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Friday, April 30, 2010

You Don't Want to Use Your Voice On TapToTalk? No Problem - AT&T Has a Free Solution.

One of the great features of TapToTalk Designer is that you get to record sounds using your own voice. This helps deal with accents, pronunciation and language issues, and provides a familiar voice.

But what if you want a different voice? For example, maybe you're a mom and want the recordings in a boy's voice. Some of our customers are using a free text-to-speech web site provided by AT&T for this.

This site lets you type in what you want to say, then hear it in a voice and language of your choice. You can then save the file on your computer (it's a wav file), and that file can be uploaded to TapToTalk Designer.

Here is what one mom said about this free service: "AT&T is excellent. Didn't want (child) to have my voice. So easy to use as well."

We cannot provide technical support for the AT&T site, but it is very easy to use and provides a nice set of voice choices. Let us know how it works on the TapToTalk if you try it.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team

Friday, April 23, 2010

TapToTalk and PECS

Many of our customers use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) with their special needs child. So we want to pass along some ideas that have been shared with us about using TapToTalk with PECS.

Maria Orofino Yakkey says, "We use the TapToTalk as Emily's communication device. Emily is 7 and has used PECS since she was 4. I decided that the PECS weren't travel friendly and it was annoying that those little velcro pieces would be found all over." Maria appreciates the fact that TapToTalk on the Nintendo DS let's Emily take the pictures she uses to communicate pretty much everywhere. Of course, it also plays the sounds she communicates with when she taps her TapToTalk pictures.

Valerie Pietsch Ammendola calls TapToTalk "electronic PECS." She has a great suggestion for using the feature of the TapToTalk Web App that prints all the pictures in a TapToTalk album. With TapToTalk, you can publish the same albums you run on the Nintendo to the Web App and thus run the album on your computer as well as the DS. The Web App let's you print the pictures (for how to do this, see this Product Tips-and-Tricks post).

Valerie writes, "I just thought this [the ability to print the pictures] was great! If anyone is switching from the standard PECS program to TapToTalk (basically an electronic PECS) this would be a great transition. Switch PECS pictures in your book to TapToTalk pictures before making the switch to the Nintendo." Great idea, Valerie!

Do you use TapToTalk and PECS? If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What About Non-Verbal Communication? What Horses Can Teach Us.

Guest blogger Diane Hunter is a mind-body coach and a TapToTalk mom. Her next Listen Beyond Words workshop with horses is June 24-26 in the mountains of Los Gatos, California. For more info: www.listenbeyondwords.com.

I'm honored to post on TapToTalk's blog to share the lessons I've learned from horses and my eight-year-old Ian. He's non-verbal and was diagnosed with autism at age three. Last year I attended a workshop with horses that taught me the power of non-verbal communication, which transformed my life and my relationship with my son. I share my story to provide hope and possibility for you and your non-verbal child to connect on a deeper level beyond words.

The way TapToTalk provides a voice for a non-verbal child and his or her family is an amazing gift. For many, it opens an entirely new world of verbal communication. I highly recommend TapToTalk for any child without verbal language skills. But there's more to communication than "words." Understanding the way we communicate on a non-verbal level compliments and enhances all forms of verbal communication, spoken or assisted.

Research shows that we communicate less than 10% through verbal language. This means over 90% of our communication occurs non-verbally. We are constantly sending, receiving and reacting to non-verbal messages and children, like horses, are masters at reading these messages.

Before working with horses I struggled to communicate and connect with my son. I didn't have an understanding or awareness of how my child and I were actually communicating on a non-verbal level even though it was happening all the time. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated and I needed help. I found the answers in the round pen with a horse and as a result, my entire way of parenting shifted.

Typical statements I made before working with the horses:
  • I don't understand my child's behavior.
  • My child doesn't listen to me.
  • My child's whining and tantrums make me crazy.
  • I lose my patience far too often.
  • I get overwhelmed
  • I don't have enough energy to meet everyone's needs.
Sound familiar? After spending time with the horses, I decided to embark on my own journey to find my own place of calm. I learned how to shift my energy to create an environment of peace, trust and playfulness replacing stress, fear and control.

With my son, I first needed to develop trust and a sense of safety in order to create a good connection. This principle translates directly to all parenting. Building trust and a sense of safety comes first.

Why are the horses such great teachers?

In the round pen, the horses reflect back what you communicate on a non-verbal level. They illuminate any areas where you are struggling. What shows up in the round pen is what is showing up for you as a parent.

With the guidance of horse whisperer and life coach, Koelle Simpson, the horses provided immediate feedback when I was on track and communicating with leadership rather than control. They showed me exactly how to find that zone of balance of leadership, compassion and clarity and demystify the patterns of non-verbal communication that were standing between Ian and myself.

Horses have the ability to sense whatever you're feeling in any given moment on an energetic level.

How does that work? When you experience an emotion, there is a physical sensation associated with that emotion. Can you remember a time when you were really happy? How did your body feel? Did you have lots of energy? How about a time when you were sad? What do you recall? Do you notice a difference between the "feeling" of happy and sad? If yes, I propose you consider that you’re noticing the difference between the energetic resonances each emotion represents in your body. When you're near other people, they can feel that resonance too. These are the non-verbal exchanges going on all the time.

Imagine you drop a pebble into a pond. When the ripples reach another object like a rock, the ripples return to the direction they originated. The rock merely reflects back the ripples. The same thing happens in the round pen with a horse. The horse provides a mirror for what you're feeling. As your ripple of energy reaches them, they reflect it back to you. So does your child. Your child can "feel" when you’re stressed, scared, happy, sad, excited, etc.

Non-verbal children on the autism spectrum are especially sensitive to shifts in energy. When you start to open up your awareness and tune into this different level of non-verbal communication, you start to really understand what's going on for your child and listen beyond words. Even though your circumstances may remain the same, your entire perspective shifts creating a whole new understanding for you and your family. I wish you all the best in your journey ahead.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Now You Can TapToTalk on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

We are happy to announce that TapToTalk now runs on Apple's great mobile devices: the iPhone®, iPad™ and iPod touch®. Now you have more choices than ever for socially acceptable AAC devices.

Better yet, you do not have to choose. With TapToTalk Designer, you can publish your child's TapToTalk to the Nintendo DS family, the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and your Internet-connected computer. All TapToTalk apps are free with your subscription. Current customers can start publishing to their favorite devices today, one of the advantages of a TapToTalk Designer subscription.

What's cool about the new TapToTalk App in the App StoreSM is that subscribers can download it, publish their TapToTalk albums and sync them wirelessly over the Internet immediately.

Your child can switch from one device to another. For DS users, if she outgrows the DS, she can use an iPhone; if he forgets his DS, he can use your iPhone. The choices are yours.

Now your device choice can be based on age-appropriateness, size, volume, and other device features. Want it to fit in a pocket? Then choose an iPhone, iPod touch, DSi or DS Lite. The DSi XL and iPad are great for kids with vision or motor skill issues who need bigger pictures to tap. These larger devices also are louder than their "little brothers." The iPad's volume and clarity are particularly outstanding.

So choose one, choose several, or choose them all. You can publish your albums to any and all of them.

The iPhone/iPad App is free at the App Store. For more information, check our web site: www.taptotalk.com.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Nine Year-Old Autistic Boy, His TapToTalk, and His Great New School

This is a guest post from Crystal Daso, a TapToTalk Mom:

Our Malachi is 9 years old and nonverbal. He has Autism and is at the low functioning end of the spectrum. We moved last summer and this new school district has been amazing for him. He goes to Westlawn Elementary School in Cedarburg, WI. He made more progress in the first 3 months of school than he had made in his 9 years of life. We learned that he can read. In no time we learned that he can also do math. He went from not adding even two digits to being at grade level in math! Grade level! Most recently I have learned that he knows the planets and their order and colors them according to their "proper" colors.

He also was using a GoTalk machine at school but outgrew it fast. They had to keep erasing and recording things all day long and he would grow impatient that they weren't quick enough.

This is when I learned about TapToTalk and thought it looked like something that would really work for us. I liked how portable it was so that we could carry it around with us to church, the store, etc. It looked normal and trendy and not some big bulky device that makes him stand out from everyone. It's just...neat. And totally affordable.

They also recently made it so that you can not only use the program on the DS but you can use it on the web as well with either the mouse or with a touch screen. That is neat! So at school they can create an album on the web just for something they need right away but never add it to the DS card.

Malachi has been using this for several months now and transports it between school and home. We had a planning meeting a couple months ago at school with the assistive device lady to figure out how best to make this work. So it now has albums loaded up for school use and he can click on "I need a break" and then picks what he wants to use in the "break room." He can use it to say how he's feeling, what he wants to eat, etc. It's really awesome.

One thing I like about it compared to the GoTalk when he was bringing it home is that he likes it. He used to fight hard about using the GoTalk but he will actually go into his backpack, get his DS out, load TapToTalk up and tell me what he wants. The only thing is that he will try to tell me what he wants when I am not even in the room so he thinks that just because he pushes a button I know what he wants. You can record a voice for each picture as well, so we just have the volume set high so that if I'm in the other room I can hear "I'm hungry" and then "I want a rice cake."

I just preordered the new DSi XL after his OT told me about it yesterday and I can't wait to get it because the screen is 93% larger and it will be easier for him to push his pictures when we have all the rows full. (You can put a few pictures or many pictures in an album, but the more pictures you have, the smaller they get. He can still push them but I have to remind him to use one finger which is good for him anyway.) I also learned yesterday that he is using the DS Chat function to chat with another DS at school. So he is learning how to chat reciprocally which is fantastic. So having the larger screen will be good for typing.

So there is a mini update on Malachi and major props to the TapToTalk team. I highly recommend this program to anyone. Support at TapToTalk is so fast to respond. They’ve been incredible.

So if you have a child who would benefit from a way to get what they want to say out, check it out. It's been amazing for our family and it's just so affordable. Especially since many kids already have the device anyway.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team

Saturday, April 3, 2010

We're Listening - Now You Can Search the TapToTalk Picture Library

The TapToTalk Standard Picture Library has over 2000 pictures in it. So, naturally, a frequent customer question is: "Can we search the library to find the picture we want?" You didn't like our answer ("Errr... no."), and neither did we. So, we have added search to the Picture Library page on taptotalk.com.

Putting pictures in categories often helps people find the picture they want, but not always. What is one person's logical category is not another person's. So this search function is our first attempt to improve the situation. It searches on the name and category for the word you enter. It is not quite as smart as Google, but we think it is a step forward. We hope you agree.

The search box is on the top-right of the Picture Library page. You get to that page by using the Picture Library link in the Customer Zone on taptotalk.com. As with all search functions, you may have to try different ways of finding what you want. For example, if you enter bathroom, you'll get a bunch of pictures. But if you enter toilet, you'll just get one (this seems to be a very popular picture). We display the category and picture name so you can then find it in TapToTalk Designer.

We do plan to build this into TapToTalk Designer at some point, but we'd like to get your feedback first. This way you find pictures more easily sooner rather than later, and if it needs some more tweaking we can get your feedback.

We love to get your product suggestions. So please send them to us. Use the Product Suggestion link in the Customer Zone on taptotalk.com.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team
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