The iPad for Communication: Where to Begin?

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This article was contributed by Amy Perry, an Autism Resource Specialist for the Autism Society of North Carolina.

The iPad can be used as a powerful tool for communication, but many families are stumped about where to begin. Apps for communication range from simple text-to-speech to full-fledged Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems with pictures and full customization. Prices for these apps can range from free to several hundred dollars. Finding the right fit for your child with autism can be a multi-step process. If you are just beginning to explore whether the iPad might be helpful to establish better communication, an app that is a good first step for many is Answers:YesNo by Simplified Touch, available for the iPhone and iPad in the App Store.

Yes No mainAnswers:YesNo allows the user to make the simple choice between “yes” or “no.” As the parent of a nonverbal 17-year-old, I have found this app incredibly helpful when I need quick communication from my child. The design of the app is visually very simple. Half of the screen is a large green square that says “yes,” and the other side is a large red square with “no.” The app speaks each word when it is pressed and includes five voice options: man, woman, boy, girl, and cartoon. You can also record your own voice.

In addition to Yes/No options, the app lets you set up your own A/B choices. An A/B choice is a simple choice between two things. “Would you like to have an apple or a cracker?” “Would you like to ‘take a bath’ or ‘clean up toys’?” These types of choices empower people with autism, especially those with limited or no verbal communication. These individuals often live in a world in which we constantly make decisions and choices for them, without ever realizing it. Allowing a choice, even a simple one, is empowering, and in many cases, it reduces frustration in behavior. We give my daughter choices as often as possible, with and without this app. Some choices are silly: “Do you want to use a fork or a spoon to eat your soup?” Other choices are more complex: “Do you want to take a bath or clean your room?” The key is in the power of making a choice, even if the choice is obvious to us.

Yes No 2Answers:YesNo allows you to set up six “favorites” buttons of A/B choices that can be used for choices you commonly make such as “cereal or pancakes” or “juice or milk.” You create these options in the “setup/options” menu. You can even add your own pictures and text and record your own audio. In addition to six “favorites” choices, you have six “lessons” pages, each with six options. This gives the app 42 customizable choices in addition to the basic yes/no. For just a few dollars, this app is highly customizable. Choices can be set up almost as quickly as typing them in and recording the sound. I can set up a choice for my child in less than a minute and very often solve a problem before it begins.

Answers:YesNo uses clear, simple visuals to enable choices. It is easy to customize with your own voice and pictures. The background colors for each choice can be changed to create further differentiation. I like this app for its quick and easy use and as an introduction to communication through the iPad. For easy access, I keep the icon for this app in the bottom row of my iPad, so it appears on every page.

Please let me know what you think of Answers:YesNo. Is it a Yes? Or a No?

Amy Perry can be reached at 910-864-2769, ext. 1206, or aperry@autismsociety-nc.org.

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