Many, but not all, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems are symbol-based systems that rely on visual images. Many people who can read and write prefer to use text-based AAC systems. Using text-based AAC typically involves a combination of spelling and choosing pre-written messages. Proloquo4Text is AssistiveWare’s text-based AAC solution.
Proloquo4Text is designed for you to communicate with speed and efficiency.
Proloquo4Text is also designed for you to have control over the look, sound, and use of the system.
So much communication happens beyond face to face conversations. This is why Proloquo4Text is designed to allow you to share your messages in different ways.
This article will outline some of the key features of the Proloquo4Text app that AAC users report work best for them.
Speed and efficiency
There are many features within Proloquo4Text that allow you to communicate with speed and efficiency. Speed and efficiency in communication are vital. Having enough time to write and share messages continues to be one of the biggest barriers for all AAC users.
“I like the speed that communicating in Proloquo4Text gives me. The word prediction is really great, and I wish I used it more because, especially for longer words, it just saves SO MUCH TIME!” ~ Derek Burrow, AAC user
Proloquo4Text uses a powerful word and sentences prediction engine. It is one that learns with the writer. The more you type, the more the word prediction bar can start really predicting what you might type next. Similarly, sentence prediction keeps use and frequency information to help make predictions about what sentences you might be starting to type. Word and sentence prediction is just one way of increasing the speed of typing.
Another handy feature is abbreviation expansion. You can add many typing shortcuts in Proloquo4Text. Shortcuts can replace longer words, (eg. “bc” for “because”), phrases (eg. “ty” for “Thank-you” and acronyms (eg. “AAC” for “Alternative and Augmentative Communication”). When typed, they are added in full to the text pad.
Proloquo4Text also includes fully customizable Phrase storage. You can type and then save any phrase, sentence or collection of sentences. These phrases can be spoken quickly when they are needed. They save time typing a sentence in full in that moment. Phrases can be organized into categories or folders, so they may be easier to find. You could find it useful to pre-write and save a few key messages, particularly if those are things that you say often, or that you can easily predict. An example might be saving some descriptions of your medical symptoms so you are ready to have that conversation with your doctor.
Phrases can be copied and pasted into Proloquo4Text from many text platforms. For example, you can copy and paste sentences from emails onto phrases buttons, or from notes taken in the note page. Spending the time to work on saving and entering phrases, can save you a lot of time later. Another way to add words to your phrase storage is to simply add the content from the current text pad. If you have been writing something and think you could use it again, save it into the phrases.
“The Quick Talk buttons in P4T are similarly HUGELY helpful. They let me have a lot of basic conversations without having to type too much, as well as using basic pleasantries or necessary pieces of information with a minimum of navigating.” ~ Derek Burrow, AAC user
The Quick Talk block allows you to tap and speak messages quickly, without interrupting the message that you are currently typing in the center text pad. A common message may say “Please be patient while I write my message”. This is an easy way to remind communication partners to stop while you are composing a message. It reminds them to wait. There are many ways that Quick talk messages could be used, and all of them will help you to be more efficient in conversations.
“I like the ‘conversations’ feature on Proloquo4Text, and the history it stores too, I totally didn't know about those at first, but they're super useful.” ~ endever* corbin, AAC user
The Conversation block, similarly allows you to be more efficient. It allows you to put messages you are currently writing in your text pad, on “hold”. If you are in the middle of writing a long response, and someone interrupts you with another question, it is a perfect time to use the Conversation block. Tap the plus button, so you get a fresh window in the text pad. Answer their interrupting question, then tap back to the previous conversation, so you can continue typing your message.
The History block let’s you quickly and easily see what you have said before. Tap these messages to repeat them.
Personalize the appearance
The appearance of Proloquo4Text can be changed to suit your preferences.
You can change the colors of the quick blocks and the text pad. Many use different colors to help sort and organize their phrase storage.
Another appearance setting that can be changed is fonts. You can use your preferred font on phrases, in quick blocks and in the text pad. You also have control over the size of the font. By increasing the size of the font, you also increase the space it takes up in the Quick Blocks. Many find larger messages in their Quick Blocks can be easier to see and access.
All of the Quick Blocks that stack on either side of the central text pad can be moved. You can decide if you want to turn them off, or if they appear on the left side or the right side of screen. During use Quick Blocks can be pushed to the side allowing the full text pad to be seen. When you push the side arrows, Quick Blocks will temporarily hide away.
Personalize the sound
Proloquo4Text uses a text to speech voice. Anything you type can be spoken aloud. You should choose a voice within the app that suits you. There are many to choose from.
You can adjust the spoken speed of the voice to make it faster or slower. You can also personalize the voice further by adjusting the pitch. It is okay to make changes so that the voice feels best to you.
Proloquo4Text supports the use of voices made using the “my-own-voice” technology. This allows you to record your voice and turn it into your own text-to-speech synthetic voice that can be used in Proloquo4Text. This may be important if you face losing your speech in the future.
Another important feature is being able to change the pronunciation of words. Proloquo4Text voices do not always pronounce words correctly. Names and places can be particularly tricky. You can add Pronunciation Exceptions so that you can tell Proloquo4Text exactly how to say a word.
Many AAC users told us that they often used external speakers, connected by bluetooth with their iPad and Proloquo4Text. This can help the voice be heard in noisier environments.
Personalize the use
There are many different features that help you to use Proloquo4Text in the way that suits your needs and requirements.
Proloquo4Text is compatible with the Multitasking feature on iPads. This means that you can use a split screen view allowing you to have Proloquo4Text open, whilst also running another app. Two apps can run side by side. The full screen view is another efficient feature of Proloquo4Text. It allows you to show the message in your text pad, in a larger view. This is useful to show your message to others when you do not want it spoken aloud. You can also flip the screen so that someone sitting opposite you can read it. There are many reasons you may chose to use the full screen mode and flip. For example, in a noisy environment, showing your message may be easier for others to see than if it was spoken aloud.
“I like the flip to show/full-screen mode for people reading what I wrote as I often choose that instead of speaker because I don’t want my conversation publicized or they have a hard time understanding the speaker.” ~ Julie Calvert, AAC user
Many AAC users write longer messages and paragraphs in Proloquo4Text. Some do this for presentations, while others need to share more information in meetings and appointments. When speaking these longer paragraphs, it can be useful to control when it is spoken. This is better than everything being spoken all at once in one long stream. You are able to change the settings for the Play button, so that the text can be spoken by sentences, or by paragraph, rather than all at once.
Beyond face to face communication
Communication occurs all the time - not just when you are sitting face to face with someone.
Proloquo4Text allows you to compose messages and share them in different ways. Any text written in the text pad can be shared. When you press the share icon on the top toolbar, you will see the different ways to share the text. Text can be sent as emails or by text message. In addition, if you have social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter loaded as applications onto your iOS device, you can share your post directly from within the app. You can compose comments and replies in Proloquo4Text and copy and paste them into any other text-based platform. This gives you the power to compose your messages in your own time in your own way, with all of the supports in Proloquo4Text and then share them where you need to.
Environmental and iOS device considerations
AAC users also reported that there are many other factors that improve the use of their device. Some of these were environmental considerations.
For example, having a reliable case, and in some cases a water-proof case, was important.
Similarly, having bags, straps, mounts or other ways to transport or carry the device was also essential. Others like cases or stands that place the device on a slope; finding it easier to type on an angle than when the device is lying flat.
Another useful accessory for the iOS device could be a bluetooth keyboard. You may find typing on a physical keyboard easier than using the onscreen keyboard. If you are using an external Apple keyboard, you can also use hotkeys as fast and efficient shortcuts within Proloquo4Text.
Many may find accessing the standard iOS keyboard difficult. Perhaps it is hard to see or touch the keys. In this case, you could consider an alternative onscreen keyboard, such Keeble. Keeble makes typing on the standard iOS keyboard easier by allowing you to customize the appearance and access methods. Once loaded, the Keeble keyboard runs across all applications on the iOS device.
Some AAC users expressed the desire for family members to have access to Proloquo4Text. Many reported that, at times, they would like their family to also use Proloquo4Text to communicate with them. Utilizing the Apple Family Sharing feature, it is possible to share a copy of Proloquo4Text onto other family members devices.
All iOS devices have multitasking gestures, or actions you can do on screen to help you open and close apps, or switch quickly between apps. You may find these a fast way to move between apps. Others, with involuntary movements or poor motor control, may find that these gestures can affect their use of Proloquo4Text. A sudden movement may be interpreted as a gesture and the screen switches. In this instance, you can turn off multitasking gestures in your iOS settings. Alternatively, you could use Guided Access to lock the screen in just Proloquo4Text.
All of these factors can support an AAC user to access and use your iOS device and Proloquo4Text more often, across many different environments.
Proloquo4Text has many features that improve the speed and efficiency of communication. Taking time to experiment and try the different features and uses may help you to make the most of your app.