An AAC App from the Ivory Tower- SpeakAll &SpeakMore

July 28, 2013 by - 5 Comments

AAC Apps from the Ivory Tower: SpeakAll & SpeakMore
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We first introduced SpeakAll, an app from Purdue University more than a year ago. Dr. Oliver Wendt explained how SpeakAll (free) was developed from a service-oriented project.  SpeakAll has helped many children with autism and other significant communication difficulties. Watch to see how Dr. Wendt and families talk about SpeakAll and the soon to be released SpeakMore.

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This post was written by Robin Parker


  • Celeste Helling says:

    I am a huge fan of word based AAC experiences for children with complex communication needs. I wonder with this app if the “drag and drop” interface is one of the reasons the kids in the video were using it so well. I have been watching this with apps for some time. Are you aware of any research or case studies that look into this type of motor response to aid with word combinations?

    • Carole Zangari Carole Zangari says:

      Celeste, that’s such an interesting point. I’m not aware of any research on this but will reach out to Dr. Wendt to see if he has any thoughts on this.

      • Celeste Helling says:

        Thanks Carole! One of the best things I am seeing out of the “iPad Revolution” is forcing therapist like me to come out of our safety zones and really look at what is being successful. Prior to 2010, I would have been adamantly opposed to an AAC system with “moving parts”. Please let me know what you find out.

  • Oliver Wendt says:

    Celeste and Carole: First, thanks for your interest in our work and raising some excellent points for discussion!
    Research in AAC has a hard time catching up with the rapidly developing AAC apps. A recent review by Kagohara et al. (2012) found a total of 8 studies, all with the focus on teaching individuals with developmental disabilities to request for preferred items. Research in this area is still at the level of finding out how effective are AAC apps on tablet devices in general, how do they compare against other modalities such as manual signs or graphic symbols, and what are proper instructional procedures. To the best of my knowledge, no one has looked at the type of required motor response as a variable that may influence success on tablets plus apps.
    In our lab, we first started designing the SPEAK all! app with the “drag and drop” feature for symbol selection and activation. We came from an exchange-based communication approach and had used PECS and the ProxTalker before. The “drag and drop” seemed to mimic the actions of “picking up symbol card from picture book” and “putting it on the sentence strip”. Participants that had previously used PECS made the transition easily, and others acquired the response with a little prompt or modeling. Just from observation, I tend to think the advantages of “drag and drop” might be that (a) it forces the child to look at the symbol for longer and keep paying attention to it, (b) it is a better fit for teaching sentence construction as the different elements of a sentence become clearer (plus when doing error correction you can have them move the symbol back), and (c) this motor action in itself seems enticing and motivating to users, they experience how they can move the symbols around the screen and something happens when they drop it on the sentence strip.
    But we also did find that not everyone had the fine motor skills to engage in “drag and drop” successfully. For these we added a “one-touch” selection mode in later versions of SPEAK all!, which means just touching directly onto the symbol or close by will automatically move it to the sentence strip. Those users that preferred “one-touch” also mastered communication via SPEAKall!, that is, they were also able to compose simple sentences in the end. But it may have taken them longer. We did not analyze the data in that regard. It is a good question for future research! One might expect different acquisition rates.

    • Robin Parker Robin Parker says:

      Thanks so much for expanding the discussion about SpeakAll! We very much appreciate learning about the rationales, research, and your thoughts on AAC, AAC apps, & of course SpeakAll. Thank you again!

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