Total Talk is an excellent AAC app designed for easy and efficient communication by nonverbal users. The app was developed by Ellenson Integration Enterprises, Inc. A quick start guide makes it easy to begin using the app and the complete user manual provides a more thorough overview of the app.
The home page is organized with a message output area at the top, a dock or menu on the left side of the screen and the main grid with word buttons and folders (default is 6×6). The main grid gives access to several commonly used words (yes/no, I, you, want) and folders which are organized by category (i.e. people, verbs, activities, places, things, questions). Any words selected will appear in the message output box and can be verbalized by pressing on the box or the “speak” button in the dock.
The dock is accessible on the side of the screen. This menu has helpful buttons such as “home”, “speak”, “spell”, and “quick chat”. These features allow for more efficient communication and editing. For example, “quick chat” opens 14 commonly used phrases such as greetings, protesting, requesting, and commenting for fast selection. There are also “quick chat topics” which are organized into folders such as people, food, emotions, and questions.
One of the most unique features of the dock is the “magic” button. Selecting “magic” initially changes the menu to allow access to “settings”, “output”, “edit readout” and “quick chat topics”. The “magic” button also unleashes additional functionality to whatever button is pressed next. For example, pressing “magic” prior to a verb will offer a different grid with predicted phrases and conjugations of that verb. For “want”, the new grid options include pronoun buttons, “want”, “wants”, “wanted” and other conjugations such as present progressive, negatives, and past tense.
The “total talk” button allows access to the 10 different communication modes. These include EZ phrases, favorite lists, stories, jokes, and photos. EZ phrases include several folders with common categories or situations that many children encounter daily at school or home such as “homework”, “games” or “bedtime”. Under the “shopping” folder, there are several related phrases such as “I want to pick”, “How much?”, “I want everything!” and “No fair”. The app can be customized with personalized photos for sharing personal experiences. There is a nice step-by-step tutorial for adding photographs in the “make an album” folder.
I particularly like the “jokes” folder which allows the user to tell a pre-programmed joke. After choosing the joke set-up, the user can deliver the punchline complete with rim shot and laugh track. Once a new folder or screen is opened, there is the option to keep it open rather than closing automatically. By clicking on “stay open”, the current page will remain accessible thus eliminating the need to press several buttons to get back to the same screen. Therefore, a joke or story can be told without missing a beat.
The “spell” button accesses the tablet’s keyboard so words can be typed out manually. Word prediction facilitates the typing process for increased efficiency of communication. This app truly grows with the user. When the user is ready, he can transition over to using the keyboard for output while still having access to the symbols.
As with most AAC apps, there are highly customizable settings for editing page lay-out, buttons, icons, and folders. The main page defaults to a 6×6 grid, but can be changed to a 9×7 or 5×4 grid depending on the user’s communication level or visual limitations. The icons are colorful drawings depicting the vocabulary concept on the button. The buttons are color coded by parts of speech (i.e. verbs are pink, nouns are yellow, etc).
As always, these folders and buttons can be easily edited according to the child’s needs and interests. Under settings, you can adjust the format of the screen (number of buttons per page from 20-63), size of text, color coding, and prediction settings.
Voices and persona icons can be edited. You can choose from male or female and then from child, teen or adult voices. In addition, pitch and rate of the voice can also be customized over 5 levels from very low and slow up to very high pitch and fast. There are currently only two persona icons offered: either a boy or girl in a wheelchair, but other options will be made available in future updates.
One of aspects of verbal communication that is often lost when using a speech generating device is prosody or the intonation of speech. This app compensates for this by offering options to change the output such as “whisper”, “excited”, “bored”, or “weird”. So now the user can actually use a bored voice when asking “Are we done yet?” In addition, there is the option to stop the message output by gently hitting the device with an open palm or fist. This gives the user the ability to silence the device if the wrong message was selected in error.
Another unique feature is the ability to have two conversations at once. With the “side talk on”, the user can toggle back and forth between a conversation and a written report they may be working on. This flexibility will allow opportunities for the user to ask questions about an assignment while they are simultaneously working on it. It also lets them converse with two communication partners at once which is more like real life.
Another unique feature is the ability to minimize the grid to allow for writing notes, emails, or longer school papers or reports. These written compositions can then be saved to a button in order to print off later. This component would be a wonderful resource when completing homework or writing reports.
One of the most challenging obstacles of introducing a new AAC device to a child is becoming oriented with the location of all the buttons and teaching them how to use the device to communicate effectively. The innovative Tele-prompt feature makes this task a little less daunting. By downloading the free Orbit app, the teacher or parent can remotely access the user’s screen from their own iPhone or tablet. The teacher can offer suggestions in real-time by drawing on their device which is paired with the student’s. The prompts magically appear on the user’s screen much in the same way a coach would highlight plays for his team. This allows for unobtrusive hands-free prompting by allowing highlighting of buttons to make suggestions for word choice selection. What a great way to promote independence.
The Tele-text is another resourceful feature which allows messages to be sent directly to another phone or device. This is helpful when the environment is too noisy to hear the verbal output or to allow for more privacy for personal messages. Now communication can still occur without the background noise interfering.
The features of this app are very well thought out. The app provides meaningful organization for different language levels as well as multiple communication approaches for increased efficiency across different speaking situations and settings. The format is user-friendly and intuitive and the content is extremely easy to edit and customize. Combined with several unique and groundbreaking features, this AAC app is truly a remarkable way to give a voice to non-verbal users. I would highly recommend it particularly for use in a school setting.
Total Talk - AACby Panther Technology
Category: Education, Lifestyle
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74
Size: 1586.32 MB
Screenshots for iPad(Click to enlarge)
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
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Shari is a married mother of four from Illinois. She works as a speech pathologist in a rehab setting and loves to use apps in therapy. She is a self-proclaimed “Appaholic”- always on the look out for great apps!