Author: Garric Clémentine, Master in Cognitive Neuroscience
Vocalyx: Adaptation of the communication content to different cognitive profiles of application users
What are the advantages and features that an application must have in order to easily facilitate communication for a child with autism? To adapt Vocalyx to the varying needs of its users, we studied these questions in a workshop consisting of Dr. Olivier de Masfrand, MD and founder of Vocalyx, and speech therapy students Léa Croze, Hélène Chappot de la Chanonie and Laura Le Cam.
▸The Vocalyx Toolbox for Autism
1. The tablet makes communication attractive
Children these days show a huge attraction to as well as a surprising ability for using digital tools. This statement is also true in the context of autism.
Even though supervision around the use of digital technology is absolutely necessary, because we should not allow it to lead to further social isolation for the child, we can still greatly benefit from digital tools by developing the child’s capacities to communicate through the use of the Vocalyx application.
2. Communicate via pictograms and photos!
Vocalyx offers 4 « Elementary » keyboards specifically used to enhance communication for children. They consist of different messages such as "I want to play", "I'm thirsty", "I like", "I don't like", ect, all illustrated by pictograms. Example : «Elementary» communication keyboard :
The pictograms are chosen from a database widely used by speech language pathologists because they respect several fundamental points that are well suited for autistic children. For example, they contain a minimum amount of information per pictogram, because :
- The child should not be distracted by too many details that would block his attention and detract from his comprehension
- The characters should not be too realistic. More “human” characters could make it more difficult for children to understand that they are expressing their needs and wants through the pictogram, or it could embarrass children who are not comfortable with the presence of other children.
The Vocalyx application allows the parent or caregiver to personalize the communication keyboards in many different ways. You can add an unlimited number of new messages concerning the child's environment via the use of associated pictograms (with free access to our database within the application) or via photos taken directly with the camera or from the device’s photo album.
In most cases of children who fall within the autism spectrum, there are difficulties with generalization. For example, if a child associates the word "ball" with a green ball, he or she may not call a red ball a "ball". It is therefore essential to be able to find: his places, clothes, and toys , to start communicating through the application.
The photos also allow for the adaptation of the level of representation for the child. In a case where he cannot extract a concept from a pictogram, he will be able to recognize a photo of his actual environment.
On screen designation : The parameters associated with a key (a message) allow you to choose whether to display an image full screen or not. This allows the child to express a specific desire by pointing to a picture of his or her clothes, ect. Example: "This is where it hurts"
3. Different levels
There are 4 communication keyboards Elementary:
- Elementary: 8 messages per page, associated with very large keys.
- Elementary 1: 40 message keyboard on one page
- Elementary 2: Messages grouped by categories
- Elementary3: Messages grouped by categories and additional keys to compose sentences. Example : "I want" +"not" +"eat"
4. Synthetic voice or human voice
Each image is associated with a voiced message : this allows family, friends, or caregivers spending time with the child to understand what the child wants to say without necessarily having to know his or her codes and images that were learned with his/her parents or with the speech therapist.
By default, this message is vocalized by the voice synthesis of the device (smartphone or tablet), however you can also use the Audio/Voice Recording mode and pair a message to a familiar voice . This will not only encourage the child to use Vocalyx, but also to use special messages. For example, the mother of a Vocalyx user could record keys like "Stand" and "Sit" with the intonation necessary for the child to interact with his dog.
5. Securing the interface
Once the customization work is done, it is possible to "protect" the communication keyboards by securing access to the modification parameters and simplifying the interface for the child. To do this, simply activate the available security mode in the general settings.
You are users, parents, caregivers or specialized health professionals? We are building our application with your needs in mind, and so your feedback is of the utmost importance to us. Feel free to send us your feedback, suggestions or specific requests to improve our application at firstname.lastname@example.org. All reviews count!