Is this a good tool for my autistic child?
Good question with no easy answers, however, I can tell you about our own experience, two different versions, and then that might make the decision easier for you.
First up, IT IS FREE. I don’t know about you, but I have lost count of the number of things I have purchased for my children which made claims to help this or that, at vast expense, with no trial period nor ‘return if it’s a bust,’ option. Therefore, anything that comes free, goes straight to the top of my list.
What is it? Here’s a link to check out:-
How does it work?
You hit the record button and surprise, surprise, it records your voice. Then miracle or miracles, it turns your speech into text. [this is a bit hit and miss – more later – and the results can be hilarious, but you still have text which you can then edit with the handy dandy keyboard screen which pops up to use with one tap.]
Why is this good?
Because then you don’t have to fight with a pencil, and organize your thoughts and then write, which means you’ve skipped three steps in the nightmare. This in turn means there is less pressure on your tortured brain which might make all the difference to some.
But my child’s prosody means that all those speech to text programmes are useless, surely?
You have a valid point. All those breaths, stutters and stammers, make it harder, but it’s infinitely better than any of the competitors that we have tried to date. Also, because it’s virtually instantaneous, there is less ‘wait time’ and therefore less frustration.
Will the programme cope with my child’s monotone delivery?
Works for us. It encourages fluidity and a more animated tone.
But my child sounds like he has a mouthful of marbles when he talks. No programme can deal with that?
Indeed it can.
What about pooling and drooling?
Hold the ipad in front of the child’s face instead of on their lap.
My child’s hand co-ordination, tracking, fine motor control, visual impairments, and tremors would make it too difficult for him to accurately touch the button to record.
It is a biggish RED button on a blank screen, you can take a few stabs at it until it records, it’s quite forgiving.
The frequent pauses in between words and phrases would mean that it will stop recording.
True, but you can record your sentences in little bursts of one or two words and then add another couple of words and so on until you have a whole sentence.
My child’s speech starts off strong and then peters out at the end.
Fine, no problem. You have half a sentence recorded and then you can add the next bit. The child can read what he has recorded so far and then add the next bit on the end.
What happens if the programme misunderstands my child’s words? What if it misinterprets ‘had’ for ‘hand’ for example?
You pull up the keyboard at the bottom of the screen and correct it. Warning – it’s not good at names.
But my child can’t do that.
You can do it for him. It’s still quicker and easier to read and correct than it is to erase pencil handwriting and rewrite it, far less laborious and much more encouraging.
Fine, but what about background noise? Won’t that interfere and make the speech unintelligible?
Background noise is an issue, probably not suitable for a classroom situation, but at home you have the chance of managing the noise factor.
That’s all very well, but I don’t want to buy an expensive Mac printer to go with my very expensive ipad?
No problem, you can send it via email [all drop down / fill in the blanks boxes] to your computer and print it out as you do everything else.
What about formatting the material?
You can do all that on your computer once you’ve emailed the text to match the school’s presentation requirements. Maybe the programmers will add some new features in the future to accommodate these needs.
But I want my child to be able to write. Won’t this just delay the inevitable? How will he cope in the future if he can’t write?
True. Your decision. Anyway, mine can write, unfortunately no one can read what they’ve written, however, I’m happy to encourage keyboard skills as a back up. We can’t predict the future, but the technology is here, why not use it to their advantage?
It’s all very well for you, but I don’t have an expensive ipad. Are you going to donate the technology to me?
Sorry, not going to happen I’m afraid. But prices are falling and I would have lobbied my school district for this as a piece of adaptive technology that could really make a significant difference to my child’s performance – a positive, reasonable and useful accommodation.
How long would it take for my child to become competent with this gizmo?
Don’t know, we’re still fighting with shoelaces around here, but daily practice helps. We’ve made it part of the daily routine, and the motivational factor is huge because it saves the torture of handwriting, and it’s quick and easy.
But if you can only use it at home, how is that going to help with school?
Homework. Most children have homework and reading assignments etc. and if your school is up to the mark then you can send the work directly to your child’s teacher via email. [Added benefit of knowing that the work has reached the teacher and not gone astray between home and the classroom]
I’m not convinced. You make it sound too easy. Nothing can be that foolproof. I would have already heard about it if it were that good.
It’s not foolproof, but it is a significant improvement on the other programmes we’ve tried. Also, it takes practice [and co-operation and motivation]. These come, hopefully, from the payout, the benefit of avoiding writing. A timely reminder of this pertinent fact seems to work wonders around here, especially in an upbeat, cheerleader style.
My child doesn’t speak at all. Have you any idea how lucky you guys are?
And lastly, a sad spoiler. If you happen to have a British accent, it doesn’t translate at all, but that’s probably because we have it set to English US.