Voice4u is an iPhone / iPod Touch app inspired by one family's son who was diagnosed with autism when he was only a year old. An immediate drawback was that showing symptoms that early to such a degree caused very low expectations. One of the benefits of the early diagnosis was that he was introduced to communication through icons earlier than most children with autism or speech delays caused by other developmental disabilities, trauma or motor planning difficulties.
Parents and speech therapists are well aware of the logistical challenges of carrying file folders of icons that are necessary for a wide variety of social and educational interactions, self-care and everyday living. However, the benefit of having access to icons for new situations or unexpected expression has created a dedication to full libraries of options.
Individuals who do not have other options to communicate their needs and desires or to relate comments about what has happened during their day are often condemned for behavior that is actually their only alternative method of communication. Every person deserves the right to communicate and to benefit emotionally and intellectually from the opportunities that true expression and interaction provide for all of us.
A great benefit of augmentive communication apps like Voice4U is that individuals who communicate via icons have large individualized libraries of icons in a device that can be easily carried and accessed. They are the next logical step for individuals (as well as families and therapists) who may need weeks of training to learn to use dedicated devices or more complicated communication apps.
Several features stand out in the Voice4u app. It is a bargain at just under $30, especially considering the creative graphics and the availability of a version in Japanese. One of the 'charming pre-loaded icons' - for "good afternoon" - shows a sun with a face on it that startled me - a wide open mouth with teeth that seem to be aimed at the person figure. I appreciated the inclusion of 'noodles' in the food menu graphics. Considering the diversity of our community I have often wondered why more icons are not available representing the multicultural menus enjoyed by individuals with disabilities and their families.
Voice4U includes the flexibility of uploading your own icons, pictures and sounds. I am especially interested in this option because my son has insulin dependent diabetes and needs to communicate standard as well as emergency information. This would also be handy for children and teens who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.
So far I have not seen a demonstration of Voice4U but I am considering buying or requesting a review copy of the Voice4U App. My immediate interest is in finding iPod Touch / iPhone apps that are simple enough to use and program that they do not intimidate families or teachers and are immediately available to children and teens for communication with peers as well as adults.
Browse at your public library, local bookstore or online retailer for more information on mainstream technology that can be modified to accommodate children with disabilities like Nintendo Wii Video Game System and
communication alternatives or other information about Boardmaker, Makaton and PECS products to find ideas on how to make communication cards or boards for your child to enjoy at home, school or in the community.
The Voice4u website:
Boardmaker and PECS - Communication Alternatives
Braille for Children who have Vision Impairments
Sign Language for Children