Monday, January 9, 2012

The search is over. We've found our communication solution.

If you've been with us for a while, you know that for a while (a little over a year, now).  Actually, almost exactly a year ago I dove in with the iPad, trying to customize Proloquo2Go in a way that would make sense to use with Maya (who was 2.5 at the time).  We used it on and off but it just didn't stick.  When school started in the fall, we re-sharpened our focus on communication, trying a variety of things:  the Word Book, the iPad, and finally, fighting for a trial with a full communication device (the Dynavox Maestro).

About 2 weeks in, I realized that the Dynavox wasn't what I was hoping it would be.  It was too big, for one, and poor Maya had no chance at carrying it anywhere.  More importantly, the grammar was cumbersome.  The pop-up windows were confusing.  The buttons kept moving---one one screen "clear" would be in the upper left, on another screen it would jump over to the right.  Some screens had no "clear" at all.  We couldn't find a rhythm.

I met with Maya's teacher and we were on the same page---the Dynavox was a bust.  Back to the drawing board.  I decided to take the holidays off, and planned to jump back in to the communication search in January.  Now that I had seen first hand that the devices aren't always magical, I was going to re-focus on the app market.  Surely, there must be something that could work.

And then something awesome happened.

I got a Facebook message from a childhood friend (who is now a SLP), along the lines of "Hey, I saw this new app (released Dec. 21st) and thought of your big app search.  Check it out."   I poked around and found the demo video for the app and started playing it, only watching halfway as I poked around online.  About fifty seconds in, they had my attention.  A minute and thirty seconds in I was thinking Huh.  This is actually pretty clever. After watching the first two minutes and forty seconds I was completely sold (and the cool features just kept coming).  This app is brilliant.  Brilliant.

Our search is over.  There is no other app---or even device---that I've come across that is as smart, easy to customize, clear, and logical as this app.  It's a huge relief, and really exciting, to have found something that has the ability to start working immediately, and also the growth potential to use it forever.  For as long as she needs assistive technology to communicate, this app will fit her. 

She won't ever outgrow it, but it's not too complex to jump right into.  

It's perfect.

It's called Speak for Yourself. (SfY)

I downloaded SfY yesterday morning, and spent some time throughout the day learning to customize it (which is remarkably easy, compared to some of the devices I've seen). 

First, let me tell you about it:
  • Speak for Yourself is a full communication app.  It's highly (and easily) customizable.  It comes pre-programmed with about 5,000 words, and you can add, delete & move words. (it can hold up to 14,000 words, and has a QWERTY keyboard)
  • SfY is based on core word data, so the words are organized in a way that makes sense in terms of which words are used more often. 
  • The words stay in the same place.  This is a big one.  Whether you're using the app as a 20-word device or a 10,000 word device, the word "eat" will always be in the same exact location on the screen. This allows for motor planning memory in a way that I haven't seen any other apps attempt. (Maya already knows that alligator is on the top left of the screen with the animals, and it will never move from that spot.) 
  • It's super quick to program.  Adding buttons, opening & closing buttons, etc, each only take a few seconds.
  • You can't get lost.  In only takes 2 taps to say any word (and you can actually change that to make the first screen 1 tap words, for a beginner).  If you're in a secondary screen the blue "home" key is always in the same spot, and returns you to the main screen.   
I figured that it would be easier to understand what I'm talking about if you could see it, so here you go:  (also, eesh.  I've never tried to videotape myself before, so my head's cut off a bit.  And the iPad has a glare here and there.  I tried.)




Yesterday morning, right after I downloaded SfY, Maya saw me toying with the iPad and came over to see what I was doing.  After about thirty seconds I told Dave "get up and get the video camera!" because it was really neat to see how enthusiastically she responded to it.

Here's that video.  Look at how excited she is.  And notice how quickly she gets the hang of it:



So, the downside?  I don't see much.  No app (or device) is one-size-fits-all, so Speak for Yourself wouldn't work for everyone.  Our biggest challenge will be the fine motor component, being able to isolate a finger and touch only one button one time (this would be a challenge with any device or app).  I'm hoping that SfY will be motivating enough that it will actually build in some nice OT practice for us :)

Now comes the biggest variable---Maya.  We've got the perfect technology, and it's time to get her on board.  I'll be meeting with her teacher later this week to give her a demo, and then we'll start using it full time.  If anyone has any great getting-your-kid-started-on-their device advice, feel free to send it my way.


She was a little overexcited.  Hee hee.
I expect that I'm going to share a lot more about SfY and the progress that we make with it.  I can't wait :)



Here's that demo video that got my attention.

Here is Speak for Yourself in the iTunes store.  It's kind of expensive but, compared to other communication apps, I think it's well worth it.  I'm happy to answer questions if you have them.  You can also reach the creators of the app here.
  
 

23 comments:

Nancy said...

That is so awesome! Very exciting...can't wait to see how Maya does with it.

Foxxy One said...

Your timing is impecible my friend. Just this past weekend, my son's speech therapist was showing me this fun app called Dexteria. It's an app to work on fine motor w/the Ipad :) It's cheap too $4.99.

Susan said...

Hi there, I am a SpEd teacher and have just today introduced graceapp on an old iPhone to one of my 4 yr olds which I am hoping will become her main communication device, replacing her cumbersome PECs folder. It is a simple app, but I think has great potential for the long term as it can be customised, encourages the child to use her own voice and is highly portable. The woman who developed has an excellent personal website which has lots of examples of how she came through various struggles with her own kids.If you google graceapp you'll find it :)

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Lovely to see :) It's so hard to find the perfect app: my dd has very poor fine motor skills so I'm hoping to use the iComm app which just has a few images on screen at any one time. Best of luck with this, really hoping it works out x

grandma said...

what a great video---watching maya navigate this system is unbelievable :-)

Dana said...

Foxxy-I've heard good things about Dexteria. I'll have to check it out.

Susan-I think I've actually heard from the creator of Grace before. I'm glad that it's meeting your needs. For us, it's much too limiting---I want as many words as possible to be available, and I want their positions to remain fixed as vocabulary grows so that Maya can continue to find them. Grace doesn't really meet our needs. If you check out the video that I posted I think you'll see why.

Lisa B. said...

NICE!!! I am so glad I found something that you really can use! I hope it grows with Maya and that she learns to navigate it well! Awesome videos! I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open for anything!

kris said...

You continue to amaze me...and it was really fun to see you. One of these trips to NYC, I need to swing by your place again. Maya is a rockstar--this is such an exciting development!! Post another vid in 2 weeks and I bet there will be many more buttons lit up :)

motherhoodandotheradventures said...

That's awesome! I'm glad you finally found the perfect communication app for Maya. Her words are really coming along too. I understood exactly what she said when she said "bunny".

tanna@sneakotb said...

I love this app! I just posted a spotlight about it on my blog last week and I would love to update the post with a link to this so that parents can see it in action and get a real world opinion. Would that be ok? Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! I'm an SLP and just heard about this app yesterday on an SLP message board. I don't currently have any kiddos it would be appropriate for, but I definitely agree with all you said about it being important to keep things in the same place! The one area I see as difficult would be the size of the icons for many kids with fine motor difficulties. I can't wait to see how it works out for Maya as you add more and more. Have you tried adjusting the settings for accessibility to find if there's a way for it to "read" when she pushes as she did in the video (vs. tapping)? I also have to say the video of her talking (which, it definitely IS talking!) made me tear up!

laurelsmom said...

I cant wait to hear what Maya has to say! She's going to amaze us with her thoughts. I also cant wait to show this to my husband and see what he thinks. We're just finishing up our wordbook but this looks so much cleaner and organized and less cumbersome. The fact that everything stays in one place is huge. I was already pondering how to prevent lost cards from our wordbook. Not to mention the advantage from a memory standpoint. Thank you for sharing. I think you may have saved me endless searching.

Dana said...

Laurelsmom-For the word book, I wrote underneath each tile with a permanent marker, labeling the spots, so that I would know which words has gotten lost over the course of the day. At night, I would make replacements (I've stopped now because I'm hoping to wean her off of the book and onto Speak for Yourself).

If you're considering buying the app and want to ask questions before putting out the money, feel free to email me---or the creators at the address on the SfY page.

Dana said...

Tanna--feel free to link away :)

tanna@sneakotb said...

Thank you Dana! :)

Lisa said...

AMAZING!!! :)

teamaidan said...

Congrats on finding the right fit for Maya! She's so bright. I can't wait to hear more from her about her alligator love!

Anonymous said...

Wondering if you would give me the name of the stand you're using on your iPad. Might work well for our clients using it for AAC. Thanks!

Dana said...

The case is called the iAdapter. It's great because it's sturdy and has built in speakers (so she can be LOUD). There are a few annoying things about it, but overall it's good.

Anonymous said...

You may be able to find a key-guard for the app if it is popular enough for one to be made. Include a few verbs (want, get, go, put away)and model their use for Maya. Verbs are harder to learn since they can be tougher to represent with a symbol. Looks like y'all are already doing great!

Anonymous said...

Do you (or any one out there) have experience with Go Talk Now? Our awesome SLP had us get it and she has since moved....
Thanks

Dana said...

I'm not familiar with it, but others in this group might be---it's a FB group for users of SFY, but there are members who are using other devices/apps and others who have tried many things in the past:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/273873326092019/

Sarah said...

I gave birth to my girl in November 2013 (second child) who was given a diagnosis after birth (all checks indicated everything was fine). I work as an SLT in Scotland, and have already been told numerous times how lucky she is to have a SLT Mummy. People are trying to be nice but are so far off how you feel as a Mum - heartbroken, devastated, worried etc. Nevertheless, I love her, and have put into place all the strategies learned from my job - objects of reference, signing, vocal play, copying etc which are really helping to maximise her communication potential. But I have also been starting to research what apps are out there that she may need - Thanks for this post, and videos, really helpful. Also loved your post 'the mum I would have been' - pinpoints exactly how it feels. x