In the past 2 days I was very fortunate to spend some time again with David Niemeijer, CEO & founder of AssistiveWare. David and some of his team were in Australia promoting their flagship app, Proloquo2go, and worked tirelessly to educate parents, carers, educators and therapists on the life-changing uses of the app.
I am still a relative 'novice' to Proloquo2go in the sense that I have greatly underestimated its power in special education, until now. David's team recently released version 3.0 of the app as a free update, which has made it an even more formidable tool.
Proloquo2Go® is an award-winning Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all. Providing a “voice” to over 50,000 individuals around the world, Proloquo2Go enables people to talk using symbols or typed text in a natural-sounding voice that suits their age and character.
To say that David and Jennifer were great presenters is an understatement. Their passion for helping people with disabilities is inspiring and their patience when dealing with end-user's requests and questions is a wonderful example we could all follow in our daily lives.
Our day started with a thorough overview of Proloquo2Go v3.0 and its new features, as well as a brief but effective reviewing of the basic uses of Proloquo2Go for newbies. Even without any coffee, David and Jennifer had my full attention as they went through the app and its potential uses for people of all ages and ability ranges.
For v3.0 Assistiveware teamed up with Accapella Group to create 4 unique Australian voices that are highly accurate in pronunciation and subtle voice inflections. It was quite awe inspiring seeing and hearing people's reactions to the new voices being demonstrated.
Another notable addition to v3.0 is the ExpressivePower™ options that allow users to express themselves with greater variety of tones and articulation. You could not remove the smile from my face as David demonstrated the variety of examples that users could now use to express the word 'dad'. The whole room erupted in laughter as he went on to demonstrate some of the Australian colloquialisms that have been added, such as 'bloody idiot!', 'bugger off' and 'd%$k head!'. Though controversial to some, the ability to curse and express absolute frustration is something most people, including myself take for granted.
For a full list of the new additions to Proloquo2Go 3.0, check out this link.
I became giddy with excitement as David demonstrated how easily one could customise sentences to simple 2-letter shortcuts that were then linked to a desired language and voice, yet in the same paragraph could transition to another language and voice. Brilliant! The presence of the Brazilian Portuguese voice pushed me over the edge, but i'll explain why in a post later this year.
Other features in Proloquo4Text:
- Word and sentence prediction
- Speak as you type
- Word and sentence highlighting
- Multi-user support
- Sharing through iMessage, Mail, Twitter and Facebook.
Proloquo4Text is due to be released in a few months time and David estimates that it will be cheaper than Proloquo2Go and slightly more expensive than similar apps by competitors.
As a speech pathologist and specialist in AAC, Jennifer brought a new element to the presentation, one that was equally as inspiring and engaging as the morning's. What I took away from her presentation was very similar to my views about the iPad in education. You can't simply give a child or student the app or device and expect it to do wonders. Knowing your child or student and their needs is paramount and time and effort must be invested if you are to truly use the full potential of the app.
Jennifer's presentation was clear and logically backed by examples that linked in real-time with the app. My colleauge, Naserah Khan, a specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I were bursting with ideas and desire to implement Proloquo2Go in new ways at Jackson School.
The clarity and detail that David and Jennifer provided on Proloquo2Go's use, implementation and so much more was exceptional, and I am truly thankful for the efforts they went to in order to get their message across to such a mixed group of professionals and carers alike.
So where to next?