Picture AAC app is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication app designed to enable people who have little or no functional speech to communicate. It aims to support individuals with special needs like autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), cerebral palsy (CP), speech and language impairments / delays, down syndrome, hearing impairments, dysarthria, aphasia, intellectual disability (ID), and developmental delay to communicate effectively.
Inability to communicate effectively can be highly frustrating for non-verbal people as their needs are not being understood by others. This inability to communicate effectively can lead to challenging behaviors for some autistic individuals. For non-verbal children and teenagers, lack of effective communication will also impact adversely progress in learning other skills and knowledge.
A significant proportion of individuals with autism spectrum disorders of all ages are likely to require AAC for expressive communication, either temporarily (until speech develops) or permanently. In addition, many individuals with ASDs – even those with relatively intact speech and language, may benefit from AAC support to enhance comprehension (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ASHA, 2005).
People with autism spectrum disorders have learning strengths and weaknesses. For many, auditory input, such as speech, is one of the most challenging modalities, while information absorbed through sight may be much more easily mastered (Cohen M. & Sloan D. ,2007).
AAC interventions may be particularly suitable for individuals with ASDs because they require processing of visual information that can be made non-transient, which these individuals find easier to process than the auditory transient information of speech (Mirenda & Schuler, 1988). Studies indicate that there is suggestive to conclusive evidence that teaching the use of graphic symbols is effective in promoting the acquisition of requesting behavior in individuals with ASDs ( Wendt, 2009).
Picture AACTM app is designed based on study of various literature and research on visual supports, visual strategies, visual reinforcement, assistive technology, and augmentative and alternative communication for people with special needs. Picture AAC app’s design inspiration comes from traditional Communication Book / Board ( folder with picture symbol cards secured on fabric fastener ), that have been used successfully over the past 2 decades with non-verbal individuals with autism and other individuals with a variety of communication difficulties.
Though traditional Communication Books has proven to work, several issues prevented traditional Communication Books from being adopted beyond school environment, including highly time-consuming efforts required of care-givers to create and maintain the cards, and some caregivers are concerned with undue attention it attracts when using the cards in public places.
Picture AAC app offers the solution.Picture AAC app which runs on Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch devices, offering an intuitive form of visual communication using pictures that harvest new technology to provide a portable, accessible, easy-to-use aided AAC system that benefits people with special needs, their communication partners and care-givers.
Hearty SPIN worked closely with many professionals, including special education teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists and in collaboration with AWWA School, a special education school in Singapore, in designing the app. AWWA School has been dutifully serving students with multiple disabilities and autism for many years. In 2011, AWWA School’s management team initiated an innovative pilot program to use iPad devices to engage and teach their students. As part of the pilot program, Picture AAC app was used with children with autism, cerebral palsy, ID and speech impairments with very encouraging results.
Picture AAC app is now available on Apple iTunes App Store.