Using a Clinical Approach To Answer "What Communication Apps Should We Use?"
Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication
It would be impossible (and not the intent of this paper) to conduct a comprehensive review of every communication application (app) that exists as of this writing. Rather, a clinical framework for comparing and selecting apps will be offered to assist speechlanguage pathologists in answering the popular question "What communication apps should we use?" While this platform and certain apps may indeed represent a reasonable match to the strengths and needs of some individuals, it is important
... t the needs of an individual be considered on a case-by-case basis using a thorough and clinically based approach. To this end, the clinical application of a chart detailing features believed to represent critical and fundamental considerations for a broad profile of people evidencing complex communication needs will be discussed and highlighted through case examples. Because of the zeitgeist surrounding the iDevices (Apple's iPhones, iPods, and iPads) and their applications (apps), speech-language pathologists (SLPs) now are being confronted by families asking "What apps do we use?" or directed to "make this work." Although the interest in the potential of apps and iDevices can assist in bringing non-professionals on board with augmentative communication supports, this approach runs the risk that well-meaning parents and professionals will make decisions without sufficient experience or clinical judgment and knowledge (including awareness of language abilities or needs, other assistive communication device options, the differentiating features of apps, etc.). Surely, the greatest harm of a faulty clinical decision is the time wasted learning or attempting to learn to use an inappropriate communication technology. To this end, parents and many clinicians are part of the hype, making purchases of mobile technology and apps without clinical evaluations or trials. The app hype is infused in mainstream media outlets with headline-grabbing statements like "App gives special needs users a voice" (Perets, 2010), "iDevices are life changers" (Bascaramurty, 2010), and "iPhone App opens world" (Nojiri, 2010). Gravitytank Researchers (2009) summarize the enormous impact of mobile technology on the world in general and the effect such technologies are having on the AAC/AT world specifically