One of my favorite assignments of this semester was an extra credit assignment for aphasia. For this assignment, we were asked to use and observe someone using an alternative or augmentative communication (AAC) device in a public setting without using natural speech. The AAC device that I used was Speech Assistant AAC, which is a free app that is available on Android phones through the Google Store. To use this app, the person with communication difficulties uses their phone to type in the phrases they want to say and then they press the play button.
I decided to use this device at an on-campus café to order orange juice. The phrases I typed in were “Hello, I have speech difficulties” and “I would like orange juice”. The cashier at the café then asked if that was all and I typed in “yes”, and then she asked how I was paying and I typed in “credit”. The cashier then told me to have a good day and I responded with “thanks you”. I meant to type in “thanks, you too”, but I pressed the play button before I had the chance. I have to admit that I was surprised the cashier did not become frazzled when I used my phone to communicate and not my voice. She nodded and smiled the whole time I was ordering juice. This probably had something to do with the fact that there wasn’t anyone behind us and I only ordered one item.
One pro about Speech Assistant AAC is that it is available on Android phones. I’ve noticed that many of the apps SLPs use are exclusive to IPhones and IPads and not everyone has these devices. It was great that although I don’t have an IPhone, I was still able to use an AAC device on my smartphone. Another pro is that most of the phrases are typed in so I did not have to spend time typing each letter. I was able to order my juice quickly and answer her questions in a timely manner. A third pro is that this app allows for people with communication difficulties to blend in with the public. Since most people have smartphones, a person with communication difficulties will not stick out too much. Also, this allows for communication to be quicker since the cashier did not have to read anything, she simply had to listen as she normally would with a person using natural speech. One con about this is that I’m not sure if this AAC device can be used in a long interaction with another person. I feel that this device is great for quick interactions. Another con is that technology does fail and this AAC device could malfunction at anytime.
I really enjoyed doing this assignment. It allowed me to have a glimpse into what people with communication difficulties go through on a regular basis. It was wonderful to combine technology with what I learned in the classroom and I am looking forward to using some technology in clinic, internships and as an SLP.
SLPeeps and SLPs2B please comment on what apps you like to use in therapy or what apps you use as you study!
-See you in the next blog!