Proloquo2Go and iPad: A Marriage made in Heaven!

My iPad arrived a day early it actually came on Thursday.  I have been busy setting up a few pages so I can show you some screenshots.

I was going to have words only but they have a gorgeous dog icon that looks just like Inca and I really wanted to use it for the button leading to her page so I changed my mind and some buttons have icons on it,  as the core page with all black folders leading to different categories looked a bit dull otherwise (I thought…  but I like a splash of colour!.. you can have it all text only if you prefer)

My Home page

The icons down the side represent the categories:  Inca’s Page,  Clothing,  Food & Drinks,  Colours,  Calendar (times,  dates,  months). Some of the categories are not all fully edited yet,  it will take a while to complete it all,  but here are a few I have completed my first page of vocab for.

Inca's page

Notice I have changed the order,  so the words/sentences aren’t just in alphabetical order which would mean alot of scrolling up and down once you have several screens of vocab. I have put the words in order that they would follow as you were constructing the sentence to work your way down the page.

So I can easily say ‘Inca needs to go out for a wee’ or ‘Inca wants her treat’,  ‘Inca wants to go out,  I’m going to the nature park’.

If you notice the last button where it says Vets,  it is shaped like a folder as it leads to a different category.  You can set these buttons to be silent (the text does not go up into the window,  it just opens the next category)  or set it to also say the word on the front.  For this grid I wanted it to say the word Vets then open the category for me.  Here is next page:

As you add more vocabulary you can reposition the buttons,  this is the Clothing category in Edit mode.

Clothing category in Edit mode

Notice on Inca’s page in the bottom right corner was a pencil you press that to get into edit mode then it changes to a plus and a tick as above. To add a new button you press the plus and type in what you want it to say,  select an icon if you want one.  If you are doing your own sentence you can choose outline colour if you like by looking for ‘kind’ and choosing one..  verbs if you want pink,  adjectives for blue etc.  A sentence is black, a category is always a Black folder. Folder’s lead to other pages.

If you select Add, it adds it as a normal button,  if you want it to lead to another page like the 3 down the left side  you choose ‘Add as a Category’.   By default P2G order words in alphabetical order but you can swap them around.  It is easier to do this once you have a full page! To move a button go into edit mode (press pencil so it turns to a tick)  press and hold on a button then slide it across the screen to where you want it,  you will notice there is a little lock icon on the ones that have been moved,  this is to indicate the default organisation has been overridden,  when you press the tick the buttons will remain where you placed them.

The buttons with pics on are silent buttons,  they don’t say anything just lead to Accessories (necklace),  Colours (rainbow)  and Footwear (boots).

The screenshot above (as well as core page) also showed it in ‘wide mode’ where it makes buttons bigger to fill the page.  This is handy when you are starting out then when you want to add more just turn it off.  As its wider you will notice there are only 5 across. When I take the wide setting off you get 6 across as I chose the 6 x 6 screen.  It can go up to 8 across but I found these too small to accurately hit for me personally.  There is no limit to how many you can have going down as it is a scrolling screen!!  6 x 6 just means that is what is visible at once on the screen without scrolling.

Here are some other pages:

Sentences

These are some of the most common sentences I might have to say to people who don’t know me such as a Taxi driver to tell him where to drop me off.  The clock leads to times,  where you would want to give a time at that point in the sentence.  This category isn’t finished yet but this is what I have done so far on it.

'Time' category

Proloquo2go is still fairly new to the AAC field after only been out on iPhone around a year,  it is £109 at App store which may seem expensive when you consider others range from free,  69p,  £2-£10 for alot of them but this isn’t just a basic type and speak,  it is a fully customisable AAC solution and excellent value for money.

There are some things it cant do yet, but you have to remember it was originally designed for the iPhone which had very limited screen space, now the iPad is out it opens up alot more possibilities such as adding word prediction in future updates and been able to individually edit each button,  maybe upload a sound file to it as well as photo’s and icons,  so if someone wanted to record their voice for their kids,  pets before they lost their speech they could do that and upload sentences to a button in their own voices.

An Abbreviation-expansion feature would also be useful too if they made it compatible with the existing Textexpander Touch App.  It would improve it as a text-only based solution combined with built in word prediction for those who prefer that and widen their market.

For now you have to select icons and text if you want to have a choice to show images on some and remove all icons on keys you don’t want a pic on.  If you don’t want any just chose No icons in iPads settings.

Summary:

An excellent App with a very promising future for further development and makes AAC more affordable for those who just don’t have access to funding for ‘dedicated devices’ which cost thousands of pounds.  If you can manage to touch a screen why pay £5,000 for a device or wait up to 12 months to see if you can get funding when you can have a device within a week for just over £500!

Big Thanks to the makers Samuel Sennott and David Niemeijer of Assistiveware.

http://www.proloquo2go.com/

Next Blog:  Physical Accessibility on iPad in General, for People with Fine Motor Difficulties

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waiting….

Not much to report yet.

I got email from Apple to say my items have been dispatched,  for some reason they are sending them out in three different packages (I got some accessories to go with iPad) so have to get Inca out early and get back from 9am to wait until 5pm to see which day they turn up.  Doesn’t give a date other than they are scheduled to arrive on or before Friday.

The weather has been so hot that I been taking Inca out early anyway otherwise its just too much for her jogging alongside scooter with all hills around here and then waiting until around7pm in evening for it to cool down to take her out again.  I find the heat really draining so after early starts all over weekend and the whole week to go yet I’m feeling a bit knackered!

We set off to nature park at 7am yesterday,  I was annoyed once I got there my camera didn’t work as I had just put new batteries in it so missed some good shots as loads of ducks/geese still on side of bank at that time.  Even one heron which I have trying to get a good shot of for ages!  It takes about hour and half if we don’t stop so managed to get back and have scrambled egg and sausage in garden before it got too hot.

Anyway must go for rest before I have to get up again to do Inca’s dinner and walk her.  Hopefully shortly after Friday there will be some new screenshots of Proloquo2go on iPad.

Environmental Control on iPad

Here is another system I found on You Tube called ‘Control4’ it allows you to control lights,  thermostat,  tv etc all via iPad.

It shows later  (towards end of clip)  that you can customise buttons/fonts so they could be made larger which maybe also useful for people with co-ordination or sight difficulties.

This is another one I will be looking into,  whether its already available in UK,  price and what things can control compared with the Red Eye system which I would currently have to ship from US.

Pre-order day

I pre-ordered my iPad today so am feeling excited, its getting closer to arriving and me been able to use Proloquo2go on it to create custom designed communication system.

I wanted to show that it could be done for under or around £500 even on the bigger iPad.  Obviously it would be much cheaper on an iPod Touch but as a person with Ataxia who struggles with tiny buttons and small screened gadgets with wafer thin styluses to try and grip,  I was looking for something a little bigger (although not as big and heavy as computer).

I watched Proloquo2go’s you tube clips on how it worked (demoed on iphone) and I could see the potential to create a customised system that would be so much cheaper than the major leading manufacturers charge for their products (£4,000 + for smaller screened products 5-10 “,  £6,000 + usually for their average sized tablet PC’s).

Don’t get me wrong they have put some serious research into their products, and offer very high tech solutions such as Eye Gaze for people who are unable to use their arms at all.  (usually range from £12,000 +)

My issue is,  as an adult with an acquired disability that came on later in adulthood,  it is much harder to get funding for these machines if you are no longer able to work and not in education.  If you can still use a touchscreen device why have to wait for months to see if you can get funding for a touchscreen device to communicate your basic needs and general conversation to family members etc when you can get a device for under £500 which is a much easier amount to get funding for either family members to raise or bank loan or credit card.

The Apple iPad provides a solution to this.  For £429 you can now get the 16GB wi-fi model of iPad.  For £1.19 you can get ‘speak-it’ app from iTunes store which is a basic qwerty keyboard,  you type and it speaks,  the iPad version also allows you to store and view your stored sentences altogether on screen (landscape mode)

For me personally I like the idea of been able to create my own system but I don’t have the technical knowledge to program a computer from scratch,  I have an idea what I’m looking for but I need the basic building blocks to help me get started.

Proloquo2go offers that to me.  It offers a basic communication program you can choose to have it all with symbols or all without,  as you can also edit each button individually you can make a ‘mixed page’,  as no-one else has attempted this yet I can’t show you yet until I try it out on my own.

Most of the PR shots include symbols the makers of the progam did email me some shots with the symbols removed.

Actions category 8x8 grid (on-screen)

Also bear in mind that the iPad,  unlike traditional touchscreen tablet has a scrolling screen,  so instead of having to go through several pages to find a word,  you just scroll up and you potentially have another 64 words below.. and another below that! This is ideal if you need bigger ‘buttons’ on each page so you cant fit as many within the viewable screen area.

If you decided you wanted most of your grids to be words only but occasionally a symbol on some say to represent a longer sentence,  you can just remove all symbols and edit the individual buttons of the few that you wish to have a picture on.

You may wish to keep the symbols on category buttons and the ones like food etc where you get little pics of branded products which are cool like coca cola,  but may wish to remove the symbols for abstract words such as ‘and,  as,  but, because’ etc which are classed as non-picture generating words as opposed to words like ‘house,  car,  buildings,  transport,  pets’ etc where the symbols would be fairly obvious.

You can also removed the coloured outline of boxes and have all buttons simply outlined in black,  or you can keep the colours to match the grammer rules,  pink=verbs etc.

One of my favourite features is the auto-conjugation of verbs which seems a really big posh word but basically all it means is say you are looking for word  dogs’  to say ‘my dogs’ favourite toy is’..  go to pets category press and hold ‘dog’ and up pops ‘dog,  dog’s,  dogs’  etc.  if you press and hold a verb for example:

when you press and hold ‘are’ as shown in screenshot above you get the past,  present,  future variations of the word such as ‘am, is, was, will be’ etc  on other words you get different word endings so pressing and holding ‘play’ will bring up ‘played,  playing,  will play’ etc

You can just have symbols in the ‘grid’ and not in the text box if you wished to use symbols to represent categories but once you opened the category just have words as shown in previous screenshot.

With Proloquo2go you can really make it your own,  you can remove categories completely if you wished or just edit them to make use of the buttons where one page already leads to another.  Say for example you didn’t need the school category you could turn it into ‘work’ or ‘shopping’ or if you have children/grand-children you can adapt the category to ask them about their school day (assuming its an adult that’s lost speech rather than the child).

Even though this app is around £110 and is one of the more expensive apps,  it is a complete AAC solution and in comparison with the cost of most AAC devices (even if you got an higher priced model of iPad) you are still literally saving thousands in price difference.  If budgets are tight for just over £500 (around £539)  you can get 16GB wi-fi model AND Proloquo2go and have your communication aid.

I am also planning to use mine as a jumbo touchscreen IR remote using the Mini Red eye dongle and app.

create your own big button remote!

Watch this space 😀

New Contender on the market!

I found a new App for the iPad and it is a text based one WITH Word Prediction.

To get numbers you press where it says Numeric and get this screen.

and below is the ‘Editing View’

I like the fact it is crisp and clear,  its using a system I already use,  although It could be made potentially faster to communicate with by adding Abbreviation-expansion ability via the Textexpander Touch App.  This would make it the same system as my Lightwriter and Keystrokes (on Macs).

I have Textexpnder demo on my Mac as I used it before I got keystrokes so I’m now wondering if I could copy across my existing vocabulary into Textexpander Touch for (iPad)  which would then also work with iMean if it was made ‘Textexpander-integrated’

More details on Textexpander here:

http://www.smileonmymac.com/TextExpander/touch/index.html

I’m assuming it would also work with iPhone so people who still have enough fine motor skills to manage one (or iPod Touch) maybe able to use this on there also for an even cheaper alternative.

I have emailed the person who has also done their own blog and suggested Textexpander Touch integration, as I didn’t see a mention of it already been on.

http://www.imean.mobi/iMean_site/Welcome.html

I am thinking it would be particuarly useful for adults with an acquired loss of speech who are already literate and may prefer to just start spelling a word and have it predict and not want to have to remember whether a word is a verb or adjective etc to know where to find it.

I think if this App was compatible with Textexpander Touch so I could add my existing user dictionary to it (via copy and paste) and substantially cheaper than Proloquo2go I think I would be tempted to download this one first to try to see if it would meet my communication needs,  without having to spend another £110 on P2G after I had just forked out for an iPad!

Note:  I have had email back from designer of this App and he says the text-to-speech is not working on it yet, this program is currently available from iTunes for $5. He is looking into the Text-expander app so watch this space,  as this app has potential to make a great text based communication system for iPad.

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is basically a posh long name for balance and co-ordination exercises!

I first came across these after seeing a young girl on You Tube who was unable to balance to walk without a special frame until she started these exercises 10 mins in morning and 10 mins at night just after her 8th birthday, .. 10 months on she was walking unassisted a few steps (though still very wobbly.. 2 years later she was walking around with no falling over and it had also improved her speech and learning at school.

The company is based in Australia and seems to work with children,  although they have 2 videos on their channel that you can copy the exercises (film yourself)  and send it to them and he designs you a custom exercise routine.  There is a charge for this although I can’t find a price mentioned on the site.

But after reading their site and the theory behind what they do:

“Sensory Learning asserts that those with symptoms of poor cerebellar or vestibular nuclei processing, (poor calibration) should see improved processing, if they perform exercises that are known to improve processing in these areas of the brain”

As an adult who also has an house to run,  housework to do,  a dog to look after, I decided to see if I could incorporate some of these aspects into my daily routine.

I watched the videos on the Sensory Learning Channel to see what kind of exercises they were using to show which areas were affected,  this gave me an idea where to start.

http://www.youtube.com/user/SensoryLearningAus#p/u/2/3jwx8m5IhTU

Some I was able to adapt like I replaced the ball exercise with sitting on my beancube instead and instead of bouncing on it sit upright whilst playing a game on wii fit that involves co-ordination of hands this gives me a multi-tasking exercise (using hands at same time as keeping balance – although I have my legs out to side of cube to give me a wider base so I can keep balance whilst concentrating on something else).

The exercise where he stands and lifts one foot of ground is similar to exercise on wii fit yoga so I do that one standing on balance board and holding onto the old zimmer frame I have around the front. I lean just enough to take weight off that leg and foot slightly off balance board whilst trying to keep my red dot in the yellow circle (thats on wii fit yoga to show you are doing exercise right)

I’ve never been much of a gym bunny,  I don’t see point spending a fortune to go to gym and still having all work to do when you get home and been too knackered. If you use rollator or chair as I do hanging the washing out can prove quite a physical workout. I used to use electric chair to push rollator into garden with washing basket on it so was only doing stretching as I put things on rotary dryer.  (I have an adjustable one that lowers to w/c height)

So instead I push rollator to rotary dryer which involves keeping balance  and co-ordinating legs to walk out into garden.  I transfer washing basket to an old chair I have in garden then sit on the rollator seat.  This takes the least stretching forwards and bending as the washing basket is same height as me and the rollator seat is higher than my manual chair.

To make it harder I use manual chair instead (using it like walker and pushing it out with basket on seat) and put washing basket on floor so bending down then stretching up,  picking up pegs and getting them on the clothes gives your fingers a workout.  I frequently drop pegs so Inca sits nearby and just picks them up as I drop them and gives them back to me,  thats part of her laundry duties! (she also unloads the washing machine and carries the peg basket out for me).

By the time I’ve hung my washing out I have done my 10 mins exercise and included standing,  walking,  bending,  stretching and co-ordination of fingers to get pegs on.  Then its time for a sit down and a cuppa!

When I have to put things in dryer or don’t have any floors to mop (which again gives you good workout involving bending and using legs to push myself around on rollator seat whilst arms are doing mopping motion) I do 30 min routine on Wii fit that includes,  stretching,  balancing etc.  I may also go on a different game later after tea if I have nothing else on usually one not quite as physical but which involves co-ordination of hands if I haven’t done a lot of typing during the day.

If my balance is particuarly bad and struggling to stand and keep balance I’ll work on arms instead and do tennis or boxing and concentrate on sitting balance I try and exercise legs that day by pushing myself around on rollator seat so legs are still getting exercise but I’m not risking any falls trying to walk about when I’m really struggling to keep balance.

If I cant get on floor to do exercises (usually in winter when back is really stiff from cold) I do stretches on bed but I warm muscles up first using electric blanket so back and leg muscles are warmed through this then makes it easier for me getting up and dressed without pulling any muscles trying to get my clothes on!

I’m fairly sure also that jiggling about on a scooter everyday over the fields etc has helped keep my core muscles strong as my sitting balance is much less affected.

Zazen on wii fit is a good one for sitting balance you just have to sit cross legged on balance board with eyes closed and stay sat up without shifting balancing or slouching or the candle goes out.  I have the zimmer frame behind me for that one so I can feel the bar on my back and I know I haven’t moved and also hold onto the sides.  You could do this in front of a sofa or chair (that’s against a wall) if you need something sturdy behind you to stop yourself falling right back or have someone stand behind you.

I also use weights on ankles and arms as I find it makes muscles less twitchy which could throw me off balance. (remember to take them off before you weigh yourself on it though!). You can also get a balance belt which may help you keep a sense of central balance but won’t help if you are using the weight to steady your arms/legs individually.

Some of the balance games I also do from sitting,  I enjoy doing snowball fight from sitting as I can’t do that standing (as you have to hold wii remote and balance and I need both hands on frame to balance me standing) I can also do the circus balancing one and chicken flap one – which is seriously hard work on the arms.  you sit on board and flap your arms like a chicken to land on these platforms in middle of sea to get across to a boat.  Gets me as out of breath as boxing does.

There’s also a good one (cant think of name) I sit on board and hold wii remote horizontal the wii remote works the top horizontal paddle and you shifting left and right works the bottom ones,  there are three coloured buckets and you have to direct the balls coming down into the right colour bucket.  This is serious multi-tasking one as sometimes you right hand needs to be tilting wii remote down as your body is tilting to left as more than one comes down at once as the game continues.  These are all on the newer Wii Fit Plus.

When I first got this game I couldn’t do it all but with bit of experimenting with poistioning to help me keep sitting balance and shift weight without falling over I can now do it for first few mins when only single balls or 2.

I also couldn’t do the tightrope game when I got first wii fit when you just have to take steps slowly on board and bend knees to make person jump over an obstacle,  I have since managed that one,  but cant do the obstacle course or majorette one on newer wii fit plus as they require faster movement of legs (marching or running). I can also manage the hula hooping one from sitting on board,  a tip I picked up from a US site when a woman mentioned her husband did it that way as he couldn’t stand at all.  That’s great for core muscles but be careful not to pull anything!!  Again its perseverance.. .first time I managed 4 full circles and was knackered and pull my side…  after few years practice now I got up to 200 once in the time given.

My centre of gravity has also improved since I first got original Wii fit when I was miles off centre,  now I’m a fraction off and sometimes I can get it dead on centre.

These exercises wont cure you or stop the progression (didn’t stop symptoms appearing in my arms too despite constant exercising since I first got Wii, typing lots and propelling chair)  but I do personally feel they helped me keep strength in arms, legs,  trunk muscles and bone density (to prevent/slow down muscle wasting)

I would recommend anyone to get doctors advice before undertaking such an intense routine everyday,  particuarly if you’re already further along and haven’t exercised/stood for long for some time.

Luckily I was fit before as I already had Inca when the ataxia started so she was getting walks 5 mile a day anyway.  I kept walking for as long as I could with stick until using chair/scooter for distance and starting indoor exercise routine instead.  I wasn’t always able to do it everyday when fatigue was very bad so for people whose main issues are fatigue and weakness of muscles you should get medical advice before attempting.

Feeling the Benefits

Last night I went out for family meal for my sister-in-laws birthday,  I had been resting most of day as I knew I’d have to use crutches to get in and out of their car and into restaurant.

I’m always worried about falling over in public or not been able to make it to my seat when I have no chair as backup.  I also get anxious about not been able to make it to the toilet so I wear those Tena pants if I’m away from home so I don’t have to worry about going to toilet just getting in and out of car.

It was a long night though partly because Pete decided to order something that would take 25 mins to cook so we all waited for our carvery and in laws went outside for a smoke and also again before puddings,  then they wanted to meet up with other family members at a different pub for last orders before coming home which meant getting in and out car again and carpark was further from door (seating area directly in front of door here and cars weren’t allowed to park there)  we parked as near as possible but it was still further than I’ve attempted to walk on crutches before and I was already getting tired from in and out of car and previous pub. (as I’d also had to get up to go to carvery serving area and as everything was taking so long I’d had to make a journey to loo before coming to this pub).

But I didn’t want to spoil the mood I was really enjoying my night out (they wouldn’t have made it for last orders with her uncle if they’d had to drive me home first) I just worry about falling over on crutches and the walking bits inbetween when I have no chair as backup.

These pubs don’t have space for wheelchairs anyway if I was stuck in big electric chair all day and had no walking ability I wouldn’t be able to come to these places at all.  Unfortunate thing about villages not many places are big wide buildings with lifts,  disabled toilets and good wheelchair access other than the big supermarkets/shopping centres in towns.

Luckily my arms are strong and stronger than I thought it seems and I can swing on crutches but after a guy had previously told me that your brain stops sending messages to muscles if you stop trying to use them I decided to see how far I could push my leg muscles.  After all I do walk about the house with walker and use feet to push myself backwards on walker seat (and use exercises pedaller) it doesn’t seem as far though when you are only walking from room to room and sitting than seeing a car park in front of you to walk across it seems more scary with a wide open space and nothing to grab onto or no seat to sit on halfway.

I thought I’d try and aim for the nearest bench first which looked about as far as me walking from my back door to my rotary dryer with washing basket on rollator, which I have managed. (although if I think about it I actually walk further as I walk from kitchen to back door to rotary dryer and back inside again!)

My brother was just at side at me anyway to grab me if I looked like I was gonna end up in an heap so I gingerly made it step by step across the car park to the seating area then carried on past the seats I felt more confident once the seats were at the side of me so I know I could sit down if I needed to.  But I made it inside and managed sitting on regular seats all night.

Luckily the seats in this pub had backs that kind of wrapped around you rather than been a dining chair so by time my back was starting to feel a little tired it had a bit more support.

I eventually made it home around 11.30pm but it was a great night and whats surprised me most is I’m not as completely exhausted this morning as I though I would be.  I thought I’d be struggling to get up in time to get Inca out and back before vet visited after morning surgery but its only 8.30am and I already got up once made it to bathroom and kitchen for a cuppa and got back in bed for quick cuppa before I get up to take Inca out.

I’m glad I got electric chair,  I be using that to walk her as it has more back support than the scooter and I don’t want to push things too far and plan to rest after the vet has been to give Inca her booster but overall I’m quite thrilled that I managed to do so well on crutches last night so the exercise routine program I am following seems to be making a difference as I couldn’t actually manage that far on crutches previously.

I also actually managed to keep my balance better especially as I had to negiotiate 3 steps into first pub car park which luckily were wide (and long across length of entrance so no way around it) and shallow but with no hand rails.  I think I must credit this to the standing exercises I do every day as part of my vestibular rehabilitation program.

My arms also don’t twitch when they are in that position holding crutches and I’m concentrating on each step.  It makes me wonder about dystonia as I saw a program where a woman had severe muscle twitches until she started either hoovering or playing the flute and they stopped when she was concentrating so hard.

I also managed on second carpark where ground was sloped where cars can go down to another carpark so lifting both crutches to swing on them was a bit risky as the left side was always going to be slightly lower throwing me off balance, so I had to very carefully shift weight alternately between legs and sticks.  It was a real challenge for an ataxian but I actually did alot better than I thought I was going to do. 🙂