By Mark Austin
Do you have a child or a loved one who has autism? Assistive technology takes high-tech toys and puts them to use by helping nonverbal people find their voices. Autism specialist Susan Stokes defines communication as a purposeful behavior used to transmit information during social exchanges. Teaching nonverbal people alternative ways to communicate opens new doors for them. Combine that need with the natural attraction to gadgets, and you get apps that are able to improve communication skills.
Grace App uses pictures to give nonverbal individuals a way to communicate. The National Autism Society explains that the Picture Exchange System (or PECS) offers people with autism a means to communicate a request or share a thought nonverbally. Grace App takes that same concept and makes it high-tech. This application uses a picture-based vocabulary to give nonverbal people independence. The program allows them to pair relevant images together to create sentences in a portable, user-friendly way. Grace App is available for any iOS device and costs under $40.
Website Speech Buddies points out that expressive communication is especially critical for nonverbal children, so they can tell others how they feel. Combine expression with a touchscreen device, such as the Samsung Galaxy, and you are providing a child with a new way to talk. AutismXpress offers kids a creative outlet to share their feelings. This application, available for both iOS and Android platforms, provides a fun environment that includes three sensory games:
- Feeling Finder uses animated emoticons to teach kids about feelings. They touch the screen and the animation puts on a show to explain the emotion.
- Emotion Matching is a memory game that pairs feelings together with emoticons.
- Expression Questions helps parents, teachers and caregivers work with kids to associate an image selected by a child with an emotive word.
AutismXpress, created by StudioEmotion Pty Ltd, is free to download and use.
Super Duper Understanding Inferences
Super Duper Understanding Inferences offers 52 illustrated picture cards that help children answer questions and learn to form complete sentences. The goal is to boost a nonverbal child’s reasoning and inference skills. For example, a prompt question might say, “Jane is hungry. What should she do?” Students look at illustrations to gain insight and have the option to hear or read the prompt that goes with it. The child attempts to answer using sign language or verbalization. You tap the screen to score the answer as right or wrong. The game accommodates multiple players, and is available for iOS systems at a price of just $3.99.
While a little more expensive, the Proloquo2Go app offers innovative symbol-supported communication. Kids can “speak” by tapping a button to create words or phrases. This application differs from the rest by integrating grammar basics such as automatic verb and noun inflections. It is fully customizable to suit the needs of each child, and is appropriate for children of all ages. Proloquo2Go costs $219 dollars and works on any iOS platform.
Mark is a trendsetter, gadget lover, and tech blogger.