My oldest son, Ryan (10), is a beautiful, gentle, (large) teddy bear of a boy. For a child with autism, he is very verbal in a short-but-sweet way, but unable to really engage another person in a conversation because of an inability to process communication fast enough.
Often when you talk to him, you can literally see him concentrating on working the words through his brain and, sometimes even when he generates a response, the words come out jumbled up. It's like when someone tries to learn a foreign language. Even if you've really studied, having a conversation in the new language is very awkward and difficult with a native speaker.
When people try to talk to him, especially people he doesn't know, he'll often just say "OK...I gotta go" and run away.
I sat down with Ryan to test ConversationBuilder Deluxe. The app presents images of another child (or children) in a particular situation and starts a conversation with the user.
-There is a lot of snow.
-Do you like shoveling snow?
The child must pick the most appropriate response. If they choose correctly the app praises them and then asks them to record their voice saying the appropriate phrase. If they choose incorrectly, the narrator gently asks them to try again.
In the instance above, the child chooses "Hi Aaron." and then records it. Aaron then responds with a "Hi" of his own and the process goes back and forth through an entire 4-or-8-part exchange. At the end of each exercise the app combines all the recorded responses with the other child's and generates the entire conversation for the player to hear in real-time.
The effect this had on Ryan was amazing.
When he heard his own voice in a full conversation, he literally shook with excitement. He was mesmorized, enthralled, and eagerly moved to the next picture. Rather than a jumble in his mind, the responses were right there in front of him for him to read and choose from. It was as though a light had gone on in his mind: "Oh! This is how this is supposed to work."
After a few minutes with me, without a word, he got up from where we were sitting and took the iPad into his room. I don't know exactly how long he continued with the app, perhaps he stopped playing and went back to it later, but he emerged a few HOURS later still playing ConverstionBuilder.
Later, he quietly thanked me for downloading it for him.
I'm not a teacher or speech pathologist or an expert in autism by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know my son and I know when the light goes on. So, you tell me...how do I put a rating on an app that provides my autistic son with an opportunity to practice his coversation skills in a manner he feels so comfortable with (alone and on the iPad) that he loves to do it?
The app is brilliantly meticulous in the choices it presents to the child. In the shoveling snow example provided above, the app doesn't make one of the choices, "The moon is made of cheese." The choices are all perfectly suitable parts of a conversation but only in an appropriate way and order.
The app includes group and one-on-one conversation settings and, in some cases, uses the data entered (such as name and city) as part of the dialogue. Completed dialogues can be saved and shared via email. The app supports multiple-user accounts.
The standard version ($5.99 iPhone/$7.99 iPad) includes 40 conversations with additional ones available for in-app purchase. The deluxe version includes all 160 different conversations.
Highly recommended at whatever level you can afford for any verbal/reading child with communication issues.
Addendum: A few hours after posting this review, which was the day after I tested it with Ryan, my other son and I were walking upstairs talking loudly and from his room Ryan said "Hey! I'm trying to record a conversation!"
If you would like to purchase CovnersationBuilder please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
smartappsforkids.com was provided a complimentary copy of ConversationBuilder Deluxe for this review.