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Getting Started...

We all know that there are several communication apps out there.  However, what you don't see a lot of are directions and guidelines about how to make use of them to get the best results.  Individuals and their families who have already started using the more traditional Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices out there have received several hours of training from the AAC vendors, and predominantly the speech professionals at the school or hospital have been working with the individual one-on-one prior to the device even going home.  Now with the advent of the iPad, many app developers are jumping into the AAC ring.  And believe me, this is a good thing overall, because new faces and ideas help create an environment for change and improvement.  However, we must remember that while these apps are empowering the parents and caregivers of individuals with special needs to seek out alternate solutions from many different vendors, we musn't lose sight of the fundamentals.  Communication is an exchange, and learning is a collaborative.  Great apps by themselves are merely tools.  It's the one-on-one time with parents, caregivers, teachers, and other professionals that make all the difference. 

Below are a few tips for your reference when starting to use So Much 2 Say.  They were written in collaboration with two speech and language pathologists, Danielle Morris MA/CCC-SLP, and Regina Giambone MA/CCC-SLP. 

Sincerely,

Kirsten and Eric Ferguson

 

First things first:

Take some time to get familiar with the app.  When the app is launched, 2 cards are displayed on the Homepage.  Touch a card and you hear a recorded vioce vocalizing a request.  A card is made up of a picture, a label, and a recorded voice.  We have included 10 of them to get you started (located in the Card Library).  If you choose to use any of these included cards you can easily record your own familiar voice over the voice we have provided.   However, we strongly encourage you to make your own cards, specific and meaningful to the individual.  When creating new cards, you can choose from the 45 built-in images, any image in your iPad photo library, or take a picture on the spot (available only on iPad2).  Some apps include thousands of images.  We purposely did not to encourage you to use your own images.  Concrete, familiar images will be more meaningful than generic representations.  A picture of a bag of the Learner’s favorite brand of potato chips is going to have more meaning than a generic picture of a few random potato chips.  Start taking pictures of what is most important to the Learner.  Food is a great starting point.  Save the images to the iPad Photo Library, or take pictures within the app on your iPad 2 to create new cards immediately. Go into the Card Library and choose Create New.  The app will literally walk you through the card creation process.  Click here to view video tutorials covering all aspects of So Much 2 Say!

Enlist the help/advice of the Learner’s educational/hospital support staff

We strongly urge family members and/or care givers to discuss the use of any AAC system with the Learner’s teachers and/or therapists before beginning.  Continuity between all environments will optimize results.  Also, it’s important to check with their professionals to ensure that what you’re doing won’t contradict that work being done in other settings.  The Learner’s educational or hospital support staff will have insights that can give you more success.  With their support you can easily modify So Much 2 Say to align with whatever form of communication system is being used in other settings, whether it’s a low tech picture exchange program or another AAC device.

Choose the right setting to begin using So Much 2 Say

So Much 2 Say should only be used in one setting during the initial training period. The setting may be your home, the classroom, the hospital, etc.  Once the Learner is using So Much 2 Say consistently and successfully in one setting, it can then be used across multiple settings.

In the beginning, limit the Learner’s use of So Much 2 Say

We strongly urge you to limit the Learner’s use of So Much 2 Say, and in many cases the iPad itself, to short and structured learning sessions until such time that the Learner is proficiently navigating the app to make appropriate requests.  Especially in the beginning - every request must be reinforced immediately and consistently in order to see real results.  If the Learner is left to play with the app and taps pictures without getting reinforcement then the cause and effect relationship is lost.  The Leaner’s ability to use the tool can be adversely affected.

The Learner must be taught to seek the attention of the communicative partner

The most critical aspect of this entire process is Communicative Intent.  Communicative intent is the purposeful and interactive exchange of language, gestures, and/or pictures for the purpose of communicating with a Communicative Partner.  You can teach the Learner to tap a picture of chocolate, but if you don’t ensure from the very beginning that the Learner actively seeks your attention before making a request, then you are simply teaching the Learner to tap a picture of chocolate.  The Learner must be taught to actively seek the attention of the communicative partner through the use of eye contact, gestures, physical prompts, and/or verbal prompts before making a request.

Teach cause and effect

  1. Choose just one item that is highly motivating and display the card on the homepage.
  2. Let the Learner see the actual item, but only give the actual item to the Learner when he/she requests it by touching the card on So Much 2 Say.
  3. Physically move the Learner’s hand/finger to touch the card the first few times.  This is called a physical prompt.
  4. A tap on the arm may be a necessary physical prompt in the early stages as well, however, try not to use any verbal prompts (i.e. “touch here”).
  5. Change the highly motivating item and corresponding card several times to ensure that the Learner understands that the card matches the item requested.  If you only use potato chips the Learner might believe the iPad is a potato chip getting machine.  Now there’s an idea for a new app!

Teach the Learner to discriminate between pictures to make choices

  1. Change to a 2 card page layout.  Use one highly reinforcing item and pair with one non-preferred item.  Have both actual items in sight.
  2. Hold the actual items in front of you and gesture for the Learner to choose one.  Keep your verbalizations to a minimum.
  3. Prompt the Learner to tap the desired card.  Give the requested item immediately, even if you know this was not the intended choice.  The Learner will learn that the wrong choice was made and will refuse the item.  Physically prompt the Learner to touch the card for the desired item.
  4. Change the position of the cards frequently so that the individual does not rely on position and must visually discriminate between the two cards.
  5. Try several combinations of preferred vs. non-preferred combinations.
  6. Add a second non-preferred card by choosing a 4 card layout, leaving the 4th card blank.  Have all three actual items in sight but out of reach.  Follow steps above.
  7. Once the Learner is consistently and successfully requesting the preferred item you can begin to introduce two preferred cards to allow the Learner to make real choices.
  8. Over time you can begin to remove the actual items, relying solely on the app for choice making.
  9. Depending on the Learner’s abilities, you can have up to 6 cards per page. Keep adding cards to the Homepage and once the number of visible cards exceeds the current “cards per page” setting, additional pages are accessible by swiping pages back and forth.

Teach the Learner to navigate to another screen using the category based feature

Once the Learner is successfully discriminating among a variety of different cards you may want to begin using the category based navigation.

  1. Use the category based option in the edit menu.
  2. Create categories that are appropriate and meaningful to the Learner.
  3. Start with only one category folder card on the homepage.
  4. Provide a physical prompt if needed to get the Learner to tap the folder card opening up the page containing all of the choices for that category. Keep in mind that you, the administrator, can hide any item within a given category.
  5. Add more categories as you feel are appropriate.
  6. Be sure not to add too many categories at once. We don’t want to overwhelm the Learner. Everyone gets to work at their own pace with So Much 2 Say.

Teach Ownership of So Much 2 Say

Once the Learner is using So Much 2 Say to make choices consistently, a portion of each training session should include teaching the Learner to view So Much 2 Say as his/her “words.” Ownership needs to be taught.

  1. Encourage the Learner to travel with the iPad from one place to another.
  2. Assist the Learner to actively search for his/her words (i.e. the iPad) to convey a want or need when the device is out of sight. For example: You’re in the kitchen and the Learner is trying to convey to you that he/she wants a cookie. This is your chance! Non-verbally redirect the Learner to the iPad which may be in another room. Now he/she can use So Much 2 Say to effectively get the message across. Make sure you have that cookie ready!

Click here to view video tutorials covering all aspects of So Much 2 Say!

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