Sunday, April 14, 2013

Expressive by Smarty Ears- An Inexpensive Augmentative Assistive Device

Question for all the Speech Pathologists and caregivers out there who service children who are non-verbal: What do you think is a reasonable price for an app compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that includes over 10,000 images and acts as a voice output communication system?  Those of us familiar with the cost of an augmentation communication device would guess within the range of one hundred to two hundred dollars.  What if I told you that you could get this app for under thirty dollars?  Crazy, right?  Well, the cost for the Expressive app by Smarty Ears is $25.99!  This month being National Autism Awareness month seemed like the perfect time to review this inexpensive, easy to use, recently updated application.

We begin at the opening menu page.  Here you will find color coded folders for the following groups:  basics, categories, expressions, descriptive, food, people, places, questions, verbs, and time.  When you tap the icon, you are brought to another screen with members individually listed for selection.  



The main page also includes the following, popular icons:  not, go, I, is, like, have, you, want, do, bad, it, more, all done, and good.  Tapping any of these brings the image to the top of the page, where it is said aloud.

The settings allow you to select either "on" or "off" modes for the 'lock',  'capital/lowercase', 'speak folder' and 'automatically erases messages' features.  Locking the app will prevent users from seeing the bottom tabs that bring you to the settings, allow you to delete or add images and folders, and give you access to other links for Smarty Ears, which includes a tutorial of this app.  It is a good idea to lock the app if you want to avoid accidental deletion of images and folders.  The capital/lowercase selection displays the written word for the pictures you select to appear in either all lowercase or capital/lowercase.  Speak folder allows you to hear the name of the selected folder.  Finally, the automatically erase features removes images in the top bar after you play the sentence strip.

You can also change the speaker's voice by choosing from four different male/female voices.  If desired, you can slow down the rate of voicing or speed it up faster.

Another handy feature is the delete key.  Simply tap the red "x" icon at the bottom of the screen and a delete button appears on each picture image.

If you need some specific pictures from your own photo library or if you want to add more smarty symbols, you can create new folders and add new images by tapping the green "+" button.  In the screen shot below, you will notice a color wheel, which allows you to select a tab color for the folders and images you create.   I created a folder for Chicago images, which could be used to communicate places of interest for planning visits.  Once you add the picture and text, the app automatically sets an audio recording of the word!  This by far is my favorite feature because you can really customize the app to suit any client, regardless of age!

Here are some images that I loaded from my photo library of Chicago!

In summary, I thought this app was a steal for the price given that you get 10,000 images and the ability to customize it with settings controls and links to add your own photos!  The main menu page is very organized with the color coding system and group icons, making it a cinch to operate.  It would be even better if the developers could eliminate moving to a new screen to view category members by creating a scroll that you could slide through for groups and then view members on the same screen.

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