Touch Screen Communication Devices for Aphasia.
November 23, 2011 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Experiences with, or recommendations for, a touch screen communication device for aphasia?

My mother, in her 80's, is independent, intelligent and active. She is slowly regaining some speech after a stroke, but often gets blocked trying to communicate.

Her therapist has recommended a device called a TouchTalk by Lingraphica.

Mother prefers a stand alone device -- a computer asking permission to download upgrades, schedule system maintenance, etc., would frustrate her.

A keyboard is not important, because she has the same problems trying to spell, as she does trying to speak.

She should be able to carry it, to explain her condition, and make simple requests from strangers. She'd also like to facilitate more complex and nuanced interactions with friends and family.

The device is pricey, and she would have to pay a 20% deductible. She's in Nevada City, in northern California.


1) Can an iPad or tablet PC with software be made to operate as a single-purpose device? I guess that's probably what these things are anyway, but is there any advantage to buying the hardware and software separately?

2) How easy are these to learn and use, and to configure with customized messages? Does she need to get one that her therapist has been trained on? Can her therapist bill her insurance for programming custom options for her? Can a specialist in the device be added to her insured regimen?

3) Do any of these have graphics that don't look like kindergarten coloring books? How easy can it be to replace icon libraries with real photos? She has a somewhat refined design sense, that is part of her identity.

4) As well as facilitating communication, which device would provide the best speech practice and therapy tools? (She's very motivated to rehearse and improve, making slow but steady progress.)

5) Bonus question: Do you know anyone making or marketing such a device that might want a photogenic, charismatic, likely-to-succeed case study or beta tester? She has an award-winning film graduate grandson who is documenting her life, before and after the stroke, depicting her heroic and cheerful response to this obstacle thrown in her path.

Please relate any experiences you've had that could help inform her decision.
posted by StickyCarpet to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The app I am most familiar with is for children but works brilliantly for simple interactions: Grace App. You can put it on an iPod Touch so it can be used pretty inexpensively. You can edit and add items so you can set her up with a mouth icon on her home screen she can literally touch to explain her condition.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:23 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a speech-language pathologist and work primarily with adults with aphasia. I am sorry to report that the perfect alternative/augmentative communication device for this population does not exist... yet. But, you may want to look at Proloquo2Go for the iPad: while your mother is likely to be appalled by this app's stick-figure icons, it is possible to add your own photos to the image library.

Your mother's speech-language pathologist should be able to customize this or any other app-based device without any specialized training. This should be done during your mother's treatment sessions with her as an active participant (i.e., no additional insurance billing beyond what's already being billed for that hour).

My software developer husband and I hope to collaborate on creating a better aphasia-specific device at some point in the near future. Feel free to memail me if you'd like to stay in touch.
posted by onepot at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

My wife recently had a fairly rapid onset of aphasia. Her motor skills declined at the same time. There are a bunch of free Lingraphica apps available for iPad and iPhone. However, they became difficult to use when she couldn't point or activate the terms she was trying to use. We reverted to a page of most common requests that was handwritten.

The most effective way that I found was to ask simple closed questions in order of what your experience suggests is what she might need and seeking a yes or no answer.

Another technique that we used was a sheet with yes / no written on it and I would track her eyes to get an answer.

Remember that this is a frustrating time for her too and it may take a little longer than usual to find her answer.

Good luck, my heart goes out to you.
posted by dantodd at 5:04 PM on November 23, 2011

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