Sunday, July 21, 2013
Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People: Review
Bottom Line: a customizable picture card AAC system that emphasizes communication and interaction rather than a "voice." It was developed by a mother of two autistic children.
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Grace App is a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) used to give beginning to intermediate symbolic communicators a sense of independence as they learn to communicate with others in their environment. The best part of this app is in its simplicity, as well as time saving and organizational qualities. Please note, this app is completely non-verbal, and no message will be verbally spoken through the app.
To begin, if you are looking for an alternative or augmentative communication system that is going to verbally speak the message, this is not the app for you. That being said, this is a wonderful app developed by Steve Troughton-Smith and designed by Lisa Domican for her daughter Grace. It can definitely save a ton of time for caregivers and therapists alike. This app is perfect for beginning to intermediate symbolic communicators. This could be any age person who may have autism or any type of speech delay that may just be beginning some symbols, signs, or gestures at the word level to one who may be using these picture cards to form sentences.
Have you ever tried to set up a Picture Exchange Communication System? If so, you can understand how time consuming it is to find, print, cut, laminate, cut again, and finally add Velcro to each picture. Then you need to decide how to organize and store the pictures (and hope that you never lose them… on second thought, you should have maybe made doubles just in case). It is not a fast process, and honestly, who has the time to do it? On top of this, you still need to teach how to use the system for meaningful expression.
As this app includes a library of abstract pictures, arranged in categories, to help generalize vocabulary instead of using a specific picture which may prohibit generalization (i.e. Think, "I want a soda" (abstract) versus "I want a Coca Cola and that is all I will ever want because that is the picture of the soda" (specific)), you will not have to print, cut, and laminate any longer either. If a picture is not included in the app that you want, you are able to quickly take a picture or choose an existing photo from your library. You can also add pictures from the internet without difficulty.
While we all have the ability to communicate, believe it or not, it does take some time to learn how to communicate in a specific way. Grace App makes all this so much easier. You will never lose a picture again (and if you accidentally delete one, it is a cinch to add a new one again). Also, Ms. Domican has authored a comprehensive manual for using the app. It covers technical How To subjects, but its real value is in the tips and step by step ideas for implementing Grace App as a communication system.
Grace App is also intended to be user controlled/user led and support vocalizations, instead of depending on the device to speak the message. This may take some teaching initially, but once the user understands how to get a message across at the word, phrase, or sentence level, he or she can begin to do so independently. Once the user creates and shares a message with a listener, the listener should verbally speak the message and encourage the user to try as well. As this needs to be a two person communication, social exchanges are taking place constantly.
What are the reasons this is not a five star app? One reason is that while the included pictures are wonderful, and are abstract, what you see is what you get. There is not an additional bank of abstract images, so if you want to add more images, you will have to search for them. Also, if you add a picture there is no way to label it within the app. Instead, you need to download a different app to do this (information can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/118356932/Update-to-Grace-App-Manual). If the user is communicating with an unfamiliar listener, that person may not know what the image is supposed to represent without a textual label.
Overall, this is an excellent app if you are looking for a beginning to intermediate communication system. It is simple to set up, use, and adjust to fit your child's needs. It also is extremely portable as use on a Touch or iPhone is equally effective. The website (www.graceapp.com) is also easy to navigate and provides several tutorials if you have any questions.
Jenni Lund loves communication and believes that every person has the ability to communicate in his or her own way.
Originally posted on Smart Apps for Kids