Incorporating the suggestions of professionals takes Michael a step closer to language generation. The 2 suggestions? 'Phrase Bar Toggle' and 'User Bar' enabling end user invoked writing palette
We recently added a new feature to MyTalk enabling an end user to turn on the phrase bar from within end-user mode.
The request came from Kelly Fonner, educational consultant and frequent presenter at special needs conferences. The suggestion came one evening in October over dinner as we chatted about the needs of end-users. I remember thinking at the time that I did not see how this would help my son Michael.
In January we launched another update of MyTalk. Included in that release, among other things is the ability for an end user to add the phrase bar 'on the fly'.
The new 'On the fly' phrase bar options include 1) Phrase bar on, 2) Phrase bar off, and 3) Phrase bar toggle on/off.
When adding the phrase bar toggle commands, you can include images but on Michael's home board (example below), we just use the words.
User Bar: Including a Writing palette:
I had also been experimenting with my son using functionality that had previously been added to MyTalk. This functionality called 'User Bar' was inspired by John Costello of Children's Hospital in Boston. John suggested we give high functioning end-users the ability to easily access a typing canvas and keyboard from within user mode. Paraphrasing John, there will always be the need to say something new, something that is not a 'Legacy message' available in a pre-made cell. Thanks John, for a great suggestion and for all of your contributions to the ALS community.
To meet the requirement, we created 'user bar'. Look to the bottom of the home board pictured below:
User bar allows you to add one or a combination of items to the bottom of the screen. The item under discussion is 'Type Words'
User Bar is activated in 'Settings(see below):
User Bar is a control bar at the bottom of the screen in user mode.
On the right side of that bar is the 'Type Words' function. When you touch 'Type Words' up pops the typing canvas and keyboard pictured below. 'Type words' was designed to be used in conjunction with the 'Phrase Bar' enabling end users to combine typed text with the cells that contain their 'Legacy' messages. Part of the requirement for the new functionality was that it had to be invoked from user mode, not forcing the end-user to login.
I was experimenting with 'type words' with my son, Michael, but without the phrase bar. Since, at that time, phrase bar could only be turned on in Settings, I was not using it with my son. He is not at a point in his language development that he can put words together in phrases, so I did not think using phrase bar was relevant for him. And I certainly did not want to turn it on in settings because that would effectively force the use of the phrase bar, something he was not ready for.
My experiments with 'type words' without 'phrase bar' were disappointing. Michael would take time to type something, then touch 'done'.
The text would be voiced as TTS (text to speech), but after playing the audio one time, the writing palette closed. See below, back to square one.
Rarely, if ever, did I hear or understand what he wrote on the first play. And once it was voiced, it was gone. And their was no way for him to repeat the phrase because the writing palette, keyboard and the text were gone as soon as he touched 'done'. After several attempts Mike became discouraged and 'type words' usage was falling off.
Then came 'Phrase Bar On' from within user mode. Thanks Kelly.
I added a 'phrase bar on' and 'phrase bar off' cell to his home board. (see top image)
We also kept 'Display User bar' activated and I showed him how to turn the "Phrase Bar on' when he wanted to type something using 'Type Words' in the User Bar. This breakthrough meant that he could use Phrase bar with Type words, so the content stayed in the phrase bar to be played again or to be read. And he was not forced to use Phrase Bar 100% of the time, only when he needs to type words.
Oh what a success. He is typing and playing me messages all the time. Most of the time it is just the things that he wants to purchase on the day he gets to go shopping with the money he earns. But then something really amazing happened one evening. As we were driving north on Rochester Road Michael started struggling around his seat belt to get his iPhone out. He got it out, hit 'Phrase Bar On', then 'Type Words' then wrote 'bev rac'.
He hit play, at the same time giving me the ASL sign for 'work'. I was blown away.
bev = Bevin a friend
rac = Rochester Athletic Club, a place the transition program visits regularly and is known as rac
ASL for Work.
Using total communication to make a point. Language generation begins
Mike felt it important, as we drove past that location to tell me Bevin works at Rochester Athletic Club. He just wanted me to know. With that urge he grabbed his iPhone and strung together the thought using tools that are becoming more 2nd nature. For the subject and object it was MyTalk using phase bar and type words, and for the verb he used a well known ASL symbol for work. In the past, there would have been a desire to communicate, but the juice was not worth the squeeze. :(
I was reminded of a conversation in my booth at a CSUN conference with Dr. Bruce Baker who was saying that most anyone can put words together if we give them the right tools and training. Dr. Baker is right. Those outside of the community might be thinking, "What is the big deal?". But for me it was a very special moment, and for Michael it was a chance to tell me something he was thinking about.
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