Saturday, October 18, 2008
Logan's Prox Talker AAC Device
Logan's Prox Talker is an AAC device designed for students who efficiently use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication). The basic idea is that the device replaces a sentence strip at the bottom of a PECS book. The symbols in the PECS book have embedded RFID (radio frequency ID). The device automatically detects what symbol is placed on each of the five buttons, then those buttons are pressed (in sequence) to make a sentence. See the brouchure for more information.
The device is not yet available for purchase, nor is there a listed price, however Jeanette VanHouten shares in the comments that the price listed at Closing the Gap was $3800 (which is more expensive than a Springboard Lite or the ChatPC Silk for comparison). It is supposed to available this fall (although fall is quickly turning to winter...).
While I think the idea and the technology for the Logan's Prox Talker is cutting edge I do have some professional concerns.
PECS is an extremely structured program which should only by done by those trained to implement it. The process of PECS is meant for a specific population of learners and involves multiple steps in teaching communication. PECS is broadly misunderstood and misused. Many people think that if they implement a program of picture symbols that are stored on velcro that it is PECS. Students are often found using PECS style boards and books without having been taught the picture discrimination or communicative intent included in PECS training. I have seen students using 1 inch square picture symbols in a PECS style set up when the student is too visually impaired to possibly see those symbols. I have seen students with PECS style books who never move on from the very early stages of PECS because those offering the book don't know what comes next. I have also seen students who "stim" so much on the tearing of velcro that a PECS style set up is just a set up for failure. It is hard to remember that AAC, including PECS, is not one size fits all, nor should those choosing the AAC system (PECS or otherwise) fall victim to flavor of the month syndrome.
I worry that the Logan's Prox Talker is just another way that PECS can be misunderstood and misimplemented. If users of the Logan's Prox Talker can choose symbols well enough to warrant considering the Prox Talker device perhaps it is time to consider teaching the skills of using a more traditional AAC device where individual symbols play an entire sentence, beyond this the higher level of PECS has students make sentences with their symbols (which the Prox Talker is obviously created for), if students are doing this then a traditional AAC device where students create sentences with symbols is likely indicated. A traditional AAC device is much more likely to allow the students to say anything they wish, rather than be limited to the symbols that they are carrying with them (because although the Prox Talker has 10,000 words in its data base and the ability to add more it can only play the words that the students has on him in at any given time).
I would feel much more comfortable talking about the Logan's Prox Talker is Pyramid Education (the company that own the PECS system) were to add its use to their training manual and to give their seal of approval.