Meet our newest member of the family…the AAC Ferret!

AACF-appicon-1024The Spectronics Consultancy Team are pleased to introduce the newest member of the team – the AAC Ferret! He really is a very helpful little guy for all of those people out there trying to find their way through the hundreds of apps supporting communication available for the iPad.

Do you support people with communication difficulties? Do know someone with little or no speech? Are you finding it hard to make the right decision about the 300+ AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) apps out there in the iTunes App Store?

Then let the Spectronics AAC Ferret do his thing and find and filter through the hundreds of options for you before you make your final decision!

Every app has its own unique combination of features. Some have voice output, using either computer generated (synthesised) or recorded (digitised) speech. Some will have a symbol set and preprogrammed content already included, while others will rely on the user importing their own images and customising the content from the beginning. Some will need the user to directly access the screen while others will be switch accessible for people with more physical difficulties.

The person you are supporting will also have their own unique set of skills and abilities – they will need a communication system that matches their needs, otherwise the app will not be suitable.

We call the process by which a person’s strengths, abilities and needs are matched to available tools and strategies FEATURE MATCHING (Shane & Costello, 1994).  This is something therapists have been doing for their clients for years as part of a thorough AAC assessment and prescription process for low tech communication aids, high tech speech generative devices and more recently, mobile devices such as the iPad.

Too often we see a “one app suits all” approach to selecting a person’s communication system without some of the necessary background thinking to ensure it is matched specifically to the individual. Families may hear about “the best” app in the media or see a free one in the App Store and be driven by these factors in selecting an app, therapists will stick to the small number of apps they know how to support, or teachers may suggest that a particular app is suitable based on what other children in their class are using.

The AAC Ferret has a growing database of approximately 300 apps that have been evaluated by the Spectronics Consultancy Team according to the features they offer. You simply select any or all of the features you are looking for that match the skills of the individual you are supporting from a list. It will then filter the apps to show you those that match your search criteria.

There are many AAC app lists and feature matching resources out there that evaluate apps according to their features. These are helpful as a starting point, but the Ferret enhances your feature matching experience by:

  • filtering the apps based on your specific combination of criteria, also offering the ability to refine your original search;
  • providing a user friendly and intuitive app that finds apps for you and links you directly with the App Store description and screenshots;
  • allowing a PDF document to be generated with the results of your search;
  • providing in built support features such as preselected searches, a basic tutorial, info buttons for terminology definitions and email support and feedback.

Check out this brief webinar demonstrating the key features of the app.

The AAC Ferret will be useful to speech language pathologists, teachers, families and anyone wanting to make the right decision about which app they should download for their clients, students and family members with communication difficulties. Save yourself time and resources and let the ferret do the finding for you!

Get the AAC Ferret from the iTunes App Store here and let us know what you think!

Keep an eye out for other members of the Ferret family too – it is set to grow – you know what ferrets are like!

 

References

Shane, H., & Costello, J. (1994) Augmentative communication assessment and the feature matching process. Mini-seminar presented at the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, New Orleans, LA.

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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 has been working part-time with Spectronics and part-time with the Communication Resource Centre at Scope in Victoria.

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