How Cloud Technology Enhances the AAC Experience!
Most families take verbal communications for granted. As they grow, children get better at telling their parents what they want to eat, to drink, if they are sick, where it hurts, etc. My family’s situation is different. We have a beautiful 10 year old boy named Adam who is completely non verbal and quite severe on the autism spectrum. For us, his way of communicating was a little bit of sign language, mixed with a lot of pulling us around to show us what he wanted. Along with that came considerable amounts of frustration from not being able to communicate properly.
Several years ago, we started looking at different Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC) devices that we could start using. Unfortunately, being a parent of a special needs child is not cheap and the cost of these were too high for us at that time. His speech therapist did make some flash cards and books for him to use. Then we were lucky enough to receive a grant from the local school district foundation to provide Adam with an iPad and a program that allowed him to use pictures to express himself. We were excited! However, our excitement quickly turned to frustration since the program was complicated for us to set up. Adam’s teachers were also unable to help us, so we had to wait a few months for a district specialist to come and show us how to use it and set up basic pictures such as yes/no, eat/drink, etc. I then uploaded pictures of all of Adam’s favorite foods, people, and places for him to be able to show us what he wanted. Over time, our proficiency grew and Adam’s iPad has became a great tool for him, his teachers, and his family.
Last December, his iPad broke. We were devastated and Adam was frantic, not being able to tell us what he wanted. Although we had smartphones, tablets, and a desktop, we could not use his program because it was tied to his specific iPad. It was very frustrating to have all of these other devices but not be able to use his communication tool. We even put out a call for help on our different social networks asking if anyone had an old iPad we could borrow until we could get a new one. We knew we could apply for another grant, but the process was long and would take several weeks. Try telling this to a 10 year old who thrives on routine. Adam needed to communicate NOW! We were luckily able to get a replacement device quickly through a friend, but we had lost all of Adam’s information and had to re-download the app, upload all of his pictures again, and reconfigure the program to how we had it set up before. It took us two days (and a lot of anxiety!) to do this.
The most frustrating aspect about this experience for me was the fact that I have worked for several years in the cloud technology and data and analytics industry. Why was his account not stored in the cloud? If it had been, we could have used one of our other devices (iPod/Android/Window) to continue to use his program with all of his current setups and pictures.
Because of these experiences, we went looking for a better AAC program. We needed one that was easy to set up and use, reasonably priced, and could be used across all devices, whether online or offline. This led us to CoughDrop, Inc. (https://www.mycoughdrop.com/). The creator of this program had many of the same issues that I was having and after not being able to find a program that already had these abilities, he made his own (http://blog.mycoughdrop.com/why-we-started-coughdrop). What makes this program even better? It was built with the guidance of teachers, parents, and therapists who wanted a program that could generate reports and data so that all parties are on the same page. Before, we would have to wait until our meetings with the teachers and therapists to find out what type of progress our son was making. With CoughDrop, we can pull up data in real time to see the progress that our child is making at school. This allows us to continue to work with him towards the same goals at home.
After several discussions with the CoughDrop team, I have decided to join the company as the Director Of Business Development. This is an exciting platform. We are disrupting the old assistive technology and AAC market by utilizing cloud technology and storage. We are making it easier to put this in front of every person that needs it. I look forward to partnering with schools, special needs groups, medical associations and more to be able to bring this tool to more people and give them the ability to communicate freely.