Monday, May 23, 2011

The world of AAC: Dynavoxes and other Communication Devices

One decision families are faced with in their journey is that of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. On the electronic side of things there are a few devices out there for consideration, most notably the Dynavox.

Please know that we are not that well versed in many of these devices to make much comment about it at all. We do not have one in our house. If you are considering a Dynavox and an iPad - I would say there is no clear winner generally, it is dependent on circumstance. Here are some thoughts that can help in guiding you through some important questions to ask if making this choice:

1) Exposure before you purchase: Have the child try the technology first. You may find someone with an iPad - but finding the specific software communication package may also be a challenge. If you live in the Syracuse area, please contact me if you would like to try an iPad. Dynavox has a rental program: For more information, click here.
2) Durability: Consider that Dynavox has been around a lot longer than the iPad - the hardware has a proven track record of durability and responsiveness. However, in the years time that iPad has been out - there have been few complaints, but it still does not have the history to give a definite conclusion. Consider that tgere are few complaints, and there is a manufacturer that makes something called an Otterbox that is a very strong case to support the iPad.

3) Technical Support: Dynavox will be able to provide specific assistance about a lot of the facets of their device. This device was designed very specifically to be used as a communications device. The iPad is a generically designed device - so they cannot guide you on the software apps you may purchase. We have no working knowledge of how a company such as Proloquo2Go can provide the same service. However, in our basic interactions with the software companies that write apps for the iPad, they appear to be open to feedback and suggestions, so likely will be there for tech support.

4) Cost: The Dynavox is significantly more expensive than the iPad. However, it may be easier to get assistance in funding one. (Medicaid or insurance funding)

5) Experience: Consider the team that will be supporting your child. Are they well versed in the use of a particular device? Expertise could make a world of difference. Continued use of either device is strongly dependent on the support their team and family offer on using it.

6) Purpose: Is the purpose of the device to be AAC only? Are you interested in other applications that go beyond AAC?

7) Child's Strengths and Needs: Consider how your child would like to work with the device. Some ASD kids often find the concept of communication device an aversive in general since it is a skill that is so difficult for them. Would having a device that has games and other applications cause the child a distraction in using it as an AAC? Or would it help to motivate him in using the device for many needs and interests?

Some other links to check out when looking at other families make this decision:

We look forward to our members commenting on their experiences. Good luck!


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