Bridge College is a specialist college for 16-25 year olds with learning difficulties and disabilities, complex needs, communication disorders and autism. I am part of the full-time therapy team here that supports any additional needs the students have as they work on developing key life skills, money handling skills and things that will help them get into work.
One of the students I work with is an 18 year old with cerebral palsy. He wasn't getting on very well at all with his old communication aid; in addition to experiencing technical and reliability issues with it, he had started to actively dislike using it.
I started looking for an alternative – he's quite chatty and I didn't want to slow him down with switches etc. so I really wanted something with direct access. He loves using the iPad and finds it very motivating so I wanted to find something that worked on this platform.
A colleague recommended that I take a look at Clicker Communicator. My instinct was that it would be a really good match for him. I loved the idea of the literacy support element; he has really strong literacy skills so an app that would enable him to express himself more freely and develop these skills rather than simply relying on pre-prepared words and phrases was a very exciting prospect!
"One of the key benefits I've noticed since he started using Communicator is how quickly and easily he can react to new scenarios and conversations as they happen, just adding in new vocab 'on the fly'."
An Education Consultant from Crick Software popped in to demonstrate Clicker Communicator to me – it seemed really easy to use, quick to program and I felt that the keyboard with symbol-supported word prediction would really speed up communication tasks.
So, I decided to trial it with my student. I showed him how to use it, and how to add new words and symbols that he came across. He just took it and ran with it – adding new people he met to the people page, building up vocabulary based on his interests, he got the hang of it very quickly.
One of the key benefits I've noticed since he started using Communicator is how quickly and easily he can react to new scenarios and conversations as they happen, just adding in new vocab 'on the fly'. When he comes across new people or objects at college, he can just take a photo of them and snap it right into his Vocabulary Set. He now uses the app for various communication functions including greeting people, asking social questions, presenting opinions and supporting his numeracy skills. Recently, he was feeling rather ill and was able to use Clicker Communicator to quickly tell us exactly how he felt and which body parts were hurting.
"Clicker Communicator is really helping him to develop his literacy skills in particular – he's started to produce longer sentences, have a go at spelling more difficult words like 'excited', use more complex vocabulary and incorporate more punctuation. His writing speed is increasing too."
He enjoys using the app and has really taken ownership of it – he saves favourite phrases to recount something important he said earlier that day, deletes anything that he wants to keep private, it really is 'his'. Outside of learning sessions he uses his iPad to surf the internet, watch videos etc. but once he's in a session, he never comes out of the app – he's totally focussed and on task. It's fantastic that he has accepted it so quickly and become really enthusiastic about using it.
Clicker Communicator is really helping him to develop his literacy skills in particular – he's started to produce longer sentences, have a go at spelling more difficult words like 'excited', use more complex vocabulary and incorporate more punctuation. His writing speed is increasing too.
From my perspective, the app has saved me hours of preparation time – it's so easy to use and to program. It's also given me real peace of mind when the student is out doing his work experience; I'm confident he will be able to spontaneously communicate and chat when put on the spot with a new person or scenario outside of the college.
We've just started trialling the app with some other students. They don't necessarily have as big a vocabulary as him but that's really no problem with Clicker Communicator – I can just go in and hide certain words or simplify the Vocabulary Sets to meet the students' needs and then build up their access to it as they learn and progress.
I'm so glad we found Clicker Communicator – it's a fantastic communication tool for educational settings like ours.