AACORN AAC

We go hands-on with an innovative AAC app unlike any other speech-generating app or device. An affordable and accessible assistive communication app that is helping many emerging communicators with both their speech and language development.

Background

With so many apps and devices available for assistive speech, it is often difficult to settle on the one option that will work best for your child or student. As anyone who has looked into the many options available will tell you, the problem is that almost all of them look the same, and at around $300 or more they aren’t exactly cheap. That’s why it is a breath of fresh air when you find an organisation offering a genuinely new approach that is both affordable and that is really making a difference!

Introducing AACORN

Install the AACORN app (available for iPad on iTunes) and it immediately becomes apparent this is a very different kind of assistive communication app, intended to be more accessible for emerging communicators from a young age. Gone are the stick figure word drawings, same for the rigid grid and folder layout which a feature of apps like Proloquo2Go and LAMP.  Instead what we have is a bright and clean minimalistic design that at once seems very approachable for children and feels right at home on the iPad.

At the heart of this new design is arguably aacorn’s biggest innovation, an interface called the ‘Word Tree’ that quite literally reinvents how an AAC user builds and speak sentences. Where in other apps or with speech-generating devices the experience involves a lot of searching in and out of folders, aacorn employs a system of branching pathways that fan out on the screen giving users suggested choices for words and phrases they may wish to express.

Your child or student makes a choice and new options present themselves with each subsequent tap, giving an almost limitless array of sentence choices that the app learns to prdict based on how your child communicates. Sentences that can be as simple or complex as befits their skill level.

This changes Everything!

If this sounds different it is! Visually it can be a little disarming initially after years of grids and folders, but use the word tree for a short period of time and you can’t help but become excited at the possibilities – not just for making AAC easier for those who are younger or who struggle with other systems which it certainly does – but for it’s potential to teach AAC users about the relationships and meaning of the words in those sentences!

It is one thing to search for single words in and out of folders, but ‘seeing’ the connections between these words displayed visually on-screen is especially illuminating in a way that kids of all abilities just seem to ‘get’, including those who in our tests had really struggled with other AAC options. This shouldn’t perhaps be surprising, after all aacorn’s approach is very much like how our brains work,  a neural network with branching pathways.

Who is it for?

Traditional AAC apps have developed to a point where with any of the popular premium apps you can tap around and through the combination of a lot of setup and modelling of examples amass an extensive library of ready to speak phrases and short sentences. But communication and especially independent communication is about much more than how many words are available for use or the range of synthesised voices built-in. The developers of aacorn have clearly thought beyond apps that provide a child with a voice, and are addressing other equally important aspects of communication that until now have not really been tackled by existing AAC apps/devices. Specifically how we as humans learn and develop an understanding of language and meaning.

As with any AAC app or device aacorn will not be a fit for for everyone, but for users who are k-9yrs or older but more developmentally delayed and struggle to make the most of the more complex AAC apps mentioned, aacorn is well worth a try.  Children often do very well with aacorn’s very visual design and predictive word tree. Just read some of the user reviews we collected from around the web, which show very promising results and feedback from parents as well as speech and language professionals.

From our own experience in using and evaluating AAC apps and devices over many years, for many emerging communicators the cognitive burden of looking for words in folders can often results in a child or student being incorrectly deemed ‘not ready’ for an AAC. I say incorrectly because it isn’t a failure of the child but of the tools available to assist the student to reach their full potential.

For these and many other children aacorn succeeds in ways that more expensive traditional apps and devices cannot because the approach is more of a holistic one that takes into account cognitive issues and emphasises early language development.

aacorn helps to broaden our perception of what AAC and augmentative alternative communication can be. For some it may not replace their existing AAC app or device but in many ways is complimentary, adding another dimension and another powerful tool that families and speech and language professionals can use to further their child’s speech AND language comprehension.

What we love!

  • Extremely intuitive design, making AAC accessible from a very young age
  • Unique emphasis on both Speech and Language Development
  • Native to the iPad, easy to use and makes full use of features of the iPad.
  • Very reasonably priced for hard-working parents, SLP’s and teachers.
  • Excellent Support available. Including Live Chat, Email, and a usergroup.
  • Very customisable, upgrade path protects your investment.
  • Apple Featured. Very highly rated by users and professionals.

PrAACtical Considerations

  • If your child/student is already typing or spelling they might be better looking at text to speech alternatives
  • aacorn uses real recorded children’s voices. Text to Speech voices available as an optional extra.
  • doesn’t support switch or eye gaze accessibility options.
  • Available for iPad, English only.

Where to Buy

AACORN  AAC   – Download  $89.99 (Normally $149.99)

AACORN Plus   – Download  $149.99 (Normally $249.99)

Developer Website: www.aacornapp.com