Tag Archives: communication device

Alternate Funding for AAC with an iPad

First and foremost, I have to say that this post is NOT sponsored/paid/promoted, etc.  I’m not receiving any kind of compensation.  This is simply information I have learned that I would like to share with other families looking to purchase an iPad with the intent to use it as an Augmentative Communication device.

Recently, I’ve learned about two different programs with two different mobile carriers that are actually a great options for purchasing an iPad.

First, I have Sprint for my mobile phone carrier.  I went in to see about an upgrade and learned about Sprint’s “One-Up” program.  For cell phones, the “One-Up” program allows you to purchase a new phone for only the tax on the device.  You then finance the remaining retail amount with your regular bill. Sprint also offers you a $20 discount on their Unlimited My Way plan for choosing this program.  At the end of the year, you can choose to upgrade to a new phone or keep the one you have.

Here is how this worked for me:

– I chose to upgrade to the 16GB iPhone 5c.  This phone retails for $549.99
– I only had to pay the tax for the $549.99 which is $45.37 (That’s 8.25% sales tax here in Texas).
– The $549.99 is then financed over 2 yrs which comes out to about $22 per month.
– I then had to change to the Unlimited My Way plan which is $85 per month.  However, Sprint gives you a $20 discount when you choose the “One-Up” option, which makes this only $65 per month and gives you unlimited talk, text AND data! Sprint is currently the only provider which offers Unlimited data.
– My total bill is now $65 for the phone plan + $22 finance fee = $87/ month which actually came out to less than what I was paying previously!

Of special note here is the fact that in 12 months when Apple release the new iPhone I can do this same program with the new iPhone. You DO have to turn in the old phone to get the new one.  No more waiting 2 years! Plus, if you do the math, at $22/month for 12 months, I’m actually getting the phone for about $264 which is considerably less than buying it outright.  If you choose not to upgrade after a year, you continue the finance payments another 12 months and then you own the phone.

So how does this help if I want an iPad??

You can do the “One-Up” program with the iPad!

The rep told me that I could add an iPad to my account for $10 a month plus the finance charge, which for a $649 iPad would be about $27/month and I’d only pay tax of $53 that day.

So, if you are wanting to get an iPad for your child and you have Sprint, you could go in to a Sprint store (has to be an official Sprint store, this option is not available at third party retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, etc) and ask to add a line to your plan using the “One-Up” plan.  Pay the roughly $60 tax and you walk out with a brand new iPad that same day.  Monthly, you would be paying roughly $50 for service with the option of using both cellular data and wi-fi.

Today, I learned that AT&T has a similar program.  AT&T has the “AT&T Next” program which is essentially the same thing, but they do not offer a $20 discount on an unlimited plan.  They price roughly the same.  Joseph upgraded to a 32 GB iPhone 5s for $37.  Talk about a deal! AT&T actually offered a credit for his old phone which is why that is less than what you would figure taxes to be.  For the plan, the unlimited talk and text plan was $25 per month and then he had to choose a data plan which came out to $45 per month just for data.  When all was said and done his plan plus phone charge came out $95 per month when he was previously paying $150.  The rep also confirmed the “AT&T Next” plan was available on the iPad with a $10 a month plan plus the finance charge for the device of your choice.

When you think about it, you are basically leasing the phone/iPad with the option to upgrade or own it outright at the end of the term.  Either way, it is certainly a worthy option if you are having trouble finding funding for a communication device as many agencies are starting to crack down since many people just want an iPad for the fun stuff and don’t always use it for AAC.

After some research, I see that T-Mobile has the JUMP! program and Verizon has the Edge program, which seem to offer similar options, but also offer a 6 month upgrade option. I don’t know the ins and outs of those programs, but definitely check with them to see if this is an option for you.

Some cons to this of course include the fact that this is JUST for the device and does NOT cover any accessories or communication programs.  Some of the funding options will cover a case and communication program for the iPad, which can deter you from the phone carrier option if you are looking at one of the pricer communication apps.  Many apps offer a free trial so you can see if it is a good fit before purchasing. But, really, you should have a qualified Speech Therapist with experience in AAC complete an evaluation to see what device and what app would be most appropriate.  Many therapists have all the apps and options to try with your child so you don’t spend $200 to find out your child can’t use the app you bought.  And believe it or not, the iPad is not always the best choice.

I hope this information is helpful to anyone looking to purchase a device for their child with special needs.  Even if you aren’t using AAC, there are a TON of apps that really help to improve cognitive skills, fine motor skills, and promote language development.  Check out Bridging Apps for app reviews as they relate specifically to Special Needs.  They also have great information on funding sources if you are looking for grants or other programs that will offer a device and communication program.

Brax and his iPadBraxton has really come a long way with using the iPad Mini and we are finally starting to use a free app to test out choice making using a very basic communication app.  He also enjoys many other apps that teach alphabet, shapes, numbers, music and a variety of other skills.  His understanding of Cause and Effect has greatly improved.  Initially, he would slam his hand against the iPad over and over.  Now, he knows to gently touch and then wait for it to do what it’s supposed to do.  With his communication difficulties, it is promising to see him understand how the device works and the potential it has to help him find his voice.

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Whatever It Takes

At the beginning of the year, I really started worrying about communicating with Braxton.  At 18 months he had zero words and really no way of communicating with us.  I decided then that I really wanted us to learn sign language because we weren’t certain if Braxton would always be non-verbal.  I took a class in high school and I did baby sign language with Aileen and watched “Signing Time,” but unfortunately a lot of it didn’t stick with me since we were also speaking and didn’t really NEED to sign.  I began talking to our Auditory (AI) therapist who sees us in home a few times a month.  Then, we met with our early intervention coordinator and ended up increasing our monthly visits with AI so she now comes once a week to meet with us.  She mostly plays with Braxton to help us learn how he is communicating and she signs constantly while they are playing, so we asked her to help us learn.

Not too long after, we learned that one of the other Auditory therapists was planning on teaching a sign language class and it would be open to parents and other educators. [She was also going to be doing this completely VOLUNTARILY! I’m always thrilled when I learn people are so willing to give of themselves for something they are so passionate about regardless of compensation.  I’m so grateful to the woman teaching and the educators going the extra mile to come to class – after all, they are the ones who will be working with Braxton when he goes to school. This is great for a mom to see! It’s scary to think about putting Braxton in public school at 3 years old, but when I see that the people who will be working with him are genuinely invested in the kids, it puts my mind at ease.] Anywho…We started the class in Mid-March and we only have a few classes left now.  I have learned so much and am truly surprised by the amount I have retained.  Now that we know Braxton will most likely NEED sign language, I’m glad my mommy intuition made me want to learn and that we asked for more visits and resources. Aileen is even learning with us! She thinks it’s very cool to learn and is always excited to show off her skills.  Here is a video after our first class of Aileen:

She’s gotten a lot better and actively asks questions and tries to fingerspell which is fantastic! She’s truly the best big sister ever!

Through the class, we are learning Signing Exact English (SEE).  SEE differs from American Sign Language (ASL) in that it is an exact representation of the English language, so there are signs for different tenses and different pre- & suf- fixes.  It was explained to us that SEE is beneficial to a child because when they learn to read and write they will be able to read/write the exact way they have been signing because they have a grasp on grammar and syntax of spoken English.  ASL is a language in and of itself, and it has it’s own rules about grammar and syntax so when it is written out, it doesn’t translate exactly, which can confuse students.

Our hope is that Braxton does learn to have some verbal language, but if he doesn’t, we want him to be able to express himself.  We are also open to him using Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) which is communicating through a technological device.  This can be an iPad or some other “talker” device. There are so many options and apps out there today, so it is no easy choice.  We are working very closely with our Speech Therapist and when Braxton is ready, we will try out different apps and devices to find what works best for him. For now, we are using an iPad with him just so he is familiar with it.  He is getting a lot better at handling it and actually touching the screen with his hand instead of using his head or trying to eat the iPad instead! A few of his therapists even use them with him during their sessions.

We are willing to do whatever it takes to help Braxton be successful.  Sign language, picture cards, Communication devices, anything and everything available.  Braxton is definitely finding ways to communicate with us now, and while he still doesn’t have any words, we are learning his cues. We have learned so much already on this journey, not just about all of Braxton’s medical issues, but also more about ourselves.  We’ve learned how strong we can be and how to be better parents for Braxton.  We look forward to the road ahead – Braxton is going to continue to surprise us all.

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