Speak out loud

A couple months ago we got the Proloquo2Go app for Rhema.

Proloquo2Go is an alternative and augmentative communication application, and its name comes from Latin, meaning “speak out loud.” (I kind of love that).

The app has a default vocabulary of nearly 8000 words and picture symbols.

For us, it feels a bit HUGE.

One of my concerns is that Rhema has long used her iPod Touch as a ‘toy’, and now we want her to view it as a functional communication device. We’ve been slowly trying to help her understand it all, and navigate the new app. Her teachers are prompting her to form just one sentence using a picture symbol: “I want .”

At home, we’ve just let her play around with the app. She taps the screen repeatedly, so fast you can almost see the smoke rising. From the start, Hope has been convinced that Rhema is talking to us with the device, and we must urgently respond.

The computer-generated voice intones,

 “Lime. Lime. Lime. Lime.”

 “Mommy! Rhema wants a lime!!!”

“Pomegranate. Pomegranate. Pomegranate. Pomegranate.”

“Mom! Do we have any… pom-poms???”

“Hope, she’s just in the fruit category. I don’t think she really wants–”

“Blackberries. Blackberries. Blackberries. Blackberries. Blackberries.”

“Oh no! She’s hungry for blackberries. Maybe blueberries? Are there any blueberries left?”


“Chopsticks. Chopsticks. Africa agency. Africa agency.  Af-. Af-. Africa agency.  Africa agency.”

Hope smacks her head and looks at me like I don’t know how or where you’re going to get chopsticks and an Africa agency, but you better get it fast.

Recently Rhema found a pre-recorded Taco Bell order on the app. A man’s voice politely asks for two tacos and a diet coke. Every time she ‘places’ the order – in the bathroom, in the car, in a waiting room – we burst into laughter at the random sound of a man requesting extra sour cream.

As I said, it’s been slow going.

But the other day we’d been cooped up inside too long, and she oozed restlessness as she fidgeted with her iTouch at the table.

I peered over her shoulder and my heart quickened with The Big Hope and excitement that maybe she’s getting it (or always ‘got’ it).

And just maybe, one day, the words won’t be locked inside. One day she’ll be able to share with me all the thinks she thinks. All that she knows and feels and dreams and sees.

It was too wonderful to imagine, and I had to stop myself.

But as I stared at the sentence she’d formed:

“I want to play. To play.”

 …The Big Hope stole in again, and took me prisoner.


Click here to view the 60 Minutes segment on Apps for Autism

22 thoughts on “Speak out loud

  1. Oh my, oh my! Rhema wants to play! As Kim said, chills up the spine.

    We’ve just gotten Joy started with Proloquo as well, on her new iPad (about which I must write, somewhere in-between-everything-else!) We haven’t turned her loose among the full vocabulary, though — instead creating an initial hierarchy of choice-making options that are actually available to her.

    She’s choosing, for real. It’s clear, for example, that if goldfish crackers are a potential snack choice, she will ALWAYS pick goldfish crackers… but if not, the choice will vary.

    Big dreams, my friend!

  2. I love that Hope’s name is Hope. And I love that she has that she never puts boundaries on what Rhema can and will do. And of course, I absolutely love that Rhema told you she wanted to play. God is so very good!

    Reading this reminded me of Elizabeth Bonker’s and Virginia Breen’s book, “I Am In Here”. Elizabeth has autism and had never spoken a single word. Her mother, Virginia, took her to a specialist in Texas (that she saw on 60 Minutes) who teaches autistic children to type and thus communicate with a technique she developed – Rapid Prompting Method. Virginia sent me this book and I have been meaning to write a review of it. Have you read the book? I’m sure you probably have but if not, I would be glad to send it to you.

  3. I’m still in the same spot – the iTouch has become a *toy* and the useful communication apps that I have loaded are ignored. I don’t want to delete the ‘fun’ apps to force him to use the communication apps, but I do hope he will come to use them in time. I swear I used to see smoke rising from the rapid fire tap tap taps until I deleted YouTube!

    Hurrah for Rhema! Let’s play!

  4. We can’t ever let go of the Big Hope. I hope you guys found some time to play (and get some black berries and find an African Agency) 😉
    Also … thanks for that link to the apps. We just (2 days ago) got an i-pad for our little one and we’re now in the process of trying to find helpful apps.

  5. Thank you so much for this post….may I share it on my blog?? I just posted about the educational apps my kids enjoy, and I am just now trying to find some apps for autism. This is perfect timing 🙂

  6. I could not stop laughing when I read this!!! Poor little Hope, trying to find Africa and sour cream and all in such a hurry. 🙂

    But seriously, that’s wonderful that Rhema asked to play!!! We’ve experimented a little with our son and the ipad using some of the basic communication apps. He didn’t exactly take right to it…. meaning he just kind of flings his hands around quickly on the screen, making everything slide back and forth quickly, and doesn’t seem to get that it’s something he is making talk for him to us. It is confusing when you think about it too much, even to me!

    But every time I start giving up on that option for communication, I see another one of those 60 minutes type shows or youtube clip featuring a nonverbal child and the app. You know the ones where someone who never has spoken before or used an ipad grabs the ipad and starts tapping furiously only to come out with a full sentence second later. It’s not going to be that easy for our little guy, but I guess we’ll get there when it’s time. And I know your daughter will to! Keep us posted on this, it sounds so exciting!!!!

  7. Eeeeep (that’s my excited sound)!!! Hoping big with you!
    PS. A few months ago my little man hugged me and told me that he loved me -spontaneously, after 6 years of refusing affectionate touch… the Big Hope has me back too.

  8. Pingback: Ipad Apps for Autism {and other special needs} « The [little] Adventures of Hiking Mama

  9. Love this development! I remember all too well the first time Nik used his speech device to make himself understood completely spontaneously. Magical. The word will get exponentially bigger for Rhema as she figures out how to express herself with words. Then, as Jess said, you will be set free!

  10. thank you for this post… my youngest son (also nonverbal) has used pecs and dynavox some and we got an ipad and i’d been looking at this app because the ipad is so much lighter, easier and does so much more than dynavox (which cost way more!!) right now he is moving between counting apps and tv shows like a pro (of course, those are things he likes 😉 we know he thinks about a lot and has a lot in there that he wants to tell us…bless you for sharing your journey

  11. Love this … love the really good moments that make you see the possibilities. And love little sister for bending over backward to give her anything and everything she might ask for. Special, special girls.

    We’ve had ProLoquo2go for one of our boys for a while, but the fun stuff was always too tempting. We finally broke down and got a second device – now we have one with the fun stuff and one that’s just for communication, both with different color drop cases on them. The fun one stays home and is used as a reward (screen time via touchscreen, as he has not mastered using a mouse and keyboard yet). The communication one goes with him everywhere, including school. We set up our own home screen with some basic choices and communication, and set up a few different folders just for school and therapy and his regular activities.

    The second device made a huge difference. He is using the program so much more to independently make requests and also to make choices. His teachers and I are even setting up simple lessons and folders that can be used for him to interact during certain classroom activities. His classmates love it when he “tells” them about himself!

    Lots of trial and error, and it’s still not the perfect system where he tells us everything he wants or needs. But we love that he’s starting to communicate, and we’re hopeful that it will only get better!

    So happy Rhema wants to play, and I can’t wait to hear what she wants to do next!

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