Paru le mardi 12 avril 2011 sur The Gazette
App called Proloquo2Go whets appetite of non-verbal child
Inexpensive iPad program helps reach and teach autistic boy
By Jessica Howard, The Gazette April 12, 2011 6:55 AM Be the first to post a comment
MONTREAL — Banana, orange or pudding? It's snack time and 6-year-old Connor has a choice to make.
But he is autistic and doesn't communicate verbally, so understanding his daily wants and needs has often been a struggle for his parents, Enzo and Carmie (who don't want to identify their son by using family names).
For about six months, the family tried a Picture Exchange Communication System, which involved placing laminated images on a Velcro strip to express requests or responses. But Carmie said its success depended on them to always have the right images on hand. "I had all these little pictures in a big box . and I'd have to change them . I got so fed up with it." Connor's own frustration at not being understood often led to tantrums.
"When I didn't know what he wanted, I felt helpless," Carmie says. "That was the hardest part."
They're now trying a communication tool that's considerably more userfriendly. The family bought an iPad and an app called Proloquo2Go a few months ago, and it's helping them connect with Connor. They learned how to use the app from Andrea Prupas, whose company, Inov8 Educational Consulting, trains families of special-needs children, schools and other organizations in assistive technology tools.
Because the iPad is a consumer product that's more widely available than many dedicated communication devices, "this is a grassroots movement coming from parents who are trying this with their children at home," Prupas says.
An iPad starts at about $420, and Proloquo2Go, which is so far available only in English, costs $189. Recently, Quebec's allowance for special needs program, which provides coverage to students for resources including communication devices, has begun accepting applications for iPads.
Since starting to use the iPad, Connor has learned that when he wants something, he grabs an image of the device off the door of the fridge and takes it to his parents. They get the device and open Proloquo2Go, which allows people who have difficulty speaking to tap a series of images to form sentences. At the moment, he's more interested in fun than food.
"I want," the iPad says as Connor taps images, "to play ball." Later, between bounces, he comes back to choose from a menu of snack options. "I want to eat orange," the iPad says, as Connor taps. The app has more than 7,000 images, and users can upload their own photographs, customizing it to specific people and situations: home, the grocery store, therapy sessions, school. The app grows with users' ability to communicate, Prupas says, and is continuously being updated with new features.
Connor's progress led his mother to show Proloquo2Go to his behaviour therapists, who "flipped out" at seeing how Connor interacted with it. She also considers it a must for Connor to have the iPad with him at REACH, a St. Lambert school for children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, where he will go in September. "I want to know that my son has a tool to make requests. I don't want him to be lost there because he's non-verbal."
REACH, which is part of the Riverside School Board, has been using iPads with success since last fall, says principal Caryn Shacter. They are shared among classrooms and used by students for both communication and learning.
But consumer tablets and apps address the needs of only a fraction of the special-needs community, says Ed Donnelly, CEO of DynaVox, which has been producing speech-generating devices for 25 years. Donnelly says the company's devices offer a more complex level of communication than apps now do.
Still, for those who can use an iPad, the relatively low cost offers the opportunity to try it and various apps out without a major investment, says Ross White, computer specialist at Giant Steps, a private school for autistic students in Montreal West.
A free, hands-on demonstration of Proloquo2Go for parents and caregivers of children with autism and developmental delays will be held June 5 at the Apple store, 1321 Ste. Catherine St. W. Registration required at www.Inov8-ed.com
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/called+Proloquo2Go+whets+appetite+verbal+child/4600963/story.html#ixzz1JK0UiZ4e