We met Joe Hill in Norfolk, Virginia last week. He had a story to tell us. He has two autistic sons who have had trouble communicating and he noticed that the world of tools for autism often overlooked a few things – aesthetics, usability, and customization, to name three. Instead of relying on ready-made utilities, Joe wanted to make something fun and cool.
He created Aeir Talk. It’s an app that allows parents to create and record their own content for use in a very simple but effective method for communications. The parents record a set of verbs and nouns and add pictures of themselves or of familiar objects. When the kids need to communicate, they select a noun and a verb and press a button. The app creates a simple sentence. “I want to go outside, please” or “I want a carrot, please.”
It’s a simple program and many autistic kids use similar devices that cost a few hundred and have all the power of a pocket calculator. With the iPad, Hill was able to build a working system in a few weeks and now he and his sons use it to communicate around the house.
The app costs $1.99 and it’s already helped Joe’s two kids be a bit more responsive. It has plenty of graphical flourishes and the real value is in the customization and malleability of the vocabulary set. You can add anything you like – verbs, nouns, images, voice recordings – and its all personalized so junior feels a bit more comfortable.
In an vast app wasteland full of flashlights and fart soundboards, it’s nice to see something made with love by a father who knows what he’s doing. It’s a great teaching tool and useful for kids of all ages and abilities.