Communication is an essential part of everyday life—but for those who are non-verbal, to be given the ability to speak is life changing. Breakthrough technology like touch screen apps are now giving stroke victims, individuals with autism and children like Enrique Mendez who has Down syndrome, a voice.
Enrique, 9, of New Jersey, primarily uses the app Proloquo2Go app to create speech by clicking on text and symbols.
“He definitely has a personality and we never knew it until this app, that he actually can have full conversations and dominate a conversation as well,” Diana Mendez, Enrique’s mother, told Foxnews.com.
The app’s developer, David Niemeijer, said he did not fully realize the impact the app would have on lives when he first came up with the idea, but meeting Enrique and his family exceeded his expectations.
“He [Enrique] is able to have more control of his life, is able to do more things that other kids do and get his message across and so he is much more empowered in a way,” Niemeijer said.
Proloquo2Go provides endless text-to-speech voices with a customizable library of more than 14,000 pictures and symbols, which users can configure from 9 to 36 buttons per page. The app comes with two pre-programmed vocabs to choose from, Core Word—most frequently used words in English, and Basic Communication—for new communicators depending on the personal needs and preferences of different users.
Enrique’s mom previously used other methods like sign language to communicate with her son, but said that limited the number of people he could communicate with.
“Now he can communicate with everyone,” she added.
“I want a pretzel,” Enrique said during the interview.
Another app that can be used as a communication device and teaching tool is See.Touch.Learn, which replaces traditional picture cards that have been used for years in educating children with special needs, with speech delays, pre-schoolers, individuals who suffered a stroke and more.
“It allows the teacher to create lessons using those pictures, the same way they used to do with traditional picture books, or index cards,” Jim McClafferty, developer and President of Brain Parade, LLC told Foxnews.com.
An example of what an interactive lesson might look like is a grouping of pictures that show faces both happy and sad. The exercise asks the user to choose the “happy” face.
“This would traditionally be done with the cards and the child would pick the card,” McClafferty said. A bell sounds when the user has chosen the correct answer.
See.Touch.Learn is used to not only teach new words and concepts, but to foster self-expression. McClafferty said the power of the app is in the community using it.
He added, “we’ve got over 200,000 users, in 104 countries right now that use the application, and we are going to let them share images,” creating an unlimited library.
Mendez said she is thankful that now Enrique is able to be a “normal” kid and interact with friends.
“I want a pretzel,” Enrique repeated.
Mendez smiled at her son and said, “Just like a typical child that will not stop asking you for what he wants until he gets what he wants . . . like a typical 9-year-old.”
“Thank you, gracias,” Enrique replied.
“I’m so glad you said that because I was just about to say your manners are unbelievable,” Mendez told her son.
Another highlight of incorporating the technology into their lives is that the family has learned so much about Enrique, like his favorite color and that he has a very silly side.
“Thank you, David for giving me a voice,” the iPad sounded, and the Mendez family cheered.