Alexicom Elements Child Home is an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app; it is for iPad only and is available in male and female versions. Teen versions of this app are also available. This review was done on the male child version of the app.
With over 160 Augmentative and Alternative Communication applications in the App Store and more being added every week, it is hard to imagine an AAC developer bringing anything new to the table. Alexicom has somehow managed this with its Elements series. The Child Home app is a fully functional AAC solution geared specifically to young children. It comes with 70 preconfigured pages that include the vocabulary and associated pictures that a child would encounter going through his day. These include eating, dressing, washing, and a wide variety of leisure activity pages. Core words are also included.
Elements is not Alexicom Lite. This is a stand-alone app that has all the functionality of the Alexicom AT software. It is scan able, switch accessible and fully customizable with controls to adjust the rate of speech, the pitch, and the gender of the voice. The app uses AT&T voices which have a somewhat less robotic quality the more common Acapela voices used by other AAC apps. When possible, real pictures are used rather than Symbolstix. Core words are often represented by an ASL sign which provides a nice transition for those users moving from sign to AAC. The look is clean and spare. All backgrounds are white with a speech window and three control buttons below that give the option to Speak, Speak and Clear or Clear.
The pages are all customizable and new pages can be created and linked. There is not a bank of included symbols from which to choose, but this allows for true customization and is generally desirable when real pictures are preferred. The info tab includes basic instructions for page layout, editing and overall operation. Editing is conducted in each square and is fairly intuitive. An entire new page could be created in 10 minutes if the onboard camera is used. Users have the option to rely on the TTS voice or record their own. The best selling proloquo2go still does not offer this feature which should be ample proof of what a great value this app is.
The ability to record your own voice comes into play best in the song pages of Elements. The most popular songs and nursery rhymes all have their own page. Imagine a nonverbal child being able to “sing” The Wheels on the Bus by tapping the wipers, the lights and the horn. Each choice automatically brings up the appropriate sound when chosen. The playback is then sung complete with chorus and repetition. The playback still has pauses between the sound bite included with each square, but it makes for a passable rendition. Any favorite song or prayer could be added with the user’s voice and related sound effects like clapping, stamping or oinking.
The activity pages are just as much fun as the song pages and very well done. Mr Potato Head has real photos of the spud and all his individual parts. What better way to elicit language and making requests. I paid $200/hr for an SLP to play Mr Potato Head with my nonverbal son. What I wouldn’t have given for an app like this to be available 5 years ago. Popular books, kids’ movies and games like Hide and Go Seek also have pages in this app. These pre-made activities save hours in customization time and also make for great templates in designing your own activity pages. Certain core terms like “your turn” “wait” “spin” and “go,” can be copied over to whatever game or activity is being modeled.
Alexicom Elements Child Home is a great way to get acquainted with AAC. It provides the language a child needs, with pictures and symbols meaningful to a child. Typical children do not have 10,000 word vocabularies so why bombard a nonverbal child with thousands of pages of symbols arranged in categories and groups with which they are not yet familiar? Elements is a fun and manageable way to begin AAC. There is ample content to get started and unlimited ability to expand the page sets as the child matures and or expands his language. Users can even transition into the full Alexicom AT app without having to relearn categories and symbols. For those users who spend close to $200 on an AAC app only to break it down and rebuild from the ground up to meet their child’s needs, I say try Elements instead. It will save time, money and some of the frustration that comes with getting a child to communicate. iPads can provide a voice, but Alexicom provides a universal language that can be easily learned and understood. At only $19.99 this app is a real bargain, highly recommended.