Give your AAC Device a Distinct Voice

August 29

Communication is a very personal interaction – being able to express your thoughts and feelings in the words you want can be both empowering and liberating.  Therefore, programming an AAC for communication on a device with the words that the user would want to say is important to help them feel heard.

When programming an AAC device, consider the following:

  • Choose a voice that fits with the user – gender, age, accent and language
  • What are topics that the user would want to talk about?
    1. Consider their daily activities, interests, and the people in their lives
    2. What are messages that they need to say
  • Consider wording and phrases that the people around them use, which they in turn would like to say back, i.e. “thanks” instead of “thank you” or “Sweet!” instead “That is great!”
  • Create boards that will be for specific activities – ones for school, home, play, going to Grandma’s, etc.
  • By allowing the user to express themselves in a personalized manner, they will be able to share more of their personality and be able to reduce frustration levels.


    Related items

    • From Top to Bottom: Customizing Your Menu Bar

      Can one simple customization totally change the way you use TalkingTiles? It sure can! TalkingTiles’ ability to customize the menu bar makes it easier and more functional for different purposes. We’ve created two types of menu bars: one with a speech bar that can replay the tiles you’ve selected, which is a good feature for communication or AAC apps; and one that does not have the speech bar feature, which can be used in non-AAC type of pages such as visual schedules, learning games, picture/word charts etc. Just like a page, you can add rows and columns, colour schemes, and change the layout of your menu.

      Each button within the menu bar is just like a tile on a page – and you edit it the same way! You can adjust the tile size, layout, color, font and action of the button. To start making edits to your menu bar, click on your ‘Select Page’ button while in the edit mode. You’ll see two pages for your menu – Speech On and Speech Off. When you click on either of these you’ll see your menu bar as a page. Begin editing just as you would edit a page.

      The flexibility in creating custom pages and menus expands the way TalkingTiles can be used in various assistive care settings. Here are few examples:

      Communication board without Speech Bar

      This page has been created as a food selection page. The typical menu bar has been customized to lead the user to other food selection items. The menu bar can be placed at the top of your page; or the bottom, as shown here.

      Hospital Pain Chart

      Charts such as this can be created for users to provide information to their doctors or care givers. The menu bar has buttons that provide detail on the pain level. Menu buttons can be linked to other pages that can lead into more information giving.

      Learning Games

      Create a variety of learning games, from math to spelling, from matching to memory games, you can create and customize how you want. Use the menu bar to create links to other games, to lead the user to progressively harder games, or to let them repeat the current page.

      Multilingual Pages

      TalkingTiles offers over 150 different voices and languages. Combined with it’s ability to recognize special characters, users can create pages in different languages.  You can use it as a tool to learn another language; as shown in the image here, or you can create pages with menu bars that are all in one language.

      Using TalkingTiles on your phone? Menu customization can help make navigation and user experience that much better!

      Reduce the tiles in your menu bar to see more of the tiles on your page, or even maximize your menu buttons and feature a single tile. You can shift and change to whatever you need!

      How have you been customizing your menu bar?




    • Children’s Voices Helps to Connect Them to Their Peers and Develop Social Skills

      When a verbal child speaks, we hear the sweet youthful sound of their voice. When a child relies on an AAC tool for communication to do the talking for them, often the voice we hear is that of an adult – a voice they may not identify with. TalkingTiles wanted to give children the opportunity to tell their stories in voices that are age appropriate.

      TalkingTiles’ recent addition of Acapela to our speech engine library means that children can now select voices that are better suited to them.

      Children’s voices include:

      English UK
      • Harry – Child
      English USA
      • Ella – Child
      • Josh – Child
      • Kenny – Child
      • Nelly – Child

      Communicating in a voice that resonates with both themselves and their peers will help to create inclusive learning environments for children who use assistive technologies like TalkingTiles, and will add to the development of communication and social skills. Gone are the days of computerized synthetic voices, thanks to Acapela’s natural sounding voices.

      As stated on Acapela’s website, these voices are made by children for children. Acapela is the first in their industry to be able to provide kids with a voice that resembles their own. Users with specific needs have driven the innovation to change the lives of youngsters who require AAC.

      The diverse options of Text-to-Speech engines shows the adaptability of TalkingTiles as one that is appropriate for both children and adults. All in all, there are over 150 voices and languages for users to pick from.

      To select a child’s voice as your default TTS option, enter the Device Settings function when you are in the edit mode, followed by TTS Settings. From the dropdown list of TTS engines, select Acapela. From the languages option select either English – American, or English – UK. Under voices you can then choose the male or female options.

      Remember! When you change your TTS settings, the changes are applied to tiles and pages made going forward, they will not be applied to tiles and pages you’ve already created.

      Just for the fun of it, kids can even pick the Queen of England’s voice!



    • Implementing Core Vocabularies in the Classroom

      We communicate with each other because we want to ask for what we want, reject what we don’t want, comment on what we see, tell stories, complain, ask and answer questions, and more. However, students who are in need of communication supports are often provided with insufficient vocabularies. To help your students gain a meaningful core vocabulary, there are multiple ways that you can implement strategies into the classroom setting using an AAC device.

      • Request/choice making
      • Visual schedules
      • Information transformer

      Request/Choice Making

      Request or choice making gives the student the opportunity to express what they want or need, and to help them creatively find ways to say things differently. Begin by using objects that are of interest to the student to help increase meaningful communication and be sure to identify your target language with core words. Examples would be playing card games like Go Fish or Uno – how many ways can you think of using beyond “I, you, it, give, have, not”? Another idea is to create/discuss errands. If someone is delivering the mail, they would use “I” and “give” – have your student think of other ways to effectively deliver the mail with their core vocabulary.

      Visual Schedules

      Creating visual schedules can aid students in understanding the structure and parameters of the day, Visual schedules imagecan assist with directions for activities, and supports teaching multiple concepts.

      You can lay out your visual schedules in a variety of ways. A vertical layout is good for lists and schedules, horizontal is good for directions, while a ring is a different way to show one activity at a time. Assistive Care apps like TalkingTiles allows you to customize the layout of each page, giving you the opportunity to create different kinds of visual schedules for different purposes.

      When using visual schedules, you can review the items as you go using time order words or phrases to indicate the activity has passed. For example “First math, next spelling, last break time” or “Math is finished, now spelling, next break time.”

      Information Transfer

      Early communicators often talk about people, objects, and events as a way to transfer information. Events can include human interactions, can be talked about using a variety of words, and can allow the AAC user to reflect internally. When the events are meaningful and related to the person, it helps to increase interaction and language use.

      Core words helps the communication exchange by allowing them to be used to describe events with a communication partner helping to produce novel, generative language.

      An example of how to use information transfer is by creating Experience Pages on TalkingTiles. You can use symbol images from the symbol libraries, or you can use real photos – such as a photo of a movie stub or restaurant napkin, or even a picture of a person who was there – to help show what was involved in the experience. This helps to engage the student into a conversation as you can ask about each item shown, prompting them to reply. When using this strategy, be sure to follow along at the student’s level of understanding.

      As your student’s ability with Core Vocabulary increases, you will find more ways to directly your student in expressing and using language. What ways have you found to be effective?

      Reference: Material for this blog post was extracted from Understanding, Implementing, and Communicating with Core Vocabulary by D. Anderson and K. Bittner, August 2013.