The Grace App for Autism Communication on the iPod Touch.

A while back I wrote about my communication problems with our Autistic son Tom, and my intention of trying out a new method (or six).  So for around a month now I have been using the Grace App on an iPod Touch with him and his three-year old sister Georgie.

What the app is (in my own words):  Simply an electronic picture communication board or a sentence constructor.  You’ll find lot’s more information about the App on the Grace App Blog – http://graceappforautismoniphone.blogspot.com/  You use the Grace App in the same way you would picture communication folders or boards, the child looks at the set of pictures and constructs a ‘sentence’ by tapping each picture they need and it appears on the sentence strip at the bottom of the screen. 

And so far we’re loving it!  Here’s why…

  • My kids were able to use it first go. 
  • Very easy to use.
  • Extra pictures can be easily added. This means you can expand the choices without having to print, laminate and velcro new pictures.
  • You can use your own pictures for familiarity.
  • I don’t have to cart a folder with me everywhere now, just the iPod touch in the back pocket. (Had considered an iPad, but a Touch is far more practical for size and use in our situation).
  • Teachers & Caregivers I have shown so far, have been very enthusiastic about using the Grace App, because it is so simple.  One of my sons aide’s is using it at school with my son already.  Awesome.
  • It is encouraging fine motor skill practice for my son.

 I am really happy with the App, and to tell the truth a bit surprised that it went so well.  Right now the App is priced at $45 Au, which is about middle of the range for these kind of Apps – the decent Apps can be quite pricey.  I had intended to try the Go Talk or the Tap to Talk  systems, but the overall cost of setting those up came to a couple of hundred dollars more than setting the Grace App up on a Touch, and that includes the price of the iPod.  This is the only App set up for Communication pictures – to be used the way kids are have learnt to use them at their schools and support units, that I have found.  Some come close and are very similar, but this looks the same because you can make it use the same pictures.  This is the reason I think my kids took it so easily.  This App does not ‘talk’ like other App’s, I have tried the talking voice Apps but my kids tended to play with them tapping pictures at random just to hear the voice speak.   The only negative I can spot with the Grace App, and this is just for our use mind.  Is the pictures need to be slightly larger for choice making, and I really would love there to be a sound (like a little click) that indicates that a picture has been chosen – my son seems to need to have an indicator he has pressed on the picture.  And I’d love to be able to sort my added on pictures into the categories that already exist and remove some pictures that I may not need, but I hear this is coming in the next App update – looking forward to that, and we are already saving for a second Touch unit so both kids can have their own.   I strongly encourage parents of non-verbal children who use communication pictures to check out the Grace App on iTunes.  PS: I haven’t been paid for this blog post nor asked to do it by the App creators – see now you know I’m serious 🙂

14 Comments

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14 Responses to The Grace App for Autism Communication on the iPod Touch.

  1. Hi Candy, what a lovely review. I hope when you have made the sentence you are tilting the phone to make the “sentence strip” full size to present, point and attempt each word?

    I know we have lagged behind the other apps in setting up websites and explanatory videos so it would be completely down to me if this step was missed in our presentations – sorry!

    You totally “get” the app. It isn’t a talking tool or AAC device. It is a replacement for your portable pecs book with the ability to add pictures more easily without resorting to printer, laminator and the dreaded velcro. All our kids still have their pecs books on their desk and have the option of using either when at home or school.

    I smiled when I saw your suggestion for a “sound” to denote when you have selected a card. Steve Troughton-Smith offered to put a velcro sound effect in the original proto-type because he said that he likes the sound of velcro and imagined the kids would too.

    I refused as I wanted the app to run in real time on the old 3G and 2G phones.
    However, since most people are using the 16 G iTouch as their entry level device, rather than an old iPhone, I think we should re-visit the suggestion. I will forward your post to Steve.

    As for categories? You Bet, Coming Soon etc. I believe Apple are going to add some kind of copy and paste facility for pictures as part of the software upgrade on version 4:0. And these upgrades come through to older phones when you sync.
    New pictures would live in the ninth button as they do now, but you could copy and paste into the right category too. With a tap of the screen.

    If it doesn’t happen then Steve will create it – but it would be simpler if it comes with the software as it will just be part of the App, rather than a separate exercise.

    The camera adding facility was part of the main phone to start with but Steve made the camera work in the app after my daughter tried to take photo independently of a toy she wanted.
    I think this is why we saw an increase in shared attention as we could both see the same thing “in” the app straight away. Rather than a abstract drawing from a pecs card or the necessary delay in producing a photo.

    Putting the copy and paste into the app will support the independence of the user taking control of the phone themselves. So hopefully it won’t be long till we get that.

    Oh and I tested a lot of talking apps too during development. My elder autie Liam loves Proloque2Go but as an entertainment as he has fluent speech himself. He types his film credits into the keyboard and then presses the button to have Stephen Hawking’s younger sister recite them back to him. Hours of fun. xx

    • Yep we’re onto the tilting action. It’s the chosing stage that we’d love to be just a smidge larger, my lad seems to have issues with finding the picture he is looking for sometimes.
      Thank you so much for taking my feedback on board for the update.
      Please let me know about any Grace App news along the way.
      Cheers Candy.

  2. A friend was showing me all the free iPhone Apps for Autism she was able to download during April (Autism Awareness Month). I was most envious and have an iPhone at the top of my tech wish list.

    One thing about most of the Apps that really put me off was the American accent when the voice talked. So a non talking App would be just lovely.

    • Yes the voices are a bit funny. My daughter has started calling her doll, Dall. But I blame tv for that.
      There are a few apps that you can record your own voice into as well, might be something to look at if you head that way.
      But we found that the talking apps are really just a toy to my kids who just want to hear the woman say stuff at the press of a button.
      This communication picture system app is still working great for us. 🙂

  3. Ro

    That is a great review and update, thanks for sharing.
    A friend who’s a psychologist is interested in apps particularly aimed at those with ASD as he specialises in that area – I’ll forward your url to him 😉

  4. leechbabe: it is like driving with Stephen Hawking’s younger sister! You get a choice of 4 voices on Prolouque2go and they are all american.
    I wonder will they expand it like they do with Sat Navs? I choose Stephen Fry in that case. xx

    • I want a sat nav with Yoda’s voice.

    • very interesting discussion all round. We are trying to get iDevices to autistic adults here in the uk, many of whom never get to touch or even see a computer. I’m replying here because pq2go has worked up some British voices so they will probably get round to some more variety, specially if you ask them directly to do that. They seem to be very helpful people.

  5. Lisa we’ve been listening to the Harry Potter Audiobooks read by Stephen Fry and they are awesome 🙂

    Also rather liked Kate Winslet reading the Enchanted Wood, Magic Faraway Tree books.

    Sadly my youngest has a American accent as she copied her speech patterns from American TV shows. At least she stopped speaking in spanish after we banned Dora. I’ve enough trouble communicating with her in English let alone adding more languages to the mix.

  6. What i find difficult is to find a blog that can capture me for a minute but your posts are not alike. Bravo.

  7. Many thanks for taking the effort and time to create some thing that’s thought provoking

  8. Oh, thought I would add that we put in category sorting in update April 2010. Now I’m working on a Training System App and 6 language versions. I’m debating with myself and my developer about adding the facility to add categories… What do youse think?
    Lisa xx

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