AAC apps for adults in healthcare settings – what is out there?

The Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) apps appropriate for people in healthcare settings are released frequently and are constantly changing. As with apps suitable for any of the people we support, it can be overwhelming trying to stay on top of what is out there and the changes being made in updates.

Providing you with an up to date list of these in this blog post would be difficult, although we have included a selection of apps to consider for the adult population you are supporting in the healthcare setting. Instead, what can be most useful is providing you with some direct links of where to go for further information on the ever-changing world of apps, so that you can tap into the places where people are reviewing the latest apps for you! You can even use Social Media such as some Facebook groups to keep up to date and in the know about giveaways and sales. Here are some suggestions:

Some of the apps listed below are ones that have been developed specifically for people in a healthcare setting with medical vocabulary and pain scales included (which is why they are listed), but some of them are just really good apps that can be used with anyone in any environment. We are not attempting to rate these apps, as with any communication system it needs to be feature matched to the individual you are supporting.  But these are apps that we thought you should know about as options to consider:

SYMBOL/PICTURES ONLY APPS

  • ER Translate – aimed specifically at people in hospital with a picture page including core vocabulary, feelings and a range of medical phrases/words. The notepad page lets the user do freehand drawing or writing to facilitate total communication. Pages cannot be edited.
  • Scene & Heard – a great one for creating visual scene displays, using your own photos, with hotspots, as opposed to a grid or list view, for communicating requests or for telling a story.
  • Sounding Board – a simple to use app with 1-9 cell grids available that can easily be linked to create multilevel books. Photos can be used and it is switch accessible for people with physical impairments. Great as a comunication board, multi-level book or evaluation tool and is FREE!
  • SmallTalk Series: The SmallTalk series of apps were developed for adults with acquired aphasia and include vocabulary lists and phrases covering topics such as daily activities, dysphagia intensive care and pain scales. The apps feature these words and phrases in a list view and they cannot be customised, but might be a good FREE option for some of the people you are supporting in specific situations.
  • Speak Aid HD – a single page board with basic needs based and medical vocabulary, and body parts. Link to ‘Blackboard’ page to write messages. Ideal for short term use.  Cannot be customised.

SYMBOLS & TEXT TO SPEECH APPS

  • Proloquo2go – a very comprehensive, full featured AAC app with either core or basic vocabulary arrangement. Fully customisable with SymbolStix symbol set or ability to import your own photos. Word prediction is available within the keyboard. Multiple user profiles are possible.
  • Sono Flex – core and fringe vocabulary arrangement with a keyboard also available. History of conversation recorded and quick phrases button gives access to small talk. A LITE version is also available to try ou
  • TouchChat AAC HD – full featured AAC app with 6 page sets included. Most page sets have core and fringe vocabulary, and cells can be edited. It includes SymbolStix and you can use your own photos. Messages can be published in a variety of formats.

TEXT BASED APPS

  • Appwriter – a word processing app that offers text-to-speech communication through voice output. Has word prediction and documents can be shared in a number of ways. If using it with the new iPad you can take a photo of text and it will read it aloud
  • Assistive Chat – a text to speech app with word prediction and the ability to save phrases as favourites. Options for speaking include after each word, or at the end of a sentence
  • KType Pro – text to speech app with word prediction and multiple keyboard options for people who need alternative layouts. You can even custom build a keyboard suitable for the person you are supporting
  • New Voice – this app includes a yes/no page, phrases page and a pain level indicator with a list of body parts. Also has a frequency of use keyboard and standard iPad keyboard
  • Phrase Board – text based app designed for someone in hospital or who is sick. It has phrases which are focus around medical/physical needs, a pain level and location indicator, a drawing board and a place to add your own phrases. A fairly comprehensive FREE option for those who can access it. Junior version also available.
  • Predictable – a full featured text to speech app with word prediction, choice of keyboards, ability to save phrases and then publish your text via email, as a Facebook or Twitter post
  • Speak It! – allows the user to type and talk using the built in keyboards of the device. Phrases can be saved and spoken again and audio files can be created
  • TextExpander – while this app does not have speech output it is used to expand pre-stored abbreviated text. Excellent for those who rely heavily on written communication
  • Verbally lite – text to speech app with word prediction. Core vocabulary words are provided and phrases can be stored and edited. Conversational history can be accessed and message window content can be emailed. FREE or LITE version has limited editing features.

While this article has focussed exclusively on apps for AAC, you may also find the following lists useful:

  • Apps for Literacy Support which features apps that can assist people who struggle with reading and writing to access and develop written information.
  • Don’t go past the Apps for Special Education list which actually features a number of apps that can be used with people of any age to provide visual supports such as timetables and schedules, activity sequences and social stories.

For more information and support on apps for AAC and supporting the use of iPads, including webinars demonstrating some of these listed above, see Spectronics Online

Please note: Acknowledgements to Jane Farrall for her Apps for AAC list on the Spectronics website. A BIG thanks to Chloe Horsted, Speech Pathologist from Barwon Health, Victoria for her input into this article. This blog has also been re-produced on the Communication Resource Centre, Scope Blog.

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About Katie Lyon

Katie is a speech pathologist and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) consultant who has been working with young children and adults with complex communication needs for the past 13 years. She has had worked in various roles including Coordinator of the Non-electronic Communication Aid Scheme and Regional Communication Service in Victoria as part of the state-wide Communication Access Network. She has a keen interest in supporting families, teachers, direct support workers and therapists to access information about AAC and assistive technology through education and training. She currently works part-time with Spectronics and part-time with the Communication Resource Centre at Scope in Victoria.

One Response to AAC apps for adults in healthcare settings – what is out there?

  1. You should check out Avatalker AAC, it’s an app I co-designed. Designed with two skill levels to separate simple wants and needs selection from the more advanced features for phrase builders.

    Avatalker AAC is the only AAC app that makes building full sentences with correct grammar easy and fast. Check it out by watching our demo videos! Avatalker can do things no other AAC app or device can do!

    http://www.avatalkeraac.com/support/

    Erik Nanstiel
    Aurora Symbols, LLC

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