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I have a 15-year-old daughter that has multiple disabilities. She is nonverbal with some vocal sounds, is visually impaired, and has mental and physical deficits. She has full use of her right hand and a left side stroke. I’m wondering … is there any technology that she can possibly use for communication other than Cheap Talk 8? This is heavy and bulky for a child with limited hand-use, and it is too large for her desk at school. In addition, I am trying to compile a communication book, similar to PECS (picture exchange communication system), but am hoping there is some kind of technology that is available and easier to access for her. Are there additional communication devices that you would recommend?

Communication devices can often be large, bulky, and single out AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) users as “different” from their peers. This can be particularly frustrating for teenagers, who may want something more portable as they go about their day and something that doesn’t set them apart from their non-disabled classmates. With advances in mainstream technologies, computing, and cell phones, there are now many options for the AAC user — from handheld devices to applications that run on a cell phone — that your daughter can choose that will fit her needs.

Many apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS(opens in a new window), and Droid(opens in a new window) phones; Prolquo2Go(opens in a new window) is one popular option, but there are many(opens in a new window) more(opens in a new window) programs(opens in a new window) out there. You can also try a web-based AAC service that can be used on a variety of devices. Many children with speech difficulties have had success with these devices, so you may consider trying one out with your daughter. If she struggles with making precise movements, she may find that a larger screen (as on the iPad or similar tablet computer) is easier for her to use. Try out a few different options if you can to find the right fit. If you’re interested in sticking with a traditional AAC device, many companies now make much smaller and more portable AAC devices(opens in a new window); so there are a number of options there as well. Before you make any decisions, it may be helpful to review some of the features of AAC devices(opens in a new window) and think about what your daughter’s needs are with regard to communication. With the many new choices for communication devices, you should be able to find something smaller, lighter, and more usable for your daughter.

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