Using Proloquo2Go to support language skills.

Written by Kate Grimes


 

It’s estimated that approximately 25% of individuals with autism are non verbal. Of the 75% who use verbal/ vocal communication many struggle with using language spontaneously and to initiate communication in social interaction. Communication devices are types of equipment (often in tablet form) that assist an individual to interact with others. They often have an interface with buttons/ icons that a student presses and the device speaks out a word or sentence when pressed.

Advances in technology have made communication devices more easily available and accessible to parents and families. Previously a communication device may have cost in the region of 10,000 USD. Nowadays communication apps can be purchased and used on iPads. They have become cheaper and more accessible for parents and families.

I’m always on the lookout for new apps that will support communication. It’s nice to give parents a couple of options. Selecting your child’s voice is an important decision!

I’ve used ‘Proloquo2Go’ with a number of children over the last few years. Proloquo2Go is a communication app that can be downloaded and used across most platforms. I’ve used it to work on requesting (asking for things a child wants), labelling, forming sentences and answering questions. Some other positive features with this app are:

  • It allows functional communication needs to be met e.g. requesting items, requesting help, attention or a break from an activity, requesting to use the toilet, refusing an item that is offered.
  • It is highly personalized- the users family and friends pictures can be taken and added to the app as buttons. This makes it easier to speak about relevant people in that person’s life.
  • Different interests can be grouped according to category e.g. favourite songs, movies, stories and jokes.
  • You can select the number of buttons that are put on the page. This means that as your child becomes more familiar with the app/ their comprehension skills improve you can increase the number of buttons/ pictures that you present to them on the interface.
  • You can colour code different icons according to their category e.g. pronouns in yellow, action words in green. This helps support sentence formulation skills.
  • You can take photos and add them to the app.
  • You can add text to the pictures/ buttons on the screen – which supports phonological awareness and literacy.
  • The settings on the iPad allow you to lock use of the iPad to the Proloquo2 app. This means that the iPad can be solely used for communication purposes rather than being used alongside other functions e.g. games, browsing online.
  • You can save templates on the page set up- which allows certain buttons to always be accessible e.g. the home button, toilet or water.
  • There is often a choice of picture symbols that can be used if you run a search on a key word e.g. ‘house’. This allows more realistic pictures to be used.
  • It can be updated quickly to support a child in a new communication setting e.g. to add vocabulary related to a new game or group activity at school or out in the community.

 

I have used Proloquo2Go with verbal and nonverbal students. Most recently I worked with a teen-ager, Fatima, who used the device to make requests and put short sentences together to communicate with her friends. Fatima used words to communicate but her articulation difficulties made it very difficult for other people to understand her. When we worked on answering questions the app acted as a visual prompt initially and also provided a spoken model to Fatima which she could copy. This made it easier for others to understand her when she spoke. It gave her a way to stay included in conversation and helped with developing her sentences.

I used Proloquo2Go with a seven year old boy, Mohamed, who had apraxia of speech alongside a diagnosis of autism. Before he started using the app he made his needs known by using picture exchange. This meant that he would hand over a picture of an item he wanted as a means to ask for it.

Having the app allowed Mohamed request for items he wanted and to comment on different topics. It allowed him to ask for his turn in a game and tell another child to follow an instruction in a game. It gave him more chances to interact with other students.

Proloquo2Go is a user friendly app and adding new vocabulary is straight forward. Mohamed’s other therapists and teachers could add new vocabulary to his app. This kept him included in conversations with friends e.g. telling a friend ‘ happy birthday Aisha’ or calling out the colours of the avatar his teacher would use to represent him in a game.

Communication apps can be used as an aid to support spoken language or as a student’s primary voice. It’s exciting to see the impact technology can have on a child’s everyday life. I’m looking forward to see how technology will continue to develop to meet the needs of children and adults with communication difficulties.

If you have any feedback we would love to hear from you!

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