iPad useful for Ataxians?

I have had my iPad since the day before it officially was released in UK (I got mine a day early cos I pre-ordered).  As I have had it around a month now,  maybe just over – can’t remember what official release date was now (I’m hopeless with remembering dates and numbers), I thought I would do an update of my review on how useful I found it.

My main difficulties besides walking and communication is fine motor control and co-ordination so my Blackberry Storm has been getting a struggle to text from, despite using the biggest keyboard size and the built in word prediction and abbreviations.  iPhone’s were not as accessible when I got my Blackberry,  only having the qwerty on-screen keyboard in portrait mode originally and costing considerably more.  (I managed to get my BB Storm second hand off ebay for around £150 and just stuck my PAYG SIM in it).

Buying an iPad brand new for full retail price was a bit of an unknown risk for me,  it wasn’t that long since I was wondering whether I should get a demo of eye gaze to see if that would work for me if I started saving up for it.. I even considered adding windows to my beloved iMac (SHOCK… HORROR!!)  so I could put an eye gaze add-on unit for doing longer blogs.

However it seems my gamble paid off! :)

I have noticed a small improvement in my targeting skills with thumbs as long as forearms are supported  and games like scrabble (sliding the tiles onto the board) have helped improve this.

Scrabble on iPad

I have been using a small selection of simple free games, and puzzles to work on these too.

A free memory game has been useful and I am remembering more of the sequences in the later levels rather than just pressing randomly cos there was so many I couldn’t remember where they all were.  The enhanced version of ‘Simon says’ for iPad with 12 coloured squares instead of just 4 has been good and plays out similar to Ant and Dec’s Push the Button where you end up having to remember a longer sequence of colours.

One thing both Proloquo2go and my Lightwriter are missing are an ability to upload your own sound files which would be useful for Voice Banking.  when I first started struggling with my speech I recorded Inca’s commands in case I ever lost my speech completely, with the iPad I was able to use an app called ‘Tap Speak’,  you record by either speaking into the iPad (has built in Mic)  or playing/uploading a sound file and you can record your voice for prosperity or your kids/pets.

It currently only has one big button (virtual) to press but I was told by person who created apps that they are working on a new version/update for iPad which will allow multiple buttons on screen. I think this app was around £5.99.

Inca's commands in my voice (pre-ataxia) via the Tap-speak app

As Proloquo2Go doesn’t yet have word prediction either or compatible with textexpander I ended up also downloading a copy of ‘Speak it’ as its only just over a quid. That way if my Lightwriter is unavailable due to been sent away for repair I can also just type into iPad and it will speak.  It will need alot more abbreviations as there is no word prediction on ‘speak it’ either but still possibly be quicker than trying to remember which category to find words in when trying to build a spontaneous sentence on the spot.

In specific scenarios P2G is quicker as long as the exact words/sentences I happen to need are on the page within a few presses.    Having tried using both these system in real life situations I find the Lightwriter more suitable for an adult with a large/advanced vocabulary, who prefer to still ‘speak in proper sentences’ regardless of their method of communication.

The symbol systems are great for kids as children don’t speak in full sentences from the beginning and are often taught language within a specific scenario in speech therapy etc. However as an adult language doesn’t happen like that,  people expect you to reply or ask in sentences.

It would be good if one of the programs (P2G or speak-it) had BOTH word prediction AND ability to create abbreviations,  but the iPad is still fairly new and as these apps were originally only available on iPhone/iTouch with much smaller screens they have yet to reach their full potential as ‘communication aids’.  It is however an adequate back -up system and with a variety of different apps you can add the same features that some of the more expensive machines have,  including now been able to log into other computers and use your iPad as the input.

Overall,  I have found it very useful,  some apps would be useful on smaller device for using outdoors such as calling TapSpeak, P2G although I think typing and texting would still be an issue and not possible without either adding a keyboard which would make it less compact and portable,  or the ability to scan.

I definitely do better with touchscreen (of a certain size)  than a mouse alternative. A touchscreen app version of Intellikeys to access any computer (Mac or windows) would make a great accessibility app for iPad.


10 thoughts on “iPad useful for Ataxians?

  1. do you play “Words With Friends” App in addition to Scrabble? I’m addicted to it. It’s the same game as scrabble, just different company.

    Let me know so we can play.


  2. Hi

    I hadn’t seen that, but just downloaded it, I looked for you under your name but it couldn’t find you. My user name on there is ‘Katilea’ if anyone wants a game with me! 🙂 KT

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