I was sent a message through Linkedin by Royden James.
He asked me to have a look at his app which he designed with his son in the forefront of his mind.
Roydens’ son is six years old and is nonverbal.
I could relate to Royden immediately.
I cannot tell you the amount of times over the years; I have simply just wished for Ethan to be able to tell me exactly what it is he wants. It’s frustrating for everyone in the house especially when you’ve a child who is doing their best to communicate their needs and wants to you but you just can’t seem to grasp what they are telling you.
Ethan was not nonverbal when he was younger , but his speech was very limited, which often lead to meltdowns and temper tantrums born solely out of frustration.
For years we used a picture board . This was fantastic . It really was up until Ethan found where the ‘other’ pictures were and began to remove something he didn’t want to do from the board and replaced it with something fun, like playing with play dough .
Yes our boy was a rascal when it came to the picture board, moving it higher only caused safety issues as he would drag a chair or a stool unsteadily climb it to take that ‘bath’ picture off.
We were at a loss at this time in Ethan’s life; we knew his ability to speak,would eventually be taken from him. I won’t lie, when everything the experts suggested failed we too felt like failures to our son.
Eventually we found ‘Lamh’ signs , simple sign language , but one that allowed Ethan and us to make up our own signs for Ethan’s favourite things. It worked well along with just pictures and no board.
Over the years, Ethan’s ability to speak has indeed all but gone. He is however still able to communicate by pointing at what he wants and showing us too. We are back to where we started when he was a toddler regarding communication.
Ethan doesn’t have the cognitive ability anymore to use this app but that didn’t stop me from researching it .
When I was contacted about this app , I felt the need to have a good look at it and imagine what it could do for many , many children and families.
The App: Upcard – An Autism App.
The app is called Upcard . It’s based on PECS (picture exchange communication system) .
Upcard is made up of picture cards basically, which users of the app can place in a certain order to show exactly what it is they want or need at any given time.
There is a library of standard everyday cards but you can also upload your own, for example a picture of your child’s grandad.
You can also record your voice saying each word so your child can hear the word but also there is no change in the voice which some children find comforting.
You can also set up a visual of day to day things for your child , so they know what’s happening next.
Upcard allows you to see how your child is using the app , meaning you can see how often and in which scenarios your child uses certain cards .
The cards are pretty much your child’s library of vocabulary; apart from the basic cards, everyone’s won’t be the same.
You can actually collect data throughout the app and see the way your child reacts in certain situations, perhaps you could even figure out ‘triggers’, helping you , as a family to navigate some situations with more preparation than you ever could before.
The best part of Upcard? It’s free. You can download on IOS and Android .(Suitable for phones and IPads )
You can download it here
You can also share the data between both devices , which gives everyone in the family access to the shared information and cleverly ensures whichever device the user uses Upcard on ,always has a backup !
Had I access to this app back then, I believe Ethan would have benefitted greatly from it.
I have to be totally honest; I am disappointed Ethan has no longer the ability to understand this app, I believe it is one huge step into making the world that much more inclusive for all children and young adults.
I wish the creator of the app, Royden James and his family, all the very best with their new venture; it was an honour to be asked for my honest insight.
*Disclaimer ; I was not given anything in exchange for my review, I was simply asked by the creator to give my honest opinion, which I happily did.