Voice4U Special Offer: AAC app for Professionals

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Article first published as Voice4U Special Offer: AAC app for Professionals on Technorati.

Voice4U application for iOS and Android.  Photo courtesy of http://voice4uaac.com.I've posted before about applications available on iOS in the past that were useful to helping children with autism communicate and learn. Some have focused on learning life skills, such as Look In My Eyes, or others have been on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Most often, they are apps that I have either read about or managed to try myself. Rarely do I get the opportunity or pleasure to have a company make a special offer to all professionals who are looking for an app to recommend.

Today, I got one. Yumi Kubo, co-founder of Spectrum Visions Global, Inc. sent me an email regarding their product, Voice4u. The App, an AAC application, has received general positive reviews from what I can see. Yumi made me aware of a program where they grant licenses for their product to NPO's, therapists, and school teachers for free. You can find more information here, and sign up for a free license.

But why is this such a big deal? Well, mobile devices have made a huge difference in the world of autism. Their impact has spawned events such as the AT&T-Autism Speaks Mobile App Hackathon, headlined this year by reigning Miss Montana and former Miss America contestant Alexis Wineman, which focuses on developing mobile applications to assist those with autism. Parents and autism specialists have gravitated to tablets as tools to help their children communicate, learn, and display their intelligence.

Tablets, particularly capacitive display tablets like iPad, Xoom, or the Galaxy Tab, present a simple gross-motor interface (using a pointed finger to "touch" something) in order to relate that event to something directly. For instance, a child with autism can touch a picture of a cat and have the tablet say "cat" for them. It requires less translation between action and result than, say, a keyboard which requires you to hit a key and expect a result. Add to the fact that these tablets and phones are more mobile than a full blown computer, and you have a great combination.

Applications merely translate this gross motor behavior into the desired result. With AAC applications, you can tap a picture to have the word "said" for you. Some will let you drag your pictures into a "sentence", and then you can play that sentence. Others will convert text to speech, encourage looking someone in the eye, or provide learning events as games to engage the student. These mobile devices may have unlocked the door, but the applications make all the difference.

But the elephant in the room is the cost of the application. Even for a trial run, you have to purchase the app. And AAC or other autism-specific applications are not inexpensive. They range from the most expensive (and comprehensive) app at $189.00 to others that are free, but require several in-app purchases to be made extensive. It's nice to see these apps issued free to those professionals in need of the free trial for evaluation, so they can with confidence offer that same application to parents.