Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Apps for Autism - Spotlight on Proloquo2Go

Autism has increased by 78% over the last decade.  It is estimated that there are 1,000,000 children with autism in the U.S.  That means 1 in 88 American children alone are affected.  Communication and understanding can be challenging for children and for parents.  There is a lot of guesswork involved.  Are they tired, are they hungry, do they want to play?  Dedicated devices can cost thousands of dollars, but now it’s apps for autism that are gaining traction.  Here are details as discussed on CNN today.

The iPad has been revolutionary in fighting this battle and I want to put a spotlight on Proloquo2Go, an app that is giving kids a voice, literally. 

Pronounced, Pro-lo-QUO (which means “speak out loud” in Latin) was developed in 2009 and has been the leader in speech assistance (or formally known as augmentative and alternative communication AAC).  It is an app you can put on an iPad or iPhone.  It has 14k pictures and symbols that are grouped by categories such as “Feelings”, “Places”, or “Food”.  A child can then touch a picture and the image will be read aloud.  Better – they can string together multiple images to form a sentence that is read aloud.   In short, for kids that have never been able to speak before, it gives them a voice. Watching the case studies and dishing this app out to teachers has been remarkable.  Notably, I shared it with Shellie Pritchett, early childhood developmental specialist in Indiana who has worked with special needs students for over 20 years.  Her feedback in less than 24 hours was, “Communication was difficult and time consuming and often was not able to keep up with the needs of the students. This tool is incredible for me to use. I am not kidding when I say that we will use this every day.”  She also liked that it is customizable for different levels of students. 

The industry announced today (for the first time) that this app will read back in a real child’s voice – not robotic or adult.  When kids are trying to communicate with mom, dad, or friends now, he or she will sound like any other child.  It might just sound like an incremental upgrade, but CEO David Niemeijer informed me the process took 1.5 years to complete.  They actually had kids in both the UK and US voiceover tens and thousands of words – at a cost of $100,000.

It should be noted in the past, kids had to rely on a dedicated device which could cost thousands of dollars.  Now, they have a universal “cool” device in hands and as you can imagine, other kids will be more accepting when they see they are using an iPad or iPhone and an app.

Is it just for autism?  And is it proven to work?
It’s not just for autism – anyone of any age with a speech setback can benefit from the technology- down syndrome, cerebral palsy, stroke victims, or simply anyone of any age struggling with communication.  It’s also great for teachers as it supports multiple users. 

In a survey conducted - 60% to 80% of the AAC users and families reported improvements in communication with others, in independence, in behavior, and in the atmosphere at home. 

However, David was quick to note that the app is best used in conjunction with a speech pathologist to: A) Ensure there is actual need and B) Ensure there is progression

Technology is only part of the solution … you have to implement it correctly and professionals must assist with the process.  Another challenge appears to be the shortage of professionals trained on these types of programs.

How much does it cost?
I almost had a heart attack when I found out the app was $190.

However, when given the other option of a dedicated device that can cost thousands, $190 is a fraction of the cost.  (The company is seeing customers that try and buy less expensive options and then realize they are not getting the full package.)   

David noted, “It costs a lot of money to make these niche apps.” He explained, they have to monetize in order for the app to continue to progress (with free updates like children’s voices). 

When it comes to price I recommend you read the frequent questions.  Click here.

There is also a donation program.  Click here.

Impacts and challenges with the app?
As noted above, there is an interesting survey with key impacts that was conducted by AssistiveWare and professors from the University of San Diego and the California State University at San Marcos that specifically speaks to Proloquo.  I recommend the read if you are interested in the device. Click here.

I have put together a link to Proloquo and a few additional apps that are great:

Proloquo2Go, ($190, iPhone, iPad)  Full-featured AAC option for any age of setback.  Supports multiple users and child voices.

Grace App, ($25, iPhone, iPad) - Picture exchange communication created for those with autism.

iCommunicate($35, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) - Facilitates language comprehension using pre-loaded pictures and storyboards/routines and custom audio recording.

My First AAC by Injini($25, iPad) – Great beginner AAC app designed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers with delayed speech or severe speech setbacks.

Talking Tom Cat(Free, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) – Cartoon cat mimics what you say.  Create and share videos.

Alien Buddies, ($1.99, iPhone, iPad) – Basic learning fundamentals with shapes, numbers and colors. 

Model Me Going Places 2, (Free, iPad) – A picture slideshow teaching your child how to behave in certain situations like the grocery store or with a doctor.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for an awesome write up about Proloquo2Go, an amazing app with an amazing support team that helps users learn how to help their kids! I really love their new voices too! Here's our blog about helping our daughter with autism, who is nonverbal,



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