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