BUT, did you hear? You can access 5000 words with only 2 button presses. This is an out of the box robust vocabulary set that requires minimal navigation. Minimal navigation means minimal attention and memory as people are building messages. I first started looking at SFY for a particular patient who has a difficult time patiently constructing messages without getting frustrated and giving up (or becoming agitated and aggressive). He only has to tolerate 2 simple presses to get to the word he needs. Although this young man has limited patience for message construction, he has high expectations for his device to give him to access an extensive, specific set of vocabulary words. He rejects the device very quickly if it doesn't allow him to say exactly what he wants to say. No judgement! I think I would feel the same way! With a 5000 word headstart, I find I only have a few select, specific words I need to add: Disney, pictures of family, favorite t.v. shows and YouTube videos, so far.
The vocabulary is organized in a unique way which isn't exactly obvious. This little picture is helpful but we usually simply rely on a handy "search" feature. The search feature lets us type in the word we are targeting and then highlights the key sequence right on the display so that we can follow along and learn the motor pathway to our word.
The other awesome feature about SFY is that you can very easily hide and show buttons to decrease complexity when a user is first learning the system. There's a quick one button press to hide all the buttons and then you can simply select the buttons you want to teach. You can teach one word at a time until the motor pattern for that word is established and then add on until you have an extensive vocabulary. Remember that search feature? When you search a word the app will learn the word you searched, even if it is hidden, so that the user can access it in the future. I love that the users are able to participate in adding ("showing") the words that are important to them.
There are some additional features I like. "Babble" is another unique feature which lets you show all the buttons to let a user play around with words and then quickly jump back to your simplified (hidden button) pages for supported communication. You can use text-to-speech to type your messages with the iPad keyboard. You have access to all morphological endings to words (ex: verb tenses).
I am quickly becoming a fan of Speak For Yourself for certain AAC users. AAC users who will definitely benefit are those who have good fine motor access to the keyboard sized buttons, good receptive language skills (who know what they want to say), who you are expecting to learn morphology and syntax (word endings and word order), and who benefit from a keyboard for literacy development or as a communication means. In my mind, SFY is not for everyone, but it is stellar for many!
There are few items on my personal wish list for Speak For Yourself.
- The symbols are a bit hard to see with very fine lines and minimal color saturation. I find they are challenging to discriminate, increasing the demand on motor memory for access. I'd like to fatten up some of the lines to make them easier to see. Maybe add some thicker borders to give a little visual "POP!"
- I might add a few quick, frequently used social phrases to increase rate of communication for commonly used messages.
Speak For Yourself was developed by speech language pathologists. They haven't stopped at developing the app. They consistently share resources, offer insight and train people supporting AAC users. Here's how to find them: