“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”
I don’t usually write a blog post when we release a Speak for Yourself update, but this 1.5 version update is special.
Over the years, as we’ve worked with other Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems, we are always trying to quantify a child’s progress. We have become anecdotal masters. As anyone who has dedicated their professional life to working with students using AAC can probably relate, we find ourselves frequently beginning an answer to a question by saying, “I worked with a student who…” We also tell stories about how the child is using his device…whether he is requesting, commenting, asking questions, telling stories, initiating communication, socializing, or giving information.
We note their baselines…words they are using independently on the device, how many words they are putting together, whether or not their communication rate *seems* to be getting faster. For this “data,” we would rely heavily on our memory and write notes after the session. Our attention during the session was focused on the students, and we didn’t feel like it was fair to the students to take good “online” data at the expense of our undivided attention. We still don’t think a speech-language pathologist (SLP), teacher, or parent should have to make that choice. With our new history feature…you don’t have to choose. Focus on the student in front of you, and look at the data later.
What’s New in this Version?
•In this version, we’ve added a new History feature to track language use and progress. When it is turned on, the History feature records what is said using Speak for Yourself. The History Summary screen calculates Mean Length of Utterance (MLU), keeps an utterance count, tracks the number of unique words used and their frequency, and communication rate (words per minute).
• The history data and summary can be emailed from the app.
•The option to speak QWERTY key presses was added.
•The total time Speak for Yourself has been used (from the time of this update) is tracked in Settings.
•The app is designed for appearance enhancements in iOS 7, but still functions on any iOS version (5.0 and above).
•Updated the CereProc voices.
•In Edit, photos selected from the camera roll that are the required size for use in word cells are not modified, thereby preserving their original quality.
•Minor bug fixes and minor appearance improvements.
The History feature© is extensive, so the focus of this post is for you to understand the elements. Also, we don’t know of anything else in any device or AAC app that calculates a language sample for you or keeps readable, detailed history within the app like this new feature.
The simple explanation is this: It records words that are selected, messages that are spoken, and it calculates language sample measures based on the raw data.
- Prior to turning history recording “on,” be sure that parent permission has been obtained and the user has been informed. I’m sure there are some things that my 10 year old says to her friends that she wouldn’t want me to read later.
- To begin recording, touch the “settings daisy” in the upper right hand corner of the top bar. Turn “record history” on. **A red dot will appear in the upper right hand corner of the message window will appear to indicate that Recording is ON.** Any words selected will be documented.
Viewing the student’s language output:
Touch the “settings daisy” and select “History.”
The “History Summary” window will appear with the following information:
Time SfY has been active: This is the time that Speak for Yourself has been showing on the iPad screen since the last history reset. The date and time of the last reset is at the top of the History Summary window.
Time Sfy has been inactive: To prevent unwanted math, this is the time since the last reset that Speak for Yourself has not been active.
Mean Length of Utterance(MLU): The average length of all utterances. The number of words in each individual utterance is added together and then divided by the total number of utterances. Morphemes selected using the +s button are included in the average. Buttons with more than one word (pre-programmed utterances) are counted as one word.
Utterance Count: Keeps a count of the number of utterances since the last reset. Touch this line to see a list of the utterances ordered from most recent to oldest.
Words Used: Gives a count of the number of unique words used. Touch this line to see details with the most frequently used words first, then alphabetically by word (for words used the same number of times).
Communication Rate (WPM): Measures the “Words Per Minute” that the individual is able to access. This measures the rate of communication by calculating the speed that students are able to access words. This is not a measure of the number of words they actually say each minute. For example, if a student’s communication rate is 26.2 WPM, that means that, based on the current access speed, a student has the ability to say 26.2 words in a minute.
Just to give you an idea of averages for this calculation: An average English-speaking person engaged in friendly conversation speaks at 110-150 words per minute. If you’re interested in your own rate of speech, you can calculate it here. The average typing speed is reported to be 33 words per minute, but that number varies depending on where you look. Theoretically, I would expect that the average AAC user would fall somewhere between those values, but if you know of any studies that were done with actual measures, please send the link! I would also expect that as someone uses Speak for Yourself and their motor planning becomes stronger, their communication rate would increase. Feel free to test my theory.
There may be times that you want to look at very specific information, and this will be found in the raw data. To view the raw data:
Select the “Data” icon at the bottom of the History window. Each action is date and time stamped to the hundredth of a second.
To share/reset/delete summary and raw data information:
1. Select the icon in the upper left corner of the History window.
2. You will be given a choice to Email or Reset/Remove data. You will be given one chance to change your mind. If you select “Reset/Remove” a second time, the data will be deleted. The History Summary and History Data are deleted independently. Deleting the History Summary data does not delete the raw data and vice versa.
Receiving the Raw data file:
A History Data file in Comma-Separated Value (CSV) format is attached to the email. This CSV file can be imported into Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, and LibreOffice Calc spreadsheets. The first line in the CSV file is a header that describes the data fields in the file.
Tap or click on the file as you would any other attachment.
We anticipate that this will be a dynamic feature, so please let us know what would be helpful to you as clinicians, parents, teachers, and researchers. We’ll have a future post with suggestions and ideas for using the feature and its practical applications, but for now…update to version 1.5 and start the new year with a quantitative baseline of your child’s/client’s language level! Wishing you all a happy, healthy, progress-filled 2014!