Data Can Change AAC For The Better

May 29, 2015

My daughter has poor motor control and very limited speech. She communicates with us primarily through eye gaze. For the first few years it was just yes/no, but after making some choice boards for her she took off and now uses a dedicated speech device to initiate conversations, answer questions, make decisions and be sarcastic. It's amazing and empowering and we are so grateful for the technology that has made this happen.

screen shot of new board sharing popup Unanswered questions can be really frustrating.
However, once we got her boards set up on the device and started to get into the swing of things, we realized we didn't really have good information about what was working or not working. If someone asked me "what are the core words she uses most often?" or "what are some examples of fringe vocabulary she's comfortably using in context?" I'd say "uhhhh..." and hem and haw for a bit without much confidence. The communication software on my daughter's device doesn't have any tracking or reporting, so even figuring how much it got used during the school day isn't obvious (our best bet is to check the battery level, which is kind of sad).

There are a lot of what-if questions that I'd love to be able to answer at a glance, but that aren't possible with traditional AAC software because of its limited reporting. For instance, what's the difference in my daughter's word use at home vs. at school? Are there any words she used to use that she's not using as much anymore? What are the new words she's used more than once in the last few weeks? How are we doing reaching the goals we set in the therapy room?

It turns out that there are lots of questions that we can answer just by tracking and reporting on AAC use over time. Informative questions that can help us plan and adapt and make the AAC tool more effective over time. That's why we built a reporting engine into CoughDrop from the get-go, because when everyone is informed then we can all work toward a consistent, more successful goal.

CoughDrop (optionally) collects communication data from users and builds reports that show communication over time. Since the data is processed in the cloud these reports can be accessed on a computer, laptop, tablet, or whatever device you have on hand. It can be filtered by date range, location, device, etc. to answer comparison questions and see how things are progressing. There are even specialized reports like our "Activation Heat Map" that can show what areas of the screen are being hit to see if there's a "dead zone" where the user can't hit for whatever reason.

All of the reports were built based on ideas and feedback from specialists, which is how we roll at CoughDrop, and how we'll continue to do things over time. We're definitely not done learning how information can help drive a better AAC strategy, so stay tuned and please share if you have ideas!

Clayton Smeltz

CoughDrop Founder