Monday, June 14, 2010

iPad and Proloquo2Go review: Max tried 'em!

I couldn't wait to tell all of you about our experiences with the iPad and the Proloquo2Go, an alternative communication app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Max's school got a few iPads, and Max was chosen to trial one for six weeks.

Max has had his Dynavox for almost two years now, and I am not the biggest fan. For one, it is clunky to lug around, and he cannot pick it up. Max uses it well at school, but we often find ourselves leaving it at home on weekends. Also, it's not hard to program but it's not the quickest. I certainly have no qualms that any of these augmentative communication devices will make Max less likely to verbalize his thoughts; whatever we can do to enable him to express himself is A Good Thing.

Let's start off with how portable the iPad is. It weighs 1.5 pounds; we were able to plop it into a lightweight case and sling it around Max's neck/shoulder. He looked so cute, like he was about to head out to the office. Max is also able to pick it up with both hands, more or less. It's is basically like a gigantic iPhone (but without the phone/camera).

The Proloquo2Go is similar to the Dynavox in that things are grouped into categories; you can use either symbols or pictures. The voice is similarly robotic, which I most definitely do not love. We trialed the Tango a few years ago. Max wasn't quite ready for it back then, but I appreciated that it had a real little boy's voice. I sure hope the next version of the Proloquo2Go has this option.

The Proloquo2Go is supereasy to program. In five minutes, I created a "Weekend folder" on Sunday with photos I'd copied from the Internet ("I visited Aunt Judy"; "I went to a park with Daddy"; "I ate chocolate ice-cream"; "I found a ladybug in my house").

The major challenge Max has with using the iPad/Proloquo2go stems from his dexterity and fine-motor issues. He is increasingly able to isolate one finger (his pointer, sometimes his middle finger) and tap with it. Sometimes he uses two fingers. But he tends to hit the screen with the edge of his nail instead of the pad of his finger, and that doesn't usually do the trick. Also, the iPad requires a light touch and Max's is on the hard side. So far, we haven't found a way to adjust the sensitivity. You can see him in the video writhing in frustration a couple of times when the tapping doesn't work, once grabbing my hand so I'd touch the screen for him.

The other challenge, which I hope is temporary, is that Max is obsessively returning again and again to the "My friends" category so he can show us his best pal at school, Caleb. As his wonderful speech therapist, Jen, told me when I visited her on Friday to learn about the iPad, "Max could sit there and do 'Max' and 'Caleb' for two hours." Yup.

Sabrina is totally jealous of the iPad. "I want you go to the store and get me one!" she wailed, piteously. We let her try it out and talk with Max on it, but she still wants one of her own. Yup. I want one too!!! Waaaaaah!!!

It's awesome how excited Max is. Anytime this weekend we'd say, "Max got a new computer!" his face would light up. Dave and I are excited, too, and that's key. For all the augmentative and therapeutic options out there, the truth is, if it's not something parents are into, it's just not going to work for a family.


  1. So the big question is are you going to buy him one when he has to return this one?

    I am dying to try it out for Austin. I think he would LOVE it and I'm all for more communication!!

  2. the only thing is the coast apple needs to do something about that . ps i would love to see max wearing the sling

  3. What can I say except lucky lucky Max! So glad it's working for him. Still waiting for release date in Ireland so I can get one for Smiley

  4. Great post. You may want to try and see if access is easer for Max with a stylus such as the Pogo stylus.

    David Niemeijer
    CEO AssistiveWare

  5. So cool you got to try this stuff out! My nephew has a dynavox, I remember when he first go it. Awesome to watch his foray into the world of communication.

  6. I'm going to have to check-out that 'Pogo stylus' - wondering if that was what Melanie's Daniel used in posted videos.

    Also wondering about some kind of support to bring the iPad up to an easel angle.

    He is doing well and looks very happy! Barbara

  7. Totally Awesome!! I agree with Sabrina I waaaaant one two who can blame her. I agree with you the parents have to be excited about it for it to really fly.

    Do you have to buy one? I hope this loan is for a long time. I know we will have to buy Ashley it's impossible to get them to buy her one her in canada you have to jump through hoops first to prove you know how to use the device before they give you anything we only have low tech stuff right now.

  8. Ok Ellen, You guys should totally try a stylus. Faith has no finger isolation at all but she can use the stylus pretty well. YOu have to buy a special kind though. I got hers off ebay for just a few bucks. I bet a hundred bucks he could get better results with one!

  9. I second Candace's comment. Purchase a stylus and try that. Perhaps you could adapt a holder for the stylus if it is too thin for him to hold it in his hand independently.

  10. So cool! What a great opportunity for Max to try this out! He looks like he was doing great with it. Hoping that continues to improve as he uses it more and more!

  11. So glad you got a chance to try out an i-pad for Max! Boy, do I hear you about the weight and clunkiness of many of the communication devices! Acadia's is big and awkward. We don't carry it with us on weekends when we are on the run. (Thanks for assuaging some parent guilt! So glad to hear that we are not the only ones to neglect the bulky stuff on weekends!) She really has outgrown the words and phrases on it, as well. She only has space for about 30... and most of those she can communicate with either words or gestures. (i.e. she will bring me a yogurt or a banana to open for her.)

    Then there is the question of what would Acadia choose to communicate? Sometimes I think she needs a "leave me alone!" or "talk to the hand" button!

    There is a beautiful book by Cynthia Lord called "Rules". Our family loved the story! Part of the book deals with a pre-teen girl helping a boy to add unorthodox phrases to his communication device. The book is written to a late elementary/middle school audience. Great for reading aloud with kids :o)

    Thanks for sharing new ideas for communication for our kiddos :o)

  12. Ellen, that was so cool! I think the iPad might be a good option for Elijah when we move to a communication device (right now he has talkers spread throughout the house). I'm so with you, any way to get a child to express themselves is A Good Thing. I was blown away at how great Max did- seriously, so cool!

  13. I'm with Sabrina... I want one too!!!

  14. That sounds like so much fun!

    Go Max! (and Mom and Dad!)

  15. Halleluja (is that the right spelling)? I couldnt' view the clip but I am thrilled to hear this news.

    The iPod and the iPad are awesome for our kids because they're mainstream technology. I'm thinking it may be easier for Ben to use the iPad because of its size. Keep us posted on how this goes!

    If I was at dynavox, I'd be developing software for these systems mighty fast.

  16. O. M. G!!!!!!

    It is so cool to see how MOTIVATED he is to use that iPad...and the clever look he gives when he gets it to work! Practice will make perfect, I am sure of it! Alternatively, one of those stylii (is that the plural of stylus) that many recommend, adapted maybe with a loop or cup he can stick his pointer finger in, could be just the ticket.

    You might want to motivate him even more with a few accessories--they make a "plum" (close enough to purple) case for the thing:

    And they also make a full-bore purple protector for it as well!

    Now, if it can fart and do the pull my finger joke, it's perfect!

    I am so happy for Max! This thing sounds and looks like a keeper--worth even saving up to buy one if they won't let you have it for a long while.

  17. SNAP - I posted my iPad/p2go review yesterday too! ;-) We think it's great.

  18. An alternative to a stylus is get or make a pair of lightweight iPhone / iPad gloves with conductive thread. If you have a lightweight gloves, sewing in conductive thread isn't too hard- there are a lot of posts about it online, especially for outdoor gloves. This would help with the fingernails hitting the iPod screen and not being picked up. It might be too much of a hassle to wear a glove in the first place, but just throwing it out there. Also see: digits , conductive finger gloves

  19. I just added a link to your post in my post ;-). And looking at the vid, wondering if Max might have better 'aim' if his other hand was stable? We find S has better control with his 'good' hand if his other hand is grasping a grasp bar or something similar. Also we've noticed that 'sticking' problem where you have to return home. It's a bit annoying. It's cute that Max wants to talk about his friend. We seem to spend most time in the food/drink category ;-)

  20. That's so great! Monkey's dad, the Mac geek, was really interested in this. In fact, he mentioned before we even knew about it how easy and economical it would be to make an assistive technology ap for an iPad. I'm glad to hear someone beat him to the punch and is putting the iPad to good use!
    By the way, if Max does end up getting his own iPad to keep, there are some pretty cool (purple) skins:

  21. We are just starting to really work on communication devices with my three year old. He is using his head to activate switches. Could his switch be plugged into the ipad to activate it?

  22. You know, the iPhone is actually a lot more responsive to touch than the iPad has been--still working on it, but still. . .

    Max looks very purposeful and cognizant as he uses the iPad--seems fabulous to me.

  23. Wow! Thanks for posting this! We just got a Dynavox and this Ipad seems so much more user friendly!!!

  24. I love and appreciate all the amazing advice I get here. Max is so obsessed with the iPad that he doesn't even care if it's purple or not, though if we get one ourselves we will most definitely get some sort of purple skin/case for it!

    The stylus is tricky for Max. He can't grasp a pencil, and so a stylus will pose a challenge although his school OT thinks she might be able to adapt one.

    Re, plugging in a switch to the iPad: If it has a plug to go into a port, then yes, I think he could use it. But I'm not 100 percent sure. I'll try to see if I can find any further info on that.

  25. Wow that is amazing. I want one too!

    Your enthusiasm for his achievements is so wonderful!

    I watched several videos on YouTube about the ipad with Proloquo2Go after I saw yours and I am encouraged.

  26. I recently found your blog and just wanted to commend Max for his determination and spirit. As a 22 year old with CP, I can honestly say I only wish I had a quarter of the fire and zest for life in the face of challenge that Max has. He's such a smart, funny, awesome little boy! Anyone can see that. In the few days since I've found your blog, Max and your family have truly charmed my heart. It's really easy to "love that Max" even having never met him!

  27. Just a thought- someone mentioned an easel. Max may be better able to align the pad/tip of his finger with the iPad if it's on an angle, and his nail would get in the way less, I would think.

    Good luck, and enjoy your adorable son!

  28. OMG thanks so much for this post, this is exactly what we are thinking of for Snail, and she has a Dynavox now too! Clunky bloody thing. I recently got an ipad and now we're planning to get one for Snail.

    Just had to say thanks! I'm new to your blog and ... well... just wow. Thank you.

  29. Hi!

    I actually have CP too. I'm older than Max but I have the kind of CP as him. I use Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) too. I would love to talk to someone with the same issues that have come up for me with my Dynavox product (the Dynawrite). I am not a fan of the dynavox product either. BUT, it HAS helped me SO much! It always freezes and I was laughing because in your video Max's thing froze too!:) You are an AWESOME WRITER!!!


Thanks for sharing!

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