Jenn Lisberger CADES - Swathmore, PA
I was first introduced to ProxTalker as a Company almost 7 years ago at a local Assistive Technology Expo. I was so impressed with the ProxTalker and the story behind its creation. I was excited to get my hands on one and try it for myself and I can say I was definitely not disappointed! Having previously worked a lot with students on the Autism Spectrum who had plateaued with PECS but weren’t ready for a high tech, dynamic display communication device I was happy to know there was a sturdy stepping stone for them.
I currently work with more physically involved students and have fewer students who have the fine motor skills to manipulate symbols to use the ProxTalker. I have used it with my students as a choice board with voice output. It’s lightweight and easy to use on the go. I had one student in particular who required assistance walking and when he needed a break would immediately sit on the floor, wherever we were. I used the ProxTalker with him to teach “Walk” verses “Break” so he could communicate that he needed to sit down and rest. The robustness of the ProxTalker allowed for effective use while walking around the building.
Many of my classrooms have been using object symbols for years as a bridge from concrete objects to more abstract symbolic language. When I saw that ProxTalker had created a way to make object symbols “speak” I immediately got some ProxPads in the building. My students use them for choice making as well as identifying their daily schedule. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Gary Tilbe, my local ProxTalker rep. He showed us new and fun ways to use our ProxPads with some of our more physically involved students. The proximity mode allows us to mount the ProxPad under a wheelchair tray or desk, leaving our hands free to hold the symbols (in a field of 2 or more on a Velcro board) for choice making. With assistance our student then run the symbol over their desk and they have a talking symbol! Another fun application I recently learned about is placing a programmable card on or in an object or toy. This way, any object can have voice output. This is so much fun to use during thematic activities and reading!
The company as a whole really cares about the clients they serve. Not only has Gary come to visit, he has remained in contact with us and given us new ideas and tutorials on the products. I urge anyone to take advantage of the free trials that ProxTalker offers and think outside the box with their products!
Claire. (Sam's Mum) England
We've just doubled his tile quantity so doubled his vocabulary! His ProxTalker is his life!
Ralph Haney. Oklahoma.
Before I share my thoughts on the machine you might like to know a few things about me. I am totally blind and have been so since 1986 from complications from retinal detachments. I’m 74 years old and have learned to read and write, neither very well, grade 2 braille. I am married and my wife is the library director for the small town of Hennessey, Oklahoma, 20 miles south of Enid, Oklahoma where we live. I am retired and my principal pastime is woodworking. (More about this later)
The first thing I noticed after deciding that the button between the two arrows didn’t turn the machine on or off and locating the power switch on the right side was how quiet this machine is in comparison to my older model. The keyboard layout is much like my old machine so the learning curve was not too parabolic with the exception of the arrow keys on each side of the automatic cut off button. The automatic cutoff feature is a welcomed addition and the backing removal tab, new to this model I think, works well and makes the removal of the backing material a snap. The arrow keys, although an excellent new feature, caused me to scratch my head, for they seemed to work backwards. Pushing the left facing arrow key moves the tape backwards and this took some getting used to. This new feature came in handy when I typed an “O” when I really meant to type an “R.” In the old machine, this would have scrapped the label, with this machine, I simply hit the left arrow key, moved the tape back and retyped an “R” and the label was corrected and saved. I find the six batteries a little daunting and will be purchasing the external power supply as soon as funds are available. Batteries are not cheap and they tend to go south at the most inopportune time so the power supply should be a good accessory. Most of my labeling is done at my computer desk so a plug-in power supply is not a problem for most tasks. The batteries, however, will allow the machine to be portable when necessary.
The braille dots are well embossed and present no ambiguity-- one of the problems I have with a braille slate and stylus. As I said before, the crimped tab makes the removal of the backing material an easy task and saves much frustration in trying to scratch up a corner in order to peel off the blankety-blank backing.
There are many ways of marking items for identification by blind individuals and all have their merits and place but require some sort of reader or categorizing system. Braille can be specific as to what the item is, portable without the use of external equipment that can fail when needed most, and it allows one to read as do sighted people. The two areas in which labeling is most useful for me is in identifying my medications and identifying wood species in my wood shop. You may not have thought about labeling wood species for a blind woodworker but this is quite important to me. I work with a number of different woods in the various projects I design and build and it is very necessary for me to know which wood I have just picked up. I label the rough lumber as I bring it into my shop by placing a braille label on the end of each board with its species in braille. As I proceed with a project I invariably produce short pieces that are called off cuts and they must be l abeled for use in future projects. Exotic woods are too expensive and I’m too frugal to waste even a small piece, thus labeling is a necessity. Here’s where the 6-Dot machine shines for me. I know you face a limited market and fewer and fewer blind people are opting to learn braille but I want to thank you for making this product available and hanging with me through the procurement processes. Companies like yourselves offering adaptive technologies to a limited market enhance the quality of life for we who are the handicapped. Once again, thank you.
Lynne Hahn. United States.
The PROXTALKER was designed by Glen Dobbs; the father of a non-verbal 12 year old boy with autism. Glen, the founder of PROXTALKER LLC and customer of Metro Plastics, designed the PROXTALKER device so his son could communicate verbally. The “talker” allows the user to retrieve vocabulary stored on sound bites to produce real words.
I decided to try the ProxTalker with my father. After suffering several strokes for the last couple of years my Dad’s verbal skills have diminished considerably. He has become very attached to his device and becomes very agitated when it gets out of his reach.
The PROXTALKER provides limitless customization options to support people with a wide range of communication difficulties. Metro Plastics Technologies is proud to supply the plastic compotes of this unique communication device.
EDITORIAL – This is an amazing example of how what we do here at Metro can directly impact someone’s life. I worked in speech therapy after college and had clients who had no verbal capabilities at all. I have seen the frustration it can cause and know first-hand, as seen in Lynne’s family, the life changing result that this machine can bring.
Francesca. United States.
Our son Logan was able to say a few words until he was 18 months old but then lost all speech and became non-verbal. When he was 4 years old, his speech therapist was able to attain the (ironically called!) Logan ProxTalker for a trial basis and he seemed to “take” to it. We were able to record various “want” words using different family members’ voices which made it entertaining for him. We rented the device and after 4 months, Logan began to speak!! Using the Logan ProxTalker definitely attributed to his success! He is now 10 years old and is surely making up for lost time as now he doesn’t stop taking. Thank you to the wonderful people at Logan ProxTalker!
Julie. Bootle, Liverpool.
I am writing to say how very pleased I am with the 6dot Braille Label Maker. It's so easy to use and the quality of the braille is lovely. Now I know what tins are in my food cupboard!
Karen Gorman (Assistive Technology/UDL Coordinator, NYC DOE-District 75-Technology Solutions. New York.
There are several reasons why the ProxTalker works for us in NYC. The no need to program idea is perfect for being able to communicate on the fly and respond to the situation as it occurs. Communicating and responding in real time is much more effective than trying to teach a skill and work to apply it.
In addition we work on the foundation of using Core Language to start and Proxtalker created our Core language tags for us so our students can engage quickly and efficiently using Core words regardless of the content. This significantly increases the number of times students get to communicate with other which is paramount to becoming an active communicator and not someone that just identifies vocabulary words.
Additionally since the device can be used for some instructional tasks such as math and spelling and sentence generation, pre literacy skills for left to right orientation etc., it is very handy for reinforcement and teaching skills within the instructional setting. The ProxTalker does this in a very UDL (Universal Design for Learning) way: the tactile component of using the tags with the voice output for the auditory feedback and the picture symbol for the visual the information and content is accessible to all learning styles.
Jacqueline. Strongville, USA.
Today I dropped off the device to be used in the public school and show the staff how to use it. The student has been stagnant with communication for years and had a previous history with PECS but did not take to it. I sat down with him and his teacher and within 3 trials of using the systematic teaching protocol he was smiling and on the 6th trial he was attempting to use the device with independence!
Jackie. Cleveland, OH.
The Logan ProxTalker is a unique augmentative communication device that allows the user to have the experience of both picture communication and tablet devices. With ProxTalker, the user is able to experience the tactile component of selecting and moving RFID chipped tags on to location buttons similar to moving picture/photo cards with exchange systems.
The user is also able to utilize motor planning and see the visual structural component of language as well. Once the tags are pressed on the location buttons, the user is able to access the auditory feedback of each of the individualized tags similar to tablet devices.
For our students, we found this combination of tangible, motor planning, visual language structure and auditory feedback enabled students to make more advances in their communication with others when they had previously been stagnant with exchange systems or unable to utilize tablets .
Kelly. Yorkville, IL
I am currently trialing a ProxPAD ChoiceMaker for a student with a visual impairment who is, also, nonverbal. He has been extremely successful in picking up the concept of the device thus far….
his student has been so amazing to watch with this device, it's really assisting with his speech production. I met one of your representatives at ISHA, and absolutely love this device!
Mike R. Whethersfield, CT.
After my trach surgery, I was lying in my hospital bed, unable to speak. When I needed to go to the bathroom, I'd ring for a nurse...but I couldn't tell her why I rang for her...and she couldn't always guess...I was so frustrated. Sometimes, I'd ring for help, and the staff wouldn't even come in the room...they'd respond over the intercom, asking me what I needed. I couldn't answer them. It was hopeless.
But once I got the ProxTalker, I could easily communicate again! I'd hit the pre-recorded message..."I have to go to the bathroom"...When I got thirsty, or when I needed to be suctioned, or my stomach hurt, I'd simply hit the appropriate key, and they'd hear me - loud and clear!
Even though I was recovering from surgery and was heavily medicated, the ProxTalker was easy for me to use. Whenever I just wanted a book, or when I got cold, I could let them know...!
The staff didn't have to try to guess anymore, and this ProxTalker made all the difference in the world - when I needed it most!
Thank you, ProxTalker.
John. Isle of Wight, UK.
John, who has cerebral palsy uses his ProxTalker every day and it has helped him to be able to express himself and now he has gained much more independence. He is a resident in a care home and as part of the fire rules he needs to tell staff when he leaves the building, now he can do this with the press of a button. Staff have put on the machine sentences that John uses every day and so he is able to state what he wants and not what others think he wants. He uses the machine when he goes out to a Day centre and is now able to communicate with staff and he has much more fun as he enjoys joining in with the banter and they also can help him to achieve his desires. He recommends the ProxTalker as having given more independence and helped him to make new friends in the community. The machine is simple to use and also ideal for those who have limited movement as it can be placed on the lap whilst in a wheelchair so making it able to go where ever he goes. A wonderful, simple effective aid to communication. The activities coordinator at the home says he has seen a great change in John’s independence and enjoyment of life and sees it having many uses with all Adults who have speech and communication problems.
Mary. Elk Grove, CA.
As far as our little guy goes, he’s extremely prompt dependent using his PECS binder; however (according to his classroom teacher) his level of independence has significantly increased using the ProxTalker. When we (AT and SLP) introduced the PT to the student, he quickly learned to request with minimal prompting. We’re very excited about his progress in such a short amount of time and are so thankful that you provided us with the loaner. Additionally, his behaviors (screaming/crying) have also decreased.
It’s very fulfilling to see our kiddos progress and again, thank you for the loaner.
Melissa. Louisville, KY.
I am really thrilled with the progress I see from my student with this system. He's building 5 word sentences, looking through his whole book and really exploring language with this vs. the PECS pics we were using. It is also SO user friendly and the parent training was smooth and unintimidating for his mother.
I haven't been this excited about an AAC device, well, ever!
Danielle K. and Danielle G. Brooklyn, NY.
We use the ProxTalker in our self-contained classroom for a 9 year old boy with limited communication. The ProxTalker is simple enough for him to use and manipulate easily. He uses the device independently and it has helped improve his vocalizations in conversational language. The device is easy to use and has helped our student express his wants and needs tremendously.
Ali. Powys, UK.
Our 13 year old had become bored with PECS and virtually given up using it, relying on the fact that we could interpret his every need. From the first moment he set eyes on the ProxTalker he understood how to use it. I had "helpfully" recorded "a drink of Ribena" over the drink tab as Ribena has long been the only thing he liked. This time however, he gave me a filthy look, threw the drink tab, slapped down the milk tab and pressed it HARD. Obviously his tastes have changed but he had been unable to let us know that, actually, he would prefer a glass of milk sometimes. How's that for communication!
Parent of Callum. Manchester, UK.
I first came across the talker at the Education Show in Manchester. I was bowled over by the thought that it may give my son Callum a voice in his non verbal world. The Proxtalker is helping him to start making the choices that any other child of his age would be making. The support that we have received at home and in his nursery setting has been invaluable. It is great knowing that the Proxtalker will grow with Callum as he starts to understand more and undoubtedly wants to boss us about more!
Ruth. Chester, UK.
We had a loan of a Proxtalker for a year 8 pupil, who was using PECS at phase 6 but still had no appropriate vocalisations, which limited his interactions with those who didn't know him. On the first trial he recognised it could be used as a PECS book and was independent straight away. Unlike other communication aids he didn't repeatedly press buttons. The Proxtalker allowed him to 'nag' us staff remorselessly, in a way that was obviously funny to him and led to great social eye-contact which we had not had in those situations before. Hopefully funding can be found to secure a Proxtalker for future use.
Michelle. Wells, Somerset, UK.
Harriet has tried many communication aids over the years, and has found many of them too difficult. We tried a Megabee at an exhibition and she was fantastic with it straight away. Harriet has always struggled with literacy, and with using the Megabee she has learnt to spell very quickly. Harriet uses one Magabee to learn spellings (overall goal for her to spell exactly what she wants) and the other Magabee with set sentences on to say what she wants, how she feels etc. It has made a huge difference to Harriet, communicating her needs and also to her literacy skills. Fantastic!!!!!
Sandra. Stourbridge, UK.
We have been using ProxTalkers since June 09 and have been delighted by the students' responses. In group work they have developed sentence structure, waiting, turn taking and social skills in addition to improved behaviour and the ability to use 'yes' 'no' with accuracy in an acceptable manner. Other students have been able to learn to place and activate to request, even at a one word level
Pod Serge. Birmingham, UK.
Having used PEC's for a number of years this had become unmotivating for Alex. As a 10 year old boy Alex was inspired on first contact with the ProxTalker, and immediately began using the device in order to request the things that he wanted. It was fantastic that Alex was so motivated by the machine that he would go and get it in order to make a request. After trialling this at school for two weeks, he then took it home for a trial and he is awaitng on a response for funding.