'apps for autism' vs addressing the issues..

Since the very first AAC flash-cards in the late 60's there have been some terrific advances in the technology available to speech-impaired children and adults. From the desktop computer in the 80's, to the first unwieldy (and VERY expensive) dedicated devices, and now the iPad. And yet...

In 2017 has that much really changed? 


Even a quick glance at the history of voice assistive software applications reveals a surprising lack of innovation over time. Yes the hardware has improved massively and the cost is thankfully now a tiny fraction of the exorbitant prices of only a few years ago, but forty years on and the software is almost indistinguishable from the earliest efforts. It's not unreasonable to ask ourselves how can it be that assistive speech iPad apps for children with autism, apraxia, or developmentally delayed speech still ask users to hunt and peck for words, searching through tables and folders of stick figure drawings?

If the goal in creating assistive communications software is to provide a means for children to efficiently and clearly express their thoughts and feelings AND at the same time to help with further language development, then compared to the software advances in any other aspect of our lives, it's not difficult to conclude that the systems we're providing our children are woefully inadequate.

The time and effort needed for parents or speech professionals to set up tables/grids of words can range from days to weeks and months, and yet for far too many children grappling with static grid/folder interfaces and abstract concepts whilst trying to find more than a handful of words  is not only excruciatingly slow for the child and those listening, but also completely ignores any cognitive or developmental issues they may have.

We're not for a moment suggesting there is any one size fits all solution to address what are very complex and challenging issues, nor are we advocating the use of technology across the board (an iPad is just an iPad without a comprehensive development plan and support structure) but hopefully we're asking the right questions. This is what we saw as parents, and speaks to the singular reason we decided we wanted to put our companies full weight behind trying to address at least some of the issues. 

With 'aacorn' we're attempting to shake things up by providing speech-affected children of ALL ages and abilities with the means to express themselves via an INTELLIGENT adaptive solution that empowers them to build and speak anything from simple to highly complex sentences - at or near the speed of most other children!

But none of this means anything if the high cost of AAC apps means they remain out of reach vast majority of families, schools and language professionals. So we're committed to shaking things up there too to make assistive communication more accessibile for those who would benefit most.

With traditional AAC apps ranging in price from $200 to $500usd or more, aacorn is VERY competitively priced at $120usd, and because ever child is different we include a 30day money-back guarantee! 

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A Parents Review of AACORN

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Guest Post from Janice Ninomiya •  Whose son had been using all manner of traditional AAC apps and devices before discovering aacorn.

Reprinted with her kind permission, are Janice's thoughts on her and her son Ian's experiences using aacorn so far...

"I'm amazed at the speed of progress with AACORN after almost 5 years as an AAC user. Sentences! Actual sentences! Full sentences and not just simple ones! My obsessive son definitely tends to choose to communicate on the same themes over and over, but he is saying these things in different ways now, giving me different ways he wants his obsessions to manifest. And he also chooses to say other non-obsession-based things ON HIS OWN sometimes, and he will definitely "talk" on other subjects with prompting. Happily! He is thrilled with this app. No app can change his obsessions, but he is expanding his ways of expressing them! And that's huge.

Along with having severe apraxia, Down syndrome, and autism, my son is very language "challenged;" actually language disabled would be a more accurate term. He may be doing the same sort of thing as usual, stimming and obsessing on a few subjects, and he may usually need to be prompted to get out of his "ruts," but he is obsessing in complete sentences, not by just pushing everything in a folder seemingly randomly. Previously when it came to using an AAC to express what he wants, he mostly didn't; he'd either do nothing, repeat the second choice vocalized in echolalic fashion, or he pushes every button if in a folder. And, he would have to choose the right folder to find that word in a folder-based AAC, which isn't so difficult if the sentence is "want xxx" but isn't so easy if the sentence gets longer than that. 

The nice thing about using this app for making choices is that he will only be able to make one choice before the other choices disappear and he is automatically presented with new next word options. I'm totally amazed how much of a difference it makes to be able to limit his options for the next word and to be able to (have the app) guide him to that next word via the word tree. The center word on screen is surrounded with only 5 words to choose from, limiting the choices a child HAS to make. But, of course, there are other choices that CAN be made: by tapping on the center word, 5 more choices come up again and again (and he is learning to do that) and there is always the 6th item in the circle, a plus sign, which brings up all of the other words in the app, found in category folders or searched for by typing them. He is making much longer sentences in AACORN. 

I think the real child’s voice in aacorn is nice, but I would rather have a computer generated voice that could pronounce new words I add in (through a phonics system), which is what I'm used to. Every app in existence is lacking a very significant percentage of the words my son needs when it comes to his favorite categories: friends, food, and activities. When I add a word, it is in a different voice, in this case mine. This doesn't bother my son at all, nor does the fact that the voice is too young for him (which may even be more of a plus than a minus for someone who views themselves as younger than they really are, as he does). 

I have to program in all sentences for him and vary those sentences so the progression isn't just from one word to one word to one word around the center word, but he seems to have no trouble choosing the right one of those 5 choices and sending the sentences in the direction he wants. He has a great memory, which is really helping. But he has very poor sentence structure skills, as far as I can see. He can't comprehend sentence structure when being spoken to; he appears to just pick out the words he knows--mostly the nouns, some verbs, and a few descriptive words with no connecting grammar words at all it seems--from what is said to him, and then he guesses from context what you are trying to say; he doesn't always guess right. Since I'm making the original sentences, I'm pretty-much putting words in his mouth and just letting him choose which of my words he wants to say, but, as obsessive as are the choices he makes, he is choosing what to say. And he is playing around with saying other things too. Today, on the way home from his private capoeira lesson, he said, "I had fun at Will's house," which knew meant that he would love to go to Will's. I responded by prompting him to say, "I had fun at capoeira." He threw me a look; that obviously was not what he wanted to say after three hours of cartwheels, kicks, and ginga; this wasn't news to me, but at least he was able to tell me what he would have rather been doing! 

My son has been using AAC for 5 years, but his cognitive, behavior, and language issues have made it difficult for him to progress toward making any but the most basic sentences and those sentences only with some major app tweaking. I had him memorizing his first sentence immediately with AACORN, and he has learned a number of other sentences since just as immediately and learned to vary them. My son loves this AMAZING APP! He is able to say things with it that he never could manage to say with a standard folder-based AAC app. 

It is no exaggeration at all to call AACORN our Christmas Miracle!”

i. AACORN - The 'Intelligent' AAC solution for children, is available for iPad, iPad Air and iPad mini. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aacorn-aac-intelligent-solution/id732419715?mt=8

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What others are saying about aacorn


Professor Sheena Reilly

Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

Associate Director, Clinical and Public Health Research



" We are extremely excited to have been involved in the creation and testing of aacorn, an assistive communications platform that has the cognitive ability and developmental needs of each child at the heart of its design.

Typically AAC devices and software have featured a very static interface of tables and folders. aacorn does away with this approach by presenting words as they are needed, via a dynamically changing 'word tree' with branching pathways. This not only makes words easier to find, it  encourages children of all ages and abilities to expand their vocabulary, and enables them to speak both simple and complex sentences with relative ease.

Parents, health and educational professionals should be very excited by the arrival of aacorn as the first of a new wave of 'intelligent' AAC solutions that will help to unlock a child's real potential to communicate. "


Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) is world renowned for its research into infant, child and adolescent health.  The Institute conducts research into conditions affecting children, such as speech and learning development, allergies, diabetes, and obesity, as well as finding answers to unsolved problems such as cancer and genetic conditions.  MCRI Website.

Professor Reilly has been a practising speech pathologist for over 30 years, working with children with communication problems and developmental challenges. Her research focuses on children's speech and language development, with a special interest in disorders of fluency, speech and language.



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iTunes Screens

Inching ever closer folks. With a launch just around the corner.. here's a sneak peak at some of the screens we're providing to Apple for the App Store.



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The 7 Rules of next-gen AAC software.

In setting out to create aacorn we set the bar very high, asking tough questions of ourselves and the industry, that in turn led to our creating the 7 Rules of next-gen AAC software.

1. Design for children! Assistive software should be easy for kids to learn and use, and  include Instructions!

2. Enable children to communicate clearly and without delay. No more Hunting and Pecking for Words!

3. A modern solution will use an 'adaptive' layout that caters to each individual child's cognitive ability.

4. It should empower even the most severely speech-affected child to build and speak both simple AND complex sentences.

5. A child is not a robot! No more computer-generated generic ADULT voices.


6. Stick Figures are not engaging to children in an iPhone/iPad world. We can have SYMBOLS that are clearer and make it fun! 


7. An assistive app should be customisable! It should grow with the child. 


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