After I posted the topic, “Using low cost AAC apps vs. dedicated AAC devices” at the Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Website (QIAT), I received some replies via e-mail. Most replies have a common thread and include suggestions so I would like to share their thoughts. All stated that it is important to have an evaluation for selecting an AAC device or apps, and they pointed out that using free communication apps have both negative and positive aspects.
– Since these apps are cheap, professionals and parents can afford to purchase them and use them with students.
– Professionals and parents are becoming more aware of the potential that AAC can provide for students.
– AAC apps on a portable devices are easy to carry and can be used as a multiple purpose device (e.g. PDA).
– Motivates students to use the communication device (e.g. AAC apps on an IPad) since the iPad itself is very attractive to many people.
– AAC apps on a portable device can be used to conduct informal evaluations for simple communication needs.
– One company, Alexicom Tech, sent me a link about their story and their inspiration, Alex.
– Since it is easy to purchase and install these apps, they are using them without any formal evaluations. Some may be used effectively, but many students will not be able to progress and develop their communication skills as far as they would with a better selected tool.
– People may hear about communication apps from friends or strangers without evaluating the quality of the components. Some of these communication apps have useful components, but at the same time, they are not as sophisticated or appropriate as the communication available in AAC devices.
– People using these apps may be teaching students to label items or identify items, but mat not be correctly teaching how to develop true communication skills.
Additional feedback and comments from AAC experts from earlier postings are:
-Good free or low cost apps include Speak It ($4.99) and free NeoSpeech Paul app ; you can use a iHome capsule speaker ($15) to amplify on an iPod, and it has an eight hour battery life and works great.
– Saltillo Nova Chat 7 now offers a dedicated device built on the Android platform.
– An unlocked Maestro from DynaVox, can outperform an iPad.
– If you can get a device paid for by insurance, the cost to the end user can be minimal or non-existent vs. AAC apps on iDevices are not covered by insurance.
– AAC is very individualized. Any good AT evaluator will look at features of a variety of tools such as Dynavox, Apple, PRC, AMDI, AbleNet, etc.
For more details, please read at the Comments” section, “Can free/Low-cost software and apps replace expensive educational software?”
Most experts agree that AAC apps on iDevices and Android devices have become better and more affordable, but there is a concern of the misapplications of these tools. Everyone agrees that the trend is beneficial, but the solutions have to be individual based.
I agree with the quote referenced in the ASHA Leader, October 2011, “we should remember to first focus on matching a client’s needs, strengths, and skills to the most appropriate tools and strategies” (Shane & Costell, 1994). We will need to be aware of possible mismatch of AAC apps on iDevice platforms to the client’s actual needs if we select the options without careful evaluations.