I spent most of yesterday updating my AAC Apps list, which is hosted by the lovely people at Spectronics. There were a lot of changes to the list this time – over 60 app updates and 27 new apps. Three of the new apps were additions to the series of Fat Cat Chat apps and that had me considering these clever apps once more and how they often get us to think outside the box in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
When I am rating AAC apps for the list, I have a series of criteria for a well designed, full functioning AAC app – and those receive 3 stars. The Fat Cat apps don’t meet those criteria and therefore get 1 star – but despite this they are clever apps that have a valuable place in the options available to us.
The Fat Cat AAC apps are produced by Point-and-Read and each of them targets a different area or theme. The first Fat Cat app I “met” last year was Fat Cat Pirate Chat. This was released just in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day last year and gave us all the opportunity to improve our pirate lingo enormously! The app was an excellent and fun way to introduce new people to the concept of using AAC. My husband even used it when preaching his sermon that week! Next year, we will be having a pirate theme at Big Mouth Camp and I’m sure this app will get a lot of use again there.
The next app I found out about was Fat Cat Chat Repair. This was a more serious AAC app. This app has vocabulary concentrated on the concept of communication breakdowns and some of the messages we can use to repair them. This is one of the many areas of communicative competence that people who use AAC need to develop – and then use with a range of communication partners and in different settings. Many times this is a skill that isn’t practiced with people who use AAC as their regular communication partners are so experienced at co-constructing that they are able to get around many communication breakdowns using a range of good communication skills and background knowledge – and then because their common communication partners are so good at communication repair there isn’t any need for the AAC user to use these strategies themself. Fat Cat Chat Repair isn’t designed as a standalone AAC app but can be used as part of an AAC system and it also provides us all with valuable phrases and strategies that can be added to a user’s more comprehensive system or that can be practiced and implemented with their existing vocabulary.
Fat Cat Snappy Chat provides a range of small talk phrases and words that can be used in social interactions. Small talk is estimated to form nearly 50% of our language as children and continues to form a large part of our communication as adults. At the same time it is recognised that many people who use AAC don’t use much small talk. Fat Cat Snappy Chat provides a fun and engaging way to model and use small talk with children – and once again provides us with inspiration for small talk phrases to teach or to incorporate into existing systems. This was released at a similar time to Fat Cat Fast Twenty, which is a single page app with 28 common words for daily conversations.
Earlier this year, a further app was released – which once again is more of a novelty AAC app. It isn’t one I need for obvious reasons – but if YOU would like to talk like an Aussie then you can use Outback Chat. Lots of classic Aussie slang is included – as well as some phrases that I have only heard from my grandfather! There’s even some I have never heard before – but when chatting with Ben from Point-and-Read at the ISAAC conference earlier this year he was able to explain and show me the origin of each message!
And this now brings me to the three most recent Fat Cat apps. Spooky Chat is the one which is most immediately relevant. It is a single page app with larger buttons than the earlier apps, which has language completed related to trick-or-treating. Most of the cells have fixed messages, but you can also edit a couple of the cells to provide specific information such as “I am dressed as….”. Once again it isn’t designed as a standalone AAC system but it provides us with great vocabulary examples and gets us thinking about how the AAC users we know can say those phrases. This is also true of the final two – Fat Cat Santa Chat and Fat Cat Bunny Chat. These are respectively designed for chatting to a store Santa or Easter Bunny.
I hope that this blog post has convinced you to take time to check out at least a couple of these apps – and that you find them as thought provoking and useful as I have. Thanks Fat Cat Chat for constantly getting us to think outside that box!