-9 symbol/button locations per page, start with one screen then grows into linking, $49.99.

Answers:YesNo ($1.99) and Answers:YesNo HD ($3.99) apps 
HD Version Features:
- Large buttons with ample selectable borders to assist with activation
- 5 Yes-No voices: man, woman, cartoon, boy, and girl
- The ability to program custom buttons with user defined color, text, audio (record your own), and pictures
- The ability to pre-program 5 lesson plans, each consisting of 6 pages of custom button pairs
- Enhanced navigation options
- Visual cue of selected buttons for the hearing impaired
- Multi-language support

Some accessory highlights:
- Cindy's home-made key guard (above) for simple apps such as Answers:YesNo.  Made from a case similar to a Belkin Snap Shield - Back cover in Smoke color (left).  Dremmel drill was used to cut out the message areas and the control holes (for use with a stylus). A Velcro strap was used to keep the key guard attached to the device (for grabby fingers and reflexes). Amazing!

- AbleNet table top suction cup mount. Slide the iPad out of it's case and into this adjustable angle mount for smooth topped tables (textured tops will not provide adequate suction adherence)

- InCase convertible book jacket modified (in your garage) with two grommets, two rings, and a shoulder strap for portability and use on the go.
While it's built-in standing capability is poor, the velcro piece that keeps the device in, and the external elastic strap provide extra protection in use and transit. 

Final thoughts on the iPad revolution in the field of AAC:
- Advantages include a crisp, bright display that is engaging to MANY learners
- Sometimes, the iPad is the ONLY thing that works!

Cindy cautions that the iPad is not for everyone! She cautions:
1) An evaluation is still required in order to match the user's needs to the hardware/device and the software/application, based on feature matching.
2) An SLP should be involved in decision-making regarding vocabulary selection, language development, and prompting/teaching strategies
3) A trial period is a must to be sure that any device and software fit is a good one!
Cindy's original PowerPoint presentation is available from ASHA (on their 2011 conference website, HERE)

Many thanks to Cindy, and to all of our Network participants. Stay tuned for news of our Spring Quarterly Meeting (FREE; tentative date, Tuesday, 4/17/12).

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