As Proloquo2Go was turning ten, we started thinking, were we doing enough? In some ways, Proloquo2Go is an immense success. It is currently the most popular and the highest-rated AAC app on the App Store (4.8 out of 5 stars). But, for a company with a social mission, are commercial successes and high customer satisfaction enough? We set out to make AAC an effective and accepted means of communication. Are our users becoming successful communicators?
In talking to parents and visiting schools over the past ten years, we found many parents and schools are struggling. Getting started with AAC can be overwhelming. Many things in life you learn in school or by observing the people around you. Nothing can prepare you for AAC in that way. What’s more, all current, good AAC systems are designed by experts for experts. There is so much to learn and too few experts to help.
Parents and educators lack AAC knowledge and feel lost. Over the years, we undertook several initiatives such as the AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom and the Learn AAC section on our website to address these issues. But while these efforts lead to some improvements, we still have a long way to go. Most parents and educators continue to find AAC overwhelming. Over 80% do not use Proloquo2Go’s recommended setup. As many as 40% choose to have fewer than 20 buttons per page. With such a small grid, language and communication are limited.
Our mission as a company is to break down the barriers to communication, but we were clearly not doing enough to achieve it. If education alone doesn’t suffice, it’s time to take the radical decision to start over and design a different solution.
Our first step was research. We reviewed the academic literature and did a lot of interviews. We studied learning strategies. We analyzed anonymous data from tens of thousands of AAC users of all ages and abilities. Not in the least, we questioned our ideas and beliefs and took nothing for granted.
We confirmed much of what we already knew, but we also had some surprises. Some of the more shocking insights from our research were that:
- With an average of around 100 words per day, AAC users say very little.
- There is no clear correlation between grid size and the quantity or quality of communication.
- AAC users lag in language development. Even the most proficient symbol-based AAC users have the vocabulary size of a typical 6-year-old.
- As many as 10% of symbol-based AAC users type more than 10% of their words
Our idea for the next generation AAC
We know that parents need clear guidance in small doable steps to learn AAC best practices. To develop confidence, they need an AAC solution that is inviting and intuitive. AAC users need support from the people around them to best develop language and literacy.
We could not address the challenges through incremental updates to our existing products. We had to build something new from the ground up. This required a massive undertaking and a relentless focus on the needs of parents and AAC users.
After three years of work by the entire AssistiveWare team, we are incredibly proud to present Proloquo and Proloquo Coach. Proloquo’s unique design is based on the latest research. Its new Crescendo Evolution™ vocabulary builds on anonymous data from over 10,000 AAC users. Its unique design makes it possible to have twice as many words yet remain as efficient as systems with much larger grid sizes. It supports language growth from first words to full literacy. Proloquo offers access to a rich vocabulary for all ages.