Miss A Columnist

Melissa Wenzel is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. After graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunications at Arizona State University, Melissa went to work for a boutique public relations/public affairs agency where she cut her teeth in the business by working on some of the state’s most polarizing elections and controversial public figures. Two years later, in need of a little soul cleansing, Melissa took a job with the American Red Cross where she worked media and crisis communications in the wake of local and national disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.
After her twins, Jonathan and James were born in 2007, Melissa returned to work part-time before starting her own consulting and freelance writing business in 2009.

When she and her husband are not chasing, or being chased by their four year old boys, Melissa can be found elbow-deep in cake batter or pouring over a new book. She’s currently trying to muster the courage to learn to scuba dive. Read Melissa’s musings on life with her light saber wielding twins at Musings of a Twin Mama. To learn more about her work, visit www.melissawenzel.com. If you have something for moms, children or families that you would like covered on Miss A, please email Melissa at melissa@melissawenzel.com.

TapToTalk App Gives Non-Verbal Kids A Voice

Until recently, Texas mom Fay Bareham felt helpless when trying to communicate with her 11 year old autistic son, who is unable to talk. Over the years, the Bareham family tried all sorts of communications devices and even sign language to communicate, but, as Bareham points out, not enough people know American Sign Language to be able to communicate with him, especially his classmates at school. This led to her son feeling frustrated and trapped and Bareham feeling helpless.

“We knew he was in there and we simply couldn’t get to him,” she said.

Then, Bareham discovered TaptoTalk, an application that lets parents, teachers and speech and language professionals turn handheld devices like smart phones and tablets into AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices to help nonverbal and partially verbal children communicate. The app runs on virtually all popular handheld devices including the iPhone, iPad, Nook, Android phones and more.

Bareham loaded TaptoTalk onto her son’s iPod Touch, which looks like everyone else’s phones. Suddenly, he felt “cool” because his device looked just like his Dad’s cell phone clipped on his belt.

What’s more, Bareham’s son suddenly had the ability to communicate in a way he couldn’t have before.

“The devices we used in the past weren’t nearly as customizable as TaptoTalk is,” Bareham said. “We were hearing requests from him we’d never heard before. It was like someone waking up from a coma.”

With apps like TaptoTalk, non- or partially verbal kids (such as those with autism, Down’s syndrome or cerebal palsy) can explicitly tell parents, siblings and teachers what they are thinking about and what they need. This is revolutionizing the world of communication for families of children across the country.

Phil Bookman, founder and CEO of Assistyx, the company that developed TaptoTalk says the inspiration behind the application hit particularly close to home when one of his grandchildren needed TaptoTalk to communicate.

“I saw a need for this type of product and once I began developing the concept realized it was too important to leave undone,” Bookman said.

Since going on the market in September of 2009, Bookman says TaptoTalk is being used in more than 40 countries and in over 20 languages. While 80% of its users are children, the app is so customizable, people of all ages and abilities are using it to communicate.

Tap to Talk Facts:

  • The app is free to download. TaptoTalk Designer, the customizable part of the app, is $99.95 for one year or a one- time, “forever” fee of $179.95.
  • 80% of the design work for the app was done by moms.
  • TaptoTalkDesigner customizes the child’s TaptoTalk by allowing users to choose pictures from the TaptoTalk library or their own images, add text and sound and arrange albums.
  • TaptoTalk is cloud-based, allowing parents, teachers and therapists to work together to create a customized TaptoTalk that is just right for their child.
  • Learn more by visiting www.taptotalk.com or calling 408-335-7373.

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