Wednesday, February 20, 2008

verbal communications difficulties and assistive technology

Lately I have been thinking about verbal communications difficulties with Asperger's. More specifically I have been thinking about my verbal communications difficulties. A while back I found a blog post. by Elmindreda about speech and Asperger's. As I was reading that I noticed similarities with speech difficulties I have. So lately I have been thinking of assistive technology that I could use when I having difficulties communicating verbally.

Although there are several commercially available devices, the ones I have seen don't seem to fit the bill. For one thing, given that I can usually communicate verbally, I would be hard pressed to get my insurance to pay for one. Also the devices I have seen seem to bulky and cumbersome for me to want to drag around with me every day. So I had to figure out some other option. I have a PDA I carry with me and use all the time. so that seemed like a good option.

I was poking around the net looking for text to speech software for my PDA. I found a few things and played around with a couple of them. Out of the ones I tried I like HipTalk the best. That website is in Spanish. To download a demo of the software click "descargar" then on the next screen go to where it says "Descargar HipTalk gratis" and click "descargar". The website says it's version 1.0 but the download will be the newest version. So far I am pretty pleased with the software. It can read off stuff in your memo pad or you can write stuff on the fly. Right now I have a few bits of text in my memo pad categorized under "speech". This way if I am having difficulties with speech I can just pull up the string of text that explains that. On top of that I have it setup so I can access the text I need just by using the buttons on the bottom of my PDA. Another really nice feature of HipTalk is the ability to adjust the speed at which the text is spoken, as well as the tone.

The only real issue I have encountered with the software is that the website for it is no longer around, so I can't register the software. Registering would be nice because it would get rid of the intro screen and allow me to speak more than 500 characters.

The only other issue is that my palm zire 21 has a crappy speaker on it. So the speech isn't as loud as I would like. I am going to be upgrading my PDA soon, so hopefully the next one will have a better speaker. Otherwise I will have to come up with some sort of external speaker setup. Hopefully I will work something out. For now at least I have something.

Another use of of this software is for my reading difficulties. I can just pop in my headphones and have my PDA read something to me.

As I make more progress on this project I will make more updates.

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