Monday, January 10, 2011

Technology is pretty amazing

So, as mentioned, Maya was fortunate enough to get an iPad for the holidays.   It's certainly fun for games (like Peekaboo Barn) and has now been used by all of the therapists (even the PT-we set it up on the kitchen counter this morning and Maya had to climb up the safety tower to get to it).  Primarily, she's used it with her OT to learn the touch screen---how to tap with her pointer finger, and soon how to drag objects too.

(I'm gladly accepting app recommendations that work on toddler touch screen skills, by the way.  Or really any fun, motivating baby/toddler apps.)

Over the past few days, and with the help of her speech therapist and teacher, we've been figuring out how to customize her new communication app---Proloquo2go (henceforth known as P2G).  This app is kind of considered to be the gold standard right now, and it's the reason I thought the iPad would be worth getting now, as opposed to waiting for the newer iPads to come out a few months from now.  I know Maya's trying to communicate constantly (through sounds, signs, and gestures), and I didn't want to wait a few more months to give her a vocabulary and voice at her fingertips (literally).

P2G has an extensive vocabulary database----tons and tons of categories and words that we just don't need right now.  It will speak for the user (with a voice that you can select).  It will say anything that you type, and you can make word buttons (with pictures) for anything . . . one of the first test buttons that I made was "Parker" :)

Once you get the hang of adding categories and buttons, it's pretty easy to do.  The most challenging part, by far, is figuring out how to set it up so that my 2.5 year old will have some options that flow in a logical manner, rather than being cumbersome and difficult to navigate.

We've put everything into the "Quick Sets" category that's on the Home screen.  Here are the main categories that I've added so far:

If you open the "Let's Get Dressed" category, you end up here:

This is "Arts and Crafts".  I've tried to be consistent about repeating"I want" "More" "Please" and "All done" in most of the categories.  Here you can see a clear combination of using the symbols from the program ("I want", "Please", "All done") and photos that I took of Maya's specific things ("Crayons", "Fingerpaint", "Play-doh").  I think the photos may initially be easier for her to immediately understand.

The "Snacks" category, which is inside the "Food" category:

Here's a video of how I've set it up so far.  I would be really interested to hear feedback, since we're kind of carving our own path over here.   (Pictures of the therapists have been replaced with stick figures to protect the innocent) :):

*As always, if you see a white area and a play button, click play and the video will appear

I hope that this might help out some families who are considering the app, or have it and are unsure of how to set it up----I also hope that if you're thinking "Yikes, what a loon---there's a much better way to do this" you'll fill me in on how I should change what I'm doing :)


Meghan said...

That is a great program! My son was non verbal until 4. That would have been a nice tool to have. No suggestions, but can't wait to see how Maya progresses with it!

Meghan said...

Oh, I don't have an IPad, but want one, but do have an IPhone 4. My boys (3 & 5) Love Monkey Preschool, The Wheels on the bus, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Itsy, Bitsy Spider Apps. All good for fine motor skills!

Aviva Goldman said...

That's AWSOME!
Although not nearly as educational as your app, Elisha loves Holiday Bells, Baby Piano or Baby Piano Lite, iLava (virtual lava lamp), and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Holiday Bells wasn't free - 99 cents I think, but it was featured on a commercial 2 years ago. If you want to try it out on my iPhone let me know.
Aviva Goldman

Mary-Louise said...

Hi Dana, That looks fantastic!

I base my work with AAC on that of Linda Burkhart and Gayle Porter. Here we use PODD communication books as well as high tech devices like DynaVox and iPad.

I would look at creating a 'home screen' which would always have core vocab like 'more' 'all done' 'I/me' 'you' 'I don't know' and a link such as 'I have more to say' that links to a page that has what we call 'branches' or 'branch starters' - these are links like 'I like this' 'I don't like this' 'I want something to eat' 'Let's go' 'People in my life''I want to do an activity' 'Something's wrong' etc. Pressing a symbol on the branch pageset will take you to the subject specific vocab, eg 'I want to do an activity' will link to a pageset that has playdoh, drawing, painting etc. If you press 'painting' it will take you to a painting page that has core vocab (more, all done etc) as well as words like brush, hand, finger, paint, and a link to a colours page.
'Something's wrong' page would link to a pageset that had core vocab as well as words like 'sore' 'tired' 'hungry' etc.

I hope this makes sense. This way the communication device is multilevel and you have access to a large amount of vocab that you can use to talk to Maya. It is SO important that adults use Maya's AAC to talk to her and model how she can say things. This is how children (learning AAC) learn best.

I encourage you to look at Linda Burkhart's and Gayle Porter's work with Aided Language Stimulation and PODD Communication Books. This is seen as best practice for children with complex communication needs (and your speech therapist should be more than aware of it).
I would also say that you can probably go smaller with the symbols' size. Many young children will use a flat hand if the symbols are big but smaller symbols kind of force them to develop and use a point or fingertips (of course this is an individual thing).
Maya probably also needs an easy 'navigation' button that will take her back to the previous screen or the home screen.
I hope this has given you some ideas. Best wishes, Mary-Louise

Some Links for you...

Dana said...

Mary-Louise, I think my head just exploded.


Thanks for taking the time to respond and for sharing all of your advice & links!

The main home page does have all of that stuff---the starters, the branches, etc. I'm just not sure that she can handle an immersion into the hundreds of symbols and page navigation, you know? I want it to start simply enough that she can use one page at a time right now, I think.

I'm not sure if I should get rid of the "please"s . . . that's something that I would be teaching constantly if she spoke (say please!) so I put it in, but I'm not sure if it's just an unnecessary button right now.

I'm definitely going to implement some of your suggestions (we're going to play with the button size---I made it large initially so she could see the pictures easily, but I hadn't thought about the pointing). And I'll check out the links, too :)

Cynda said...

I'm very curious to see how this works. I might look into this for my son.

Cheryl (in Buffalo) said...

I work with students who use dynavox/dynamyte devices, which are similar to this, but perhaps not as portable as this would be....and you are off to an excellent start!!! I encourage you to leave in "please" or any other words that you hope she will eventually say, because typically any child who may speak, does so more easily with a speech output device, because there is less pressure on it seems to come easier. I am not sure exactly why this is, but it is. Best of luck to you in all of your communication explorations for your little doll!!