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The newly updated AAC App Wheel!

By Gillian McNeill on Friday 3rd July, 2015 at 2:39pm

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It’s been just over a year since the CALL Scotland team created a new resource - iPad Apps for Complex Communication Support Needs. It has been satisfying to see the fantastic response we have had, with paper copies being whisked off exhibition and workshop tables, and an astounding 15,000 website downloads!

But as we were expecting, for this resource to be as useful as possible - to guide those when selecting AAC Apps for individuals - it requires regular updating! And so after many hours of researching, head-scratching and consulting, we have now produced an updated version 1.3For a list of the changes follow the link to the download page.

The Process

In response to the the wheel, we have had a lot of questions from others about our process for putting it together. In constructing any App list the big question of course is – what to include and what to leave out? So here’s our thinking behind the choices that we made……

There are way too many apps to include every one available in each category within the wheel; we have included those that are:

  • first and foremost available in the UK iTunes App store (in the downloadable electronic version the App names are clickable links to use online, taking you to the App information page on the UK iTunes site)
  • designed for use on an iPad
  • function in 1 of 3 ways -
    1. a full AAC system with text or symbol/picture input, recorded or text-to-speech output and with starter or selected vocabularies
    2. a basic system for simple communication or communication support tool with a certain focus, dependent on the purpose of the communication or a particular approach
    3. support for assessment of language and communication or for pre-requisite skills building and developing AAC use

Every App included, we have researched and used (the front runners more so, others not so extensively) with selection based on our findings and have included those we find useful; reliable; relatively straightforward to use; reasonable/good value for money; and/or that stand out in their category for some reason. Of the many AAC Specialists reviewing, listing and blogging about Apps we have most closely cross-checked with Jane Farrell’s list here. Most, if not all, the Apps that we have included, Jane has given either 2/3 or 3/3 stars in her 1 - 3 star rating.

Our Categories

Our other dilemma was to find a useful way of categorising and displaying the Apps.

This was no easy task! Again after many hours of discussion, debate and compromise, we settled on the wheel design – an easy to follow format, with categories , sub-categories and primary App feature detail, aimed at assisting the user to easily navigate their way through - ‘at a glance’ (or so we hope!).

On the right half of the wheel we have placed the Apps that we consider to be ‘full communication systems’ – those that support communication providing a potentially wide vocabulary that goes beyond single or basic message Apps. Whether text and/or symbol based, these tend to be highly featured, and as a defining feature, include text-to-speech output, a built-in symbol library, at least one or two sample pre-stored user vocabulary sets, and an onscreen message bar to allow for sentence/message building.

The sub-category within the Full Systems called Symbol-based Systems is a large group, so we felt it necessary to divide this into - Symbol-based Grid Systems and Hybrid App Structures. When deciding which category is a best fit for each App, as many Apps have an overlap of features across categories, we accept that arguably certain Apps may equally fit into an alternative category.

In a recent enquiry received at CALL Scotland we were asked to explain our rationale for the sub-category ‘Hybrid App Structures’? Here’s our response -

The Apps categorised as Hybrid App Structures are primarily symbol-based Apps with a mix of different (and sometimes unique or innovative) features that sets them apart from the other more traditional symbol-based Apps. So where the Apps in the Symbol-based Grid Systems category all have a typical grid and folder based organisational display, as well as more widely recognised symbol sets, the Hybrid Apps have either one or more features that are much less typical.

This includes:

  • Organisational display - e.g. AAcorn - vocabulary is selected from a display of dynamically branching pathways (rather like a mind map) which enables message building with the support of word predictions
  • Symbol set – e.g. MyChoicePad uses Makaton symbols, Expressive and Speak for Yourself use symbols from the Smarty Symbol library
  • Visual support features – e.g. Autismate 365 (previously Autismate) this app has a range of support features including video modelling and visual stories, as well as a grid-based AAC option
  • Language organisation – e.g. LAMP Words for Life (previously Unity Core) has a unique system of language organisation based on motor planning and has a unique Unity symbol set

On the left half of the wheel in the lower quadrant, we have placed the Apps that we consider to be more ‘simple’ forms of communication. These may provide basic, functional ways of expressing needs and making choices, or can be used for recording news or stories. They contain limited, if any, starter content and will be customised for the user from ‘bottom-up’ using familiar photos and pictures, and recorded messages.

In the upper quadrant we have placed Apps that mirror and add speech output to particular low-tech communication approaches such as PECS or support development of communication. This may be for building basic vocabulary and language skills, and support receptive skills and expression.

Scottish Voices

Since first creating the wheel, there is one change in App features available, that we have been pleased to see (for our Scottish users in particular) which is the additional of a Scottish text-to-speech voice option. Many users are now familiar with using the Scottish male (Stuart) and female (Heather) voices from Cereproc. These run on PC windows devices (free here for …), so naturally there is an expectation that AAC Apps with text-to-speech will also begin to offer this feature. Unfortunately so far, not many. We have (and continue) to approach Apps developers to stress the need for this voice option and three of the App developers have listened and acted, these are:

  • ChatAble, ClaroCom Pro and Predictable – Nuance voice - Fiona
  • Proloquo2Go – Acapela voice – Rhona

Our message to Apps developers remains – Scottish voice option please and both female and male with adult and child options.

Future Updates

We plan to update the wheel at least once a year, with minor changes only within this period. As always we are more than happy to discuss, debate any omissions, inaccuracies or other suggestions – please get in touch!


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New Maths in Action S3-2 in 18 point Large Print now available

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 29th June, 2015 at 4:26pm

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Thanks once more to Marie Lawson in Shetland who has contributed New Maths in Action 32 in 18 point Large Print - all 629 pages of it! 

This adds to Large Print versions of the 11, 12, 21, 22 and 31 books that Marie has already provided to the database. 

Marie has retyped and laid out the entire book in large print and the result is much 'cleaner' and less cluttered than the original, as well as being in a larger font.

Learners with visual or perceptual difficulties will benefit, and it also looks good on an iPad.  


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Cereproc Heather now available for ClaroPDF

By Craig Mill on Thursday 25th June, 2015 at 3:27pm

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A question we are often asked at CALL is “can you get the Scottish voices on the iPad?”

Unfortunately, the answer has been a resounding ‘No’. While the Scottish voices are available for Android devices via Google Play, i.e. Cereproc Heather and Stuart (including many other voices such as Kirsty Scottish, Jack UK English, Sue Midlands English and Dodo Glasgow) the iPad has lacked a quality Scottish voice.

Saying that the Scottish Fiona and Scottish Rhona voices are available via an In-App purchase (£1.49 each) for the Claro apps, e.g. ClaroSpeak and ClaroPDF

ClaroPDF iconClaroPDF is a fully featured app for reading documents and books, particularly books downloaded from the Books for All database. The app allows you to customise background colours and includes word / sentence highlighting to support visual tracking. 

There are also options to invert colours, Autoscroll and add annotations such as record audio, add images, notes, and a nifty pen tool for writing comments. You can also add video, either from the iPad's camera or from the Library, providing a multimedia dynamic to the app. 

However, a more recent development to ClaroPDF is the addition of a new voice – Cereproc Heather! Listening to Heather read books aloud on the iPad sounds great – and is extremely good quality, all for free!

Heather isn’t currently available in other Claro apps (at least it wasn’t available for ClaroSpeak or ClaroCom at the time of writing) but hopefully Claro will introduce Heather (and hopefully Cereproc Stuart) shortly.  

To install Heather for use on ClaroPDF follow the steps below:

1. If you don’t already have ClaroPDF you will need to download it from the App Store (£2.99): 

2. Open ClaroPDF and tap or select the Cog icon. When the drop-down menu appears select 'Store'.

Settings in ClaroPDF

3. Under Voices tap or select ‘Add-on Voices’. 

Add voices in ClaroPDF

4.Scroll down until you see Heather. 

Heather in ClaroPDF 5. Tap Heather to download the voice. 

6. After the voice has downloaded go back to the Settings / Store icon and select ''Settings'. Finally, under ‘Voice name’ set Heather as the default voice. Remember to set the Speaking rate and there are also other options, i.e. ‘Speak on Tap’ under ‘More’.

Additional Settings

Although there still isn’t a universal Scottish voice that works across the iPad, Scottish Heather for ClaroPDF is one step closer. 



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New Large Print books from Inverclyde

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 30th March, 2015 at 3:48pm

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Free online course, iPads for sensory level education

By Sally Millar on Friday 13th February, 2015 at 10:56am

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Did you know that there is now an online training course on using iPads in education for learners with additional support needs? This has been put together on his website by the redoubtable Richard Hirstwood (famous for his energetic and imaginative sensory education training), and is FREE! 

The course is divided into 7 sections (each of which includes text and video material), plus 4 sections covering lists of Apps for particular topic areas. Altogether, there is maybe up to about 7 hours of learning in there, though of course, you can break this up into small chunks of time, as you please. 

It works well on tablets and phones, as well as on computers with larger screens

Ideal half-term browsing!


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Create your PDF prelims, assessments, worksheets and activities on your iPad!

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 12th December, 2014 at 5:36pm

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Previously if you wanted to create an interactive digital prelim, assessment or other resource with answer boxes on screen, you had to use Adobe Acrobat Pro, which costs around about £60 per license under a special licensing arrangement from Education Scotland. Even though this is a very good deal (the full commercial rate for Acrobat Pro is £440), some staff have commented that it is a significant outlay for each department in a school to buy a copy. 

However, there are now some alternatives to Acrobat Pro that are worth considering. I'll outline the Windows software options in a blog next week, and today I want to introduce PDF Office, which is a brand new app that lets you create digital question papers and prelims on your iPad!

DF Office lets you open a PDF, do small edits to the text and add drawings and other annotations, and most importantly, you can insert form fields for answer boxes. There is a form field detection feature that adds fields automatically for you. In testing on my standard prelim paper, I found that it works very well: it even detected the difference between a field where I wanted a tick box, and other fields where I wanted text boxes. (This is better than Acrobat, which puts text boxes into tick box fields that you then have to delete.)

You can change the properties of the fields to make them look like the SQA Digital Question papers, i.e. red borders, multi-line where necessary. I couldn't find a way to select all the fields in the whole paper to make these changes once, but it was easy to select all the fields on one page and set the properties for that page.

You can draw in fields for text, tick boxes, numbers, date, radio buttons, action buttons (e.g. send by email), drop-down lists, and image fields for users to insert photos from the camera. You can tap on a field and duplicate it, which gives a faster way of inserting fields.  

You would want to use a stylus rather than your finger, to get accurate positioning (although it 'snaps' to other fields that keeps things nicely aligned), and I actually found it slightly easier and quicker than using a mouse on a computer.

The completed PDFs can be accessed and completed by students on iPad using apps like Adobe Reader, ClaroPDF and PDF Expert, or on a computer with Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader.

Cost? The app is free, but to use it you need a subscription which is quoted at $4.99/month or $39.99/year. However, when I installed it, it gave me a free year's subscription for nothing because I already had PDF Expert, one of Readdle's other apps, on my iPad. PDF Expert costs £6.99, so for just £6.99 you can get both PDF Expert, which is an excellent tool for reading and managing PDFs, and a year's worth of making digital prelims and resources on your iPad!


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New in iOS 8

By Craig Mill on Thursday 27th November, 2014 at 2:05pm

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The latest iOS, (iOS 8) for iPhones and iPads, features new Accessibility options as well as a few enhancements to existing tools.  

These include:


QuickType is a new context-based word prediction feature for the iPad’s built-in on-screen keyboard. To set up QuickType go to Settings, General, Keyboard and switch on Predictive.  When you start typing in Notes or Pages QuickType will recommend your next word based on your writing style and past messages, which appear at the top of the keyboard. QuickType can also be used in combination with Switch Control.

QuickType with word prediction

Third-party keyboards

As well as the iPad’s default on-screen keyboard you can now use additional 3rd party keyboard apps, such as Keedogo Plus, Swype, Flesky, Ginger Keyboard + Page and SuperKeys – see Allan’s blog post on SuperKeys Assistive Keyboard App. These keyboards can be used in Pages, Keynote, Notes and other text-based apps that make use of the iOS keyboard.  A benefit of using integrated keyboards is that pupils do not need to ‘Send to’ or ‘Copy’ text between different apps, thereby making the workflow process much simpler.  

Keedogo plus


As well as the existing tools in Vision i.e. Full Screen Zoom (Double-tap three fingers to zoom etc.) a new feature, Window Zoom, allows users to magnify parts of the screen by moving the magnification window with a small handle situated at the bottom of the Zoom Window. Positioning can also be controlled with a new feature ‘Show Controller’ allowing you to control or specify which part of the screen is magnified and to adjust the level of the zoom. The Zoom Window can also be resized to suit different needs.  

Zoom Window

Follow Focus and Zoom Keyboard

Another addition to iOS 8 and Vision is Follow Focus and Zoom Keyboard. Follow Focus tracks the text wherever the cursor is placed when typing which is particularly useful if a document is magnified at high zoom. With Zoom Keyboard you can set the on-screen keyboard to the default size underneath a magnified window (and/or Double-tap three fingers to magnify the keyboard)  thereby making it easy to both type and see what you’re typing without having to continuously zoom in and out of different sections of the screen.

Speak Screen

By far my most favourite new addition is Speak Screen which can be found in Accessibility, Speech and Speak Screen. Once Speak Screen is turned on a simple ‘swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen’ will activate the Speak Screen bar, similar to the illustration below:

Speak Screen in iOS 8

Speak Screen will read anything where there is content on the screen such as text in Safari, Pages, Kindle Books and queries asked of Siri.

Guided Access

Guided Access is designed to keep pupils on task by ‘locking’ them into a specified app. A new feature in Guided Access is setting time limits so teachers and parents can stipulate the length of time Guided Access is to be used. This could be useful for setting timed reading/writing activities with a ‘you can play a game now ’reward (which could also be timed) after the time limit has expired.  

Enhanced Braille Keyboard

iOS 8 adds support for 6-dot and 8 dot Braille input system-wide in combination with VoiceOver. This feature involves a dedicated Braille keyboard that will translate 6-dot and 8 dot chords into text and can be used for searching apps via Spotlight Search or in Pages, Notes etc. A useful video tutorial can be found on the Luis Perez YouTube Channel.

To find out more on iOS 8 watch the CALL Live webinar on ‘What’s new in iOS 8’ which explains how to add and select 3rd party keyboards and make the most of the new tools and features.  


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App for AAC assessment?

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 4th November, 2014 at 11:14am

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Sandra at Logan Technologies (who sell a range of iPad accessories including customised keyguards) challenged me this week by asking if there was an App for AAC assessment. Here is the information that I passed on to her - but if anyone out there knows more about possible AAC assessment tools on iPad, then let's hear it, please?

We need to be clear  - apps are no substitute for a full assessment by a speech and language therapist  / AAC specialist! - they are only potentially useful additional tools.

The app AAC Evaluation Genie  (£8.99) is a helpful tool to evaluate certain aspects of function, relevant to AAC: visual perception & discrimination (broad brush only); accuracy of targeting of different numbers and sizes of targets on screen; and some early vocabulary, basic concepts, and categorisation skills. It is also designed to be switch accessible and to allow evaluation of three common scan patterns, and a range of scan timings, from within the app.

           Later sections of the app focus specifically on Pixon symbols and the Unity vocabulary, so may not be relevant for all, although these could be used to explore the general ability to learn to 'decode' more abstract representations. The final sections look at putting together symbol choices from a grid, to describe a picture, and word recognition / picture matching (to determine whether text/word prediction could be considered as an AAC medium), so the app covers a huge range of skill levels.

The AAC Evaluation Genie is a far cry from being a full AAC assessment. It certainly is not 'diagnostic' nor does it aim to 'prescribe' which AAC system or device is most appropriate, but just informally supports AAC specialists in evaluating a number of relevant skill areas.

The app is easy to use and the 'Settings' allow you to select which skill areas you want to turn off, or on, for testing. The user interface is very clear and uncluttered, and the picture quality is good (and by and large suitable for both child and adult users) - though American. Correct responses get a mini tinkle of fairy bells, while incorrect responses just move on silently.

The app also collects full data of the users responses and can be printed out (or saved as a screen shot)

There is a little video that illustrates it well. Reviews are available.


There is a 'bundle' of apps called Speech Therapy Assessment (£84.99) - each app can also be bought separately - we have not tried this.

More affordably, the Receptive Language Assessment with Splingo (£17.49)  seems useful  (but it's for language, not AAC as such). The fun Splingo language apps in general (cheaper!) can reveal useful information about the ability to listen, follow verbal instructions, and about language level (child oriented). Try Splingo's Language Universe (£1.99) and Pronouns with Splingo (£1.99). You can also construct your own highly customised assessment suite using the wonderfully versatile Bitsboard app (free) - I find the 'Photo Touch',  'Odd One Out' and 'Sort it' games most useful for this function, out of the 14 available game formats.

In fact, just using ordinary Apps and carefully observing the user, with a clear idea of the skills you are looking for, is often just as useful, as an informal form of assessment, as a 'test' would be. The iPad is a powerful 'viewing window' into a user's functioning. I often recommend the AAC app Sounding Board  (free) as an evaluation tool (to get info about user's ability to cope with different numbers of locations on screen, recognition of photos, pictures etc., ability to navigate links, and ability to learn functional use for requesting, responding to questions etc. etc. 


And finally - there is also an App called ATEval2Go (£27.99) which looks very interesting, and here at CALL we plan to explore this further as soon as we can. It is not a one-off therapist / teacher - patient/child interaction like the AAC Genie, it is a full scale productivity system for structuring assessment, record-keeping, reporting, photo and video storage, and documentation based on the excellent Joy Zabala's SETT framework, and on other recognised assistive technology assessment processes. 'Banks' of commonly used goals, strategies, tools and recommendations are available (and these are editable so you can add your own) - time would be needed to evaluate the banks to see if they might match the needs of your particular organisation.  ATEval2Go produces a cumulative editable report which can be exported, e-mailed or printed. Adoption of this tool could revolutionize an organisation's whole assessment process - this would need to be an agreed 'whole team' approach.


Look forward to hearing if anyone else has found any useful AAC assessment apps?


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aacorn AAC offer - one week only

By Sally Millar on Monday 3rd November, 2014 at 12:48pm

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A quick 'heads-up'... the AAC app 'aacorn AAC ' is offering a 20% off deal this week only

(the app's first birthday)

As - like other fully featured AAC systems -  this is an expensive app (usually £129.99),  it may be worth your while to take advantage of this £99.99 offer while you can. 

aacorn AAC is innovative and unique amongst AAC apps, displaying a dynamic 'word tree' that provides step by step support for simple sentence building. Each screen / step offers only a very few word choices at a  time, and it learns familiar messages and offers a prediction based on previous choices/ use. The vocabulary available can be highly personalised with the user's own images. The overall design is child-friendly. ​You can view a wee video that illustrates the idea better than I can describe it!






aacorn AAC is very different to conventional 'grid-based' apps that display a (sometimes very large) array of symbols per screen, that may be found overwhelming by users, and with which it can be overly-demanding to expect some users to be able to build a sentence word by word, by navigating through several different 'category folders' (little words, people, adjectives, colours, clothes, actions  etc.).


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New look Predictable with Scottish Voice too!

By Gillian McNeill on Thursday 30th October, 2014 at 5:03pm

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First it was Rhona in Proloquo2Go and now we have Fiona in Predictable!

Another Scottish voice has arrived this week for female AAC users using Predictable text-to-speech app on the iPad. The voice, called Fiona from the company Nuance, comes with a number of other voices to choose from including an Irish voice – Moira and additional British English voices.

In addition to the new voices, a new speech output option has been added, allowing use of your own unique text-to-speech voice. This voice is first created via the ModelTalker project (an online service), which requires you to upload recordings of your own or a friend’s/family member’s voice, which ModelTalker then creates into a personalised text-to-speech version. Once built, your new voice is then available to import into Predictable. (We haven’t checked this feature out yet, but are eager to know how well it actually works!)

Predictable is a text based communication app with word prediction and some symbol support for stored phrases, which are organised into categories. As well as direct touch control, it has an in-built switch scanning option for those requiring alternative switch access.

Other changes in version 4 include a significant overhaul to the appearance and set up of the user interface, as well as Skype integration, changes to  phrase storage set up and a news feed.

Update from the app store and go to therapybox for further details including videos and a downloadable user guide from.

The new voice is a welcome addition for us lassies north of the border, but the laddies will have to wait a bit longer before they too can speak out with a Scottish accent!




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Superkeys Assistive Keyboard app

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 16th October, 2014 at 5:44pm

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Crick Software have just released an interesting new keyboard app for the iPad, taking advantage of the new iOS 8 feature that allows different keyboards to be used across a range of different apps. Superkeys Assistive Keyboard divides the keyboard up into a series of 'chunks' of keys.

The Superkeys Keyboard










The first time you tap on one of these 'chunks' it is enlarged, making it easier to select the key you want with a second tap. Obviously, having to tap twice to select a letter will slow you down, but this could be a very useful tool for a person with poor motor control, or low vision, who finds it hard to reliably tap on the key they want. It could be very useful for an iPhone!

'Chunk of keyboard' enlarged by Superkeys.










The keyboard also has a Shortcuts key, allowing access to a few commonly used phrases, which can be edited and added to.










Unfortunately, it is not currently set up or switch users. Someone scanning with the keyboard will still be offered 'Q to Y' as their first option, rather than the letters in the first 'chunk', i.e. 'Q to E' and A to D'.


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Use your iPad to type into a paper worksheet!

By Sally Millar on Thursday 2nd October, 2014 at 7:37pm

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Now - here's an App to cheer your day. SnapType App 

It's FREE. It lets a pupil type directly into a work sheet.

Here's how it goes - 

  • Take a photo with the iPad of the paper worksheet other kids are completing by hand.
  • Tap the screen, a yellow box appears.  Tap the box, the keyboard appears. Type. 
  • If necessary, drag and drop the text box to better position it against the backdrop of the worksheet.
  • Adjust the text size slightly.
  • Take a screen shot to store a copy of the work and then print it out and/or share it with teacher. 

It's not perfect, in fact it's quite limited. Unless I'm missing something, it only works in portrait. But it's very simple to use, unlike some other options, and I know quite a few frustrated kids who struggle with handwriting, who will LOVE this!

Read the story by developer graduate student Amberlynn Gifford

See review 


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SoundingBoard webinar

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 18th September, 2014 at 5:13pm

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If you'd like to know more about the great FREE communication app SoundingBoard and how it can be used with pupils who have communication support needs, why not have a look at our recent webinar?

It covers simple editing, using digital images on buttons, sharing resources and switch access for those with physical difficulties.

Also make sure you download this FREE app onto your iPad so that you can use our app board symbolised resources which accompany the Scottish Children's Book Awards Bookbug category of shortlisted books!


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Voice Dream Reader app for iPad Half-Price till 7th September 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 4:55pm

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To mark start-of-term (USA style!), the Voice Dream Reader app is available half price until 7th September 2014. 

Voice Dream Reader is one of our favourite text-to-speech apps. Although originally designed with blind and visually impaired people in mind it was quickly taken up by many people struggling with literacy because of dyslexia, Indeed, Winston Chen the developer, mentions the story of the mother of a 10-year old boy with dyslexia using the app. It's an interesting account because it draws attention to a few of the specific features of the app that enhance the experience of literacy. 

Incidentally, we've been in touch with the developer a couple of times to make a plea to include the Scottish Voices as options for user. No luck so far but we'll keep trying!


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Bargain alert! New symbol apps, introductory offer.

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st September, 2014 at 10:18am

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Widgit Vocab

Widgit has just launched a new series of iPad apps called 'Widgit Vocab'. These apps introduce and develop basic vocabulary around a range of different themes, and are specifically designed ​to help extend a user's vocabulary range with listening, speaking and reading activities, supported by Widgit symbols. They could be useful for a range of listening, comprehension and other types of language development work for learners at a pre / emergent literacy stage​, ​who need picture support (including those who might happen to use other symbol systems for their AAC) .

There are currently eight apps in the series, covering a range of themes:  

ourselves; around the home; supermarket; town; countryside; seaside; animals; time.

More information about these apps can be found on the Widgit website 

You can download these apps now from the App store while they are at an introductory price of £1.99 each - probably only for a limited time - they will be £2.99 each after that it seems (so not a HUGE saving, but still worth going for..).


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