“I wanted to create apps that would help children develop the cognitive processes necessary for communication. I also wanted to make products that work for children who do not have the fine motor skills necessary for many AAC devices.”
— Ted Conley, dad to 4 kids
and creator of TapSpeak
Software engineer Ted Conley’s fourth child, Pierce, is nonverbal. The boy, now 4 years old, was born with cerebral palsy and cortical vision impairment. When Pierce was 9 months old, he began speech therapy, and Ted was not impressed by the devices the speech therapist had at her disposal.
“The devices she had were old technology. They were expensive and not easy to use,” Ted says. “At the time, I could see the potential of the iPhone, and I’d heard rumors about the iPad, which I thought would be the perfect platform for helping disabled kids learn to communicate.”
As a software engineer and as Pierce’s dad, Ted was in a unique position to develop kid-friendly augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) products. We talked with him about the TapSpeak suite of products and how they support the therapies that parents and teachers already use to help kids with special needs.
Why Did You Develop TapSpeak?
Ted Conley: Many communication devices are complete communication tools that kids are not ready to use. First, kids need to understand the concept of communication and then they have to have the motor skills necessary to use a particular device.
TapSpeak products start at the very beginning and grow with children. I wanted to create apps that would help develop the cognitive processes necessary for communication. For example, a child with cognitive delays has to learn through extended repetition that the word “water” is related to the cup of water on the table. He must learn to form the idea of a request before he can learn to get a device to speak the word in order to ask for a cup of water. My TapSpeak Button app helps therapists prod children to recognize the cause and effect of communication.
I also wanted to make products that work for children and adults that do not have the fine motor skills necessary for many AAC devices. TapSpeak products use currently available Bluetooth switch interfaces. There are a wide variety of head, leg and hand switches to make the apps accessible.
How Does TapSpeak Work?
Ted Conley: Currently, there are three TapSpeak products:
• TapSpeak Button: This app allows parents and therapists to record and play messages for teaching basic communication. The focus is on learning the cause and effect of communication.
• TapSpeak Sequence: This app makes accessible materials normally inaccessible to these children (books, songs, jokes, recipes, etc) and allows them to better participate in classroom activities.
• TapSpeak Choice: This app ranges from simple choice selection to complete speech generation. The app makes it easy to create communication boards and pages quickly with convenient vocabulary libraries. Text to speech capabilities include support for 20 languages and 43 voices. We’ve just released version 3, with many new features including fully customizable and scannable keyboards.
The apps are switch accessible, and the tap response is configurable to accommodate kids and adults with varying motor skill levels.
To see demonstrations of the apps, visit our YouTube page via the link at TapSpeak.com.
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