1. My first, out of the ordinary, image2talk experience

    I had a strange but really rewarding experience this week when I heard image2talk in action but it was a student from another class using image2talk. I just happened to be in the PE hall the other morning and there was a student from another class there with a staff member.  His timer beeped and he was told it was time to go back to class.  With that he leaned over to his iPad, tapped an image and the speaker output said ‘I want more time’.   It was strange as it was kind of the first time I heard the image2talk voice and it was nothing to do with me.   

    Since image2talk has been released I have been really focused on getting it going with the lads in our class, who I designed it for in the first place.  This has involved customising rows to suit each individual and setting out teaching programs that give as many opportunities as possible to use image2talk.  I know other students in the school are using image2talk and I have given advice to other staff but just to hear and see image2talk it in action this week, totally independent of my input, was amazing and I did get that good feeling inside.   So good in fact, I took a really short clip of the ‘more time’ image in action.

    As you can see in the video, the image2talk overview screen for this student has been stripped right back to a small number of images.  Some of the images have been imported from the camera roll, including the image of the timer showing 1 more minute.  I asked the staff in this student’s class how he was getting on with image2talk and they said it was going really well, they are managing to build up the number of images and one of the biggest advantages was the time delay function.  Setting the time delay to 20 seconds gives that particular student the time he needs to communicate and it does not matter how many times he taps the screen the image is still there for him. 

    It would be great to hear more image2talk experience stories.  Please get in touch and let me know how you are getting on.  Thanks.  Fiona

  2. What I like about the iPad

    There are so many articles/blog posts on using iPads with individuals with special needs and you could spend a lot of time reading and researching but what I like about the iPad is clear when you see one in use – it is simple to use, it is easy to control and it provides instant feedback to the person using it.

    Earlier this year we managed to save enough phones for an iPad through the scheme run by Irish Autism Action http://autismirelandphones.ie and it was an instant hit with the lads in our class.   After showing Sean how to turn it on, he was able to swipe the bar to turn it on and he also quickly identified the icons on the screen that he liked best. 

    The iPad is something that he is in control of and that is so important for Sean.   He has been continuing to use his image2talk this week.  There have been occasions when he has gone to grab something and we have needed to prompt him to use his iPad but the fact that he does then go into image2talk to communicate instead of hitting out or continuing to grab at something speaks volumes to me.

    Nothing to do with image2talk but something that made me laugh out loud this week – I was working with one of the lads doing a program on identifying different categories of ages of people  - baby, boy/girl, teenager, adult, old man/lady.  I was presenting different pictures and he was telling me the age group.  I showed him a picture of my own son when he was about one and his response was ‘old baby’.  It just made me laugh and I thought it was a very clever answer. 

    Fiona

    image2talk is now available in the iTunes App Store

  3. image2talk in action (sorry, can’t think of a catchy title)

    It has been a busy week for image2talk in school and out and about. 

    Sean has been working yes/no for the last couple of years.  This program was first implemented with yes/no PECS symbols that Sean would manually hand over, we used laminated cards with the green tick for yes and the no symbol for no, the same images you now see on image2talk.  The initial steps of Sean’s yes/no program involved a number of interventions such as running preference tests and using one or two highly preferred items for a yes response and one or two aversive items for a no response.  We also used different prompt levels to teach the concept of yes and no. 

    Sean then moved onto using a Go-talk for communication.  We started yes and no on a Go-talk 4 with only the yes and no images on it then put yes and no in a field of 4 images.  Sean quickly progressed onto a Go-talk 20 and the images for yes and no were presented on that.   A few months ago I was keen to get Sean started on using his iPad for communication so I downloaded a yes/no app.   This was a nice simple app to use but on this app yes is presented by a green box with ‘YES’ written inside and no is presented with a red no with ‘NO’ written inside.  When we started using this app Sean’s correct responding decreased.  He did not generalise the concept of the green and red for yes and no and we found he was using visual cues around him to respond, for example we found that if we held the item in our right hand he would tap the box on the right and if we held the item in our left hand he would tap the box on the left.    

    Thankfully, image2talk was nearly ready for use and now that Sean is using yes and no on image2talk his correct responding has increased again.  We still have to run preference tests from time to time.  I got caught out on Thursday as normally Sean likes crackers and butter so I had the items in view and asked Sean if he would like them.  He responded ‘no’.  I was not convinced he meant no so asked him again and picked up a cracker and handed it towards him.  With this he tapped ‘no’ again then pushed my hand away.  That was me told. 

    What Sean does like just now are Tesco cheese thins biscuits.  He was at lunch the other day eating some of these biscuits and independently went into image2talk and asked for a bottle of water.   He prefers to drink water from a sports style bottle and he had left his in the classroom so I thought it was great he used his image2talk in this context.   

    Sean also used image2talk out in McDonalds during the week to ask for chips and coke.  He required a gestural prompt to the food row to find the chips but when asking him what he wanted to drink, while doing a drinking sign with my hand, he went straight for coke independently.  That is an example of how Sean appears to understand more when words are accompanied with actions.

    The other area we have been working on in school is visual discrimination skills.  We targeted the common objects row.  I turned off the voice over and we simply held up an object e.g. a toothbrush or spoon and asked Sean ‘What is this?’  He was then required to find and tap the image of the object.  Ever since testing the interface design of image2talk with Sean I am constantly amazed by the speed in which he is learning to use image2talk.  On Sean’s image2talk the common objects row is the sixth row and when I was running this program I moved the overview screen between presentations of objects so Sean had to first find the row and then the image.  After a few presentations of objects he had it.

    I have to admit, after I downloaded image2talk onto Sean’s iPad I thought I would have needed to delete a load of images and even rows and then gradually build up the number of images over time but he is proving me wrong every day.   So far the only customisations I have made to Sean’s image2talk have been to delete the girl’s clothes items, move the everyday conversation row in between the food and drinks rows to help with getting used to the horizontal scrolling and add in images for jelly sweets and noodles.  To personalise it more I am going to add in an image of his bed and house this week.

    Also this week, now that I know Sean recognises the images in the common objects row, we can start creating opportunities for communicating using the objects row such as not having spoon available when he is having a yogurt or taking the toothpaste out of his wash bag so he needs to use image2talk to communicate that he needs these objects.  

    Sean is all about things being functional and meaningful to him, he is not one for doing things just for the sake of it.  So, for that reason really, functional communication was always the philosophy behind image2talk.

    Fiona

    image2talk is now available in the iTunes App Store

  4. It’s really happened - image2 talk is available in the App store.

    I have never really been one for the text talk but OMG image2talk has gone live in the App store.   It has been a dream for such a long time and now it is real. 

    I started using apps in school about 3 years ago with a student who had really good reader and writer skills and could make vocal approximations for a small number of words. However, he struggled with the navigation through the category pages of the app that he had been awarded funding for and this started my search for suitable apps for functional communication. 

    There were a number of apps that I did find  useful for that particular student. His reader/writer skills made apps that produced a speaker output from the text he typed suitable for him. 

    What I was really looking for though was an app for Sean. Sean came to our class 5 years ago when he was 12. He was a beautiful boy with blond hair and blue eyes and he had a gorgeous smile. He also presented with a high frequency of self injurious and assaultive behaviour. At this time, though, he had no functional means of communication.   We started off with object exchange then moved onto PECS.  It took a while but as he became more reliable in his use of PECS his self injurious and assaultive behaviours reduced. 

    He then moved on from PECS to using a Go-talk. We started off small on a Go-talk 4 and moved up to a 20.  He appeared to prefer using the Go-talk. Sean is all about minimal effort - typical teenager - and he will always do whatever is most functional for him, even if it is socially unacceptable.

    As I said, Sean did prefer to use his Go-talk but he was still not that pushed about carrying it around with him. Enter the  iPad. As a class we collected phones to exchange them for an iPad through the scheme running by Irish Autism Action. Well, the iPad was an instant hit. Sean loves watching clips on You Tube but was struggling to use the mouse on the class computer. The iPad solved all that and Sean started to independently bring it around with him. He even tried to sneak it into his bag at home time. 

    At this point I had already started to design my own app for Sean as I was getting frustrated at not being able to find one to suit his needs.   I knew that an app suitable for Sean would have to be quick and simple to use without having to go back and forth through different pages.  I made up some  designs and sent them off to app developers. I got some nice feedback but I also began to realise this was going to cost money. 

    At the end of November last year I applied for Dragons’ Den. A few days later they called me in for an interview and about two weeks after that they called to say I was getting to face the Dragons.   

    And that is really how image2talk was conceived. It has gone through major design changes, I found an interface design that I was able to test on Sean. He took to it straight away with no skills teaching so I knew it would  work.   An amazing  team of developers came on board with me and image2talk was born. 

    I could go on and on but I will keep those stories for future blogs. 

    Fast approaching his 17th birthday, Sean is now a handsome young man. He recently got funding for his own iPad and he is using image2talk. He has responded really well to the real images and although we have started doing some skills teaching using image2talk now he is well able to use the food and drinks rows independently!!

    Thank you so much for all the support especially Jeroen, Damien and the amazing lads and staff in PP6. 

    Fiona

  5. image2talk - Functional communication app using real images. Suitable for adults and children, image2talk eliminates need to navigate through menu pages and is customisable to individual needs

    image2talk - Functional communication app using real images. Suitable for adults and children, image2talk eliminates need to navigate through menu pages and is customisable to individual needs