Bottom Line: My son wouldn't be the spokesmodel for just any old AAC app. Out of a dozen AAC apps and an $8000 Dynavox, this is what we've found works best for us.
If you would like to purchase TouchChat ($149.99 iPad or iPhone), TouchChat with Wordpower ($299.99) or try out a Lite version ($9.99), please consult an AT professional and then use our handy links:
iPad: iPad Lite:
Few questions are asked more often than, "What is the best app for communication?" The answer to that question is really quite simple, "Whatever your multi-disciplinary team of speech therapists and occupational therapists tell you." AAC is not one size fits all. What is best for an eighty year old woman recovering from a stroke is not necessarily what is best for a child with autism or a teenager with cerebral palsy. There are several quality AAC apps available that meet a variety of needs. TouchChat is one of those apps and while I won't declare it best, it does merit an impressive list of superlatives:
Most like a dedicated AAC device. TouchChat is developed by Saltillo Corporation maker of the Alt-Chat series of AAC devices. This company has been working with Assistive Technology for years. They have combined the ease of use and functionality of their dedicated Speech Generating Devices into TouchChat.
Most flexible. TouchChat comes pre-loaded with 4 vocabularies and with the WordPower option another seven are available. These include Multi-Chat 15; Primary Landscape and Primary Portrait for children; Spelling with intuitive word prediction; Vocab PC Landscape and Portrait; and WordPower 24, WordPower 24 with Phrases and WordPower42, 42 Basic, 48 and 80. No other iOS AAC solution comes even close to this level of sophistication. TouchChat can serve a young child with no literacy skills and severely impaired communication up to a fully literate adult who simply lacks the physical ability to speak.
Best for a therapist serving multiple clients. In addition to giving therapists multiple vocabularies to choose from, TouchChat allows users to create and store multiple individualized vocabularies. When editing, entire vocabularies can be copied and named for a separate user. Pages can be copied between vocabularies so customizations that apply to multiple clients can be added to their vocabulary as needed.
Most efficient for communicating in complete sentences. WordPower is a magical AAC language created by Nancy L. Inman, M.A.T., CCC-SLP. One of the difficulties of AAC use is the tendency to get lost in multiple menu layers. WordPower is like a mind reader that completes your sentences for you. It contains actual word prediction and not just spelling prediction. For example if you enter "I am" the home screen will automatically shift to a page of commonly used verbs with the –ing ending. As soon as you key in "I eat" the Foods category button pops up. By bringing the language to you, WordPower saves countless keystrokes and results in more descriptive, grammatically correct sentences. The true power of this intuitive language can be seen in a head to head smackdown with Proloquo2go. A seven word sentence took 12 keystrokes to complete using TouchChat's WordPower and 22 keystrokes plus customizing a button that was not part of the core vocabulary for p2g.
The Good. So, that is a pretty impressive list of Best in Categories. TouchChat does everything a full featured AAC solution should. It is fully customizable with 10,000 built-in SymbolStix, Google images or your own pictures from the iPad's camera. Pages can be cross linked so that for example, the snack choices page can be reached from the Foods page as well as from a School Day page. Individual squares can be dropped and dragged to layout however you wish. Alphabetization is not required. Multiple page layouts can be used so you are not stuck with every page being four columns of six squares. A complete help manual is available in pdf to download. There is a powerful grammar engine with word prediction and verb conjugation. Emails to [email protected] are answered quickly. TouchChat doesn't just afford users a voice, it gives them something to say.
Comparisons of TouchChat to the market leader p2g are inevitable. There really is no contest. Anybody who says p2g is better has not used TouchChat. Those who favor p2g are quick to show off page after page of pictures they have customized for their user. Why would anybody pay $189.00 for an AAC solution that they intend to rewrite from the ground up. Choice Board apps are available for $ 24.99-49.99. This sort of wholesale rewrite is unnecessary with TouchChat since it has multiple vocabularies to try on for size.
The Bad. TouchChat with WordPower weighs in at close to 1 full gig. The base offering is $149 which is less than other full featured AAC apps but addition of the WordPower option pushes the tab to $299 and there are in-apps charges for sharing and some other extra features.
The Ugly. TouchChat is NOT a universal app. Separate versions are available for iPad and iPhones/Touches. I can understand that the complexity of the app does not allow for it to be universal; however, purchasers should have access to both. I liken it to paying for a print New York Times subscription and getting the digital content for free. True AAC users may require both an iPad and a Touch for portability. Buying the iPod version and using it at 2x on the iPad is one way around this issue but it costs the app half a star in my book.