Speak for Yourself is 50% off ($99.99 USD) October 12th, 13th and 14th, 2016 for AAC Awareness Month!
There are literally hundreds of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) options on the market! Making a choice can be overwhelming for parents and professionals. However, if you’re looking for a robust, comprehensive AAC app, that narrows the options considerably.
Often in AAC online groups and in person, parents and speech-language pathologists will ask for comparisons between two apps or language systems.
I’ve created a chart to compare the options you’re considering.
A few words/disclaimers about this chart:
First, I created this chart, and I am also one of the creators of the Speak for Yourself app. However, I am also a speech-language pathologist who specializes in AAC. My attempt in the categories was to be balanced. I only filled in information about Speak for Yourself (SfY) because I only represent Speak for Yourself. There are some individuals who would not be best-served with Speak for Yourself as their AAC system. For example, if your student speaks Spanish or requires an access method other than direct selection, Speak for Yourself is not going to meet those needs at this time.
Second, an AAC system should be chosen based on the individual’s needs, not on any one element in this chart. Some of the features may be absolutely necessary for your particular individual and some may not matter at all. Only that individual, you and the other important people in that person’s life will be able to determine that. If you’re doing an AAC evaluation, multiple options should be considered and trialed with the client.
Third, this chart is not a “finished product.” If you think I forgot something that’s important, I probably did. If you think there is a better way to quantify ease of programming than “minimum number of touches to add a word” (each touch of the screen was counted) or “number of touches to hide buttons,” you’re probably right. Let me know!
Finally, choosing an AAC system is only the beginning. The real work is in the implementation. When you’re choosing the tool, the skills to use it are not automatically included. Some of the features within the AAC systems are intended to support the implementation (i.e. the search feature in SfY can help support aided language input), but the tool alone is not going to give a child language. Handing someone an AAC device and telling them to build language would be just as unreasonable as handing someone a table saw and telling them to build a house. It takes time, support, adjustments and patience. Those things are not found in a chart.
I’ve written before about the Evidence-Based Research Behind Speak for Yourself, but my intention with this post is to provide a brief, but complete overview of Speak for Yourself for those of you who are feature matching for your children or clients who will benefit from AAC.
There are a lot of similarities between AAC language systems. I can understand how someone looking at two AAC systems for the first time could say, “What’s the difference? It’s a grid of buttons filled with words and symbols.” So here are some of the components of Speak for Yourself that are found in other robust language systems as well.
Library of symbols (Speak for Yourself has a library of over 11,000 Smarty Symbols©)
10 voice options (with the ability to choose Acapela voices through in-app purchasing).
Ability to customize vocabulary, use photos, and change pronunciation within editing functions.
Multiple user vocabulary areas
Support through a website, email, phone, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Facebook Speak for Yourself Users Group.
While I avoid making direct comparisons between Speak for Yourself and other companies’ products, I will explain what makes Speak for Yourself unique enough to have a patent approved earlier this year. So if you hear or read something that says, “Speak for Yourself is just like…” that source of information is incorrect.
There are key differences and the reasons many people who previously struggled with AAC are successfully able to use Speak for Yourself.
What are the differences?
First, the AAC user can access every word in Speak for Yourself in no more than 2 touches! This eliminates page navigation and gives the user feedback in 1-2 touches for every single word.
SfY is essentially a page/category based system with a focus on core vocabulary that keeps motor planning consistent.
The categories that are being used are accessible with two touches. You can also make any of the main screen buttons a single touch by turning off the link to the secondary screen for your users who need immediate auditory feedback. In other systems, you have to change vocabularies to be able to have access to buttons with a single touch.
Because every word in SfY is 1-2 touches away, it eliminates the need for extensive page navigation skills. AND your AAC user doesn’t have to know categories and subcategories to communicate with Speak for Yourself.
You can easily open and close vocabulary on the main screen and also on each individual secondary screen. This provides vocabulary that adjusts easily to the user’s language level.
For example, to mask vocabulary, you touch open/close and then you can close everything (by touching the bottom right corner) and then touch the buttons you would like to keep open. You can do that on every page. This differs from other systems where each of the buttons has to be programmed with the “behavior” and whether or not it is showing.
The symbols in SfY are meaningless. (We love them of course! They’re meaningless in relationship to the vocabulary organization.) They are there as landmarks for the user. For example, since the symbol for “like” is a heart, users get used to going to that area and may scan quickly for the heart. BUT you could change it to any other symbol and it has no bearing on any other button in the app. So users don’t have to understand symbolic representation before they can use SfY. We have quite a few users who started prior to their first birthday because we did everything we could to eliminate the need for “pre-requisite skills.”
Search Feature: This is a game changer. There is a multisensory search feature in SfY that visually prompts you to the word you want to model/use by highlighting it. When you follow the prompt by touching the highlighted button, the word is spoken (auditory). The search feature navigates you to the word and if that word is not part of your open vocabulary, Speak for Yourself opens it for you.
This feature has given parents, teachers and speech-language pathologists the confidence to model and use AAC. When the adults are successful, children are supported.
The Babble feature allows the user to toggle between their custom vocabulary open/close configuration and having access to all of the vocabulary for exploration.
Hold that Thought gives individuals the ability to place something they were saying on the “back burner” to express a more urgent message. It’s also used by some to compose stories or messages that they want to tell someone later.
History feature that tracks raw data, but also summarizes that data so that it’s easier to analyze and measure progress (and that data can be emailed). It’s FREE within the app.
Back up and restore the vocabulary data file for each user through email, iTunes or Dropbox quickly…and for free.
What you will NOT find in Speak for Yourself:
The ability to change the size of the buttons. Changing the button size would
require changing the motor planning and limiting the individual’s access to vocabulary and language significantly. This post provides more details about the button size and some ideas for AAC users who have fine motor/vision issues.
Multiple languages – Speak for Yourself is only available in English. We would love to have it available in multiple languages. We’re just not there yet.
Visual Scene Displays – This is probably a blog post for another day, but scene-based AAC consists primarily of nouns or pre-programmed sentences surrounding specific contexts or photos (often without input from the person using AAC). They may be useful for labeling or noun identification, but not for spontaneous, novel, generative communication.
The ability to link pages beyond two touches. Within 2 touches, Speak for Yourself users have the potential to access more than 14,000 words. That’s a lot of efficient, accessible language.
Hope this helps for all of you making comparisons and trying to find the best solution for your children, your clients or yourself.
Here’s a Speak for Yourself feature page:
Good luck on your AAC journey! We’d love to be part of it!