While communication technology has been a boon for parents of children with autism, finding an app that checks all of the boxes can be inconvenient and frustrating. There are hundreds of apps geared toward people with communication difficulties, and all feature varying types of intervention methods, interfaces, and functions. We dissected numerous online recommendation lists, highly-rated apps, and top internet searches to find the best apps out there. Then we sat down with them for a thorough review and to see how they lined up with our own app, Otsimo.
Proloquo2Go. $249.99 Available for iOS
Proloquo2Go consistently appears on communication app recommendation lists and is touted as one of the premier options for improving language skills through Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). And for good reasons. Proloquo2Go’s highly-customizable interface accommodates a wide range of users by allowing them to change settings and displays to match their individual motor and visual needs. Words can be sounded out in several different English-language accents (US, UK, Australia), and the app has a few bilingual options as well. Their built-in core word vocabulary, called Cresendo™, has three vocabulary levels and a large selection of fringe words. Proloquo2Go’s VocaPriority™ divides each page of words into three “priority” groups: words used often, words used sometimes, and words used rarely. Users can “promote” or “demote” specific words between the groups to meet their vocabulary needs.
For those familiar with Gateway to Language and Learning© vocabulary, Proloquo2Go offers this option as an in-app purchase for an additional $149.99. And this is where the fairytale of Proloquo2Go comes to an end. Insofar as how much assistive technology can help children to communicate, the cost of this app—at nearly $250—will be worth it for some. However, it’s an expensive gamble, and we have not found anything on their website about refund options should your child not take to it. Because the app relies solely on AAC, this is not an app for trying out this method—you will likely want to be fully familiar with AAC before committing. Finally, Proloquo2Go, while a great communication app, is only that. It does not have games, exercises, or interactive materials to teach new words in different ways, which will alienate some users depending on how they learn.
MyTalkTools Mobile. $99.99 Available for iOS and Android
MyTalkTools Mobile is a stand-alone app that incorporates AAC image-based intervention. The app hosts over 20,000 images from Symbolstix images and allows you to download and include your own photos for custom words or phrases. The display features pop-up menus and navigational tools at the bottom of the screen. Core words are kept in standard locations throughout the interface, and you can customize pop-up keyboards by adding your own custom words or phrases. The app also integrates into Apple’s iMessage app so your child can text with it.
One of the perks advertised is that you don’t have to worry about losing your information if your device goes missing or breaks because you can back up your information on MyTalkTools Workspace, a web application that lets you personalize the MyTalkTools Mobile app. Workspace provides access to searchable images from Symbolstix and Public Library as well as real-time collaboration between parents and children. The catch: MyTalkTools Workspace is included with your MyTalkTools Mobile app as a free trial for only 30 days, after which time you will need to purchase a subscription from their website.
As with Proloquo2Go, MyTalkTools Mobile is strictly an AAC-based communication app without games or projects to teach and reinforce vocabulary. For $99.99, the price point is more reasonable than Proloquo2Go, but it is still a chunk of change for a one-function app.
Otsimo. Free! Available for iOS and Android
The Otsimo Difference
Otsimo is a comprehensive special education app packed with assistive games for children and tools for their parents. Because Otsimo was imagined using input from parents, therapists, speech-language pathologists, and educators, we have eliminated the pitfalls we found in other apps and created a product that is fun and really works. And because no one should have to struggle to obtain quality assistive technology, Otsimo is free.
Otsimo AAC, the app’s communication function, features an easy-to-use interface with image-word buttons and accompanying voice pronunciation. Users can combine and order images to create sentences, phrases, and questions that appear at the top of the screen. Image-words are grouped by topic and function and are accessible via straightforward navigation buttons. Our text-to-speech tool allows users to type words that the app will then voice. The images are bright, simple, and user-tested for maximum effectiveness and recognizability. Children can play our selection of games that teach and reinforce new vocabulary from a variety of topics and in a multitude of ways (matching games, puzzles, drawing games, and learning new sounds).
Parents don’t miss out on the fun either. Otsimo offers parents a few ways to monitor and feel comfortable about their child’s activity. Otsimo is 100% ad-free, making it safe for kids. The app uses our custom algorithm to monitor your child’s performance in games and exercises and then customizes the difficulty accordingly, which means that your child is never bored or overwhelmed. Otsimo will track and analyze usage into daily, weekly, or monthly reports that you can see and share.
** For children with speech-language disorders, we recently launched Otsimo Speech Therapy SLP, a low-cost subscription app that caters specifically to individuals with speech and language disorders. Try it with our 7-day free trial for iOS and Android.