This review will be different than usual because it won’t be about Quinn at all. Instead, this is about my best friend’s son, Tanyon, who is an adorable, smart, sweet, loving little boy. He also has Autism and he is non-verbal. The only speaking that 9 year old Tanyon does is repeating things that are said to him. Tanyon has an iPad and his mom, Alison, has been wanting to try communication software with him for awhile. The people at Tobii were generous enough to let Alison and Tanyon try out their software, Sono Flex, in exchange for my honest review. In case you aren’t familiar with communication software for autism, these types of programs are typically easy-to-use apps with small icons that kids on the autism spectrum tap and it speaks for them. These programs have opened up many avenues for kids who cannot speak to be able to effectively communicate with their parents, caregivers, teachers and others.
Alison downloaded Tobii Sono Flex, which is an AAC vocabulary app, about 6 weeks ago and I’ll be honest and say that Tanyon hasn’t completely grasped it. It’s not a problem with the software at all. He’s just pretty severely cognitively delayed and he hasn’t mastered it. That’s not to say he won’t, and we are both hoping he does in the future. In that event, I’ll do a follow up and update with that news.
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As I said, Tanyon’s lack of comprehension is not at all a reflection on the software. It is actually a great program and it’s very easy to use. We just don’t think Tanyon fully understands that is for communication, but once he does he’ll likely be happy for the ability to communicate. Sono Flex is ready to use as soon as it’s downloaded, but is pretty much fully customizable so you can make the app properly suit your life. It comes with many common words and phrases already loaded and ready to use, and over 11,000 pictures to match, and you can upload your own photos or choose from their extensive additional gallery for free. Once you start using it, you quickly notice that it is very simple to use and has the words sorted by type (such as verbs, nouns, etc.) and are color-coded so it’s easy to distinguish which word is which. It also has specialty icons you click and it opens up boards with themed words, such as food and eating-related ones. We were also especially thrilled that it has an iPhone app too, which was free with the purchase of the other, so if Tanyon doesn’t have his iPad, he can still communicate using his mother’s iPhone. The setup on the phone isn’t exactly the same as the iPad, but it's so easy to change out the context boards that its not an issue.
There are a few things we’d like to offer up as constructive criticism though. The app offers a choice of 5 voices, but we do wish they sounded a little more natural and not so computerized. It has a keyboard so children can type out things they’d like to say, but it only offers an ABC keyboard and not a QWERTY, which some kids prefer, and it does not have any numbers on the keyboard. When she originally downloaded it, the buttons didn’t speak as they were pushed (only quick phrases), but Tobii fixed that in their update and she was happy about that. It makes it much easier for Tanyon to learn what the buttons mean if they speak. This is an option that can be turned off in Settings if you wish. Besides these few things, we saw nothing else that needed fixing on the app. Overall though, Alison has been very happy with Sono Flex and has high hopes that her son will begin using it regularly one day.
Tobii Sono Flex is available on the App Store in a free trial version or the full version is $99.99. There are also apps for Android and PC available separately.
Thank you to Tobii for providing a complimentary product sample for us to base this review upon.