Frequently Asked Questions

This page addresses questions that may not be covered elsewhere on our website. Please do contact us (you can use the link on the right side of the page) if you still have concerns or questions. You can click on a question below to see the answer.

Does the program work in languages other than English?
How is SentenceShaper different from other communication aids?
Are reading or writing abilities required in order to use SentenceShaper?
What kind of computer skills are required in order to use the program?
Can I try out SentenceShaper before I buy it?
Can I run  SentenceShaper on an iPad?
Can I add pictures from the Internet to my workbooks?
Why are the pictures in the preposition workbooks so odd?!
Shouldn’t the program workbooks give feedback about whether my utterances are correct?

Does the program work in languages other than English?

The core functionality of SentenceShaper — letting you record speech in small chunks, replay these chunks, and arrange them into larger units — is completely language-neutral. You can use it with any language.

The editing tools can allow you to adapt the built-in workbooks to your language, by re-recording the English sound files in your language.  However, if the language uses non-English characters, then the iOS version will be easier for you. It accepts text in any language, and even includes a setting to switch user playback of sound files to right to left for languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

In contrast, the Windows version has more limited support for non-English characters.

How is SentenceShaper different from other communication aids?

We describe SentenceShaper as a communication aid because it can be used to create utterances for use in real life. The Internet provides one venue to use your aided speech, since the videos created by SentenceShaper can be shared by email, Facebook, etc. Speech produced on SentenceShaper can also be played directly to listeners … to communicate with family and friends, or in more formal settings such as speeches. (Click here for some examples) But even in non-Internet, “real time” settings, these recordings can be used. How? They can be transferred to a smartphone or other portable device and played in the real world on that device. For example, you could record a complex food takeout order and either play it back or use it as a kind of teleprompter to cue your own spontaneous speech, especially if you have practiced it beforehand.

Probably the main difference between SentenceShaper and other tools to support communication is that SentenceShaper is designed to help you create speech in your own voice. Many aids provide a library of utterances that you can locate and then play. SentenceShaper is intended to help you build on what you are able to say.  Although the program can give the user help with word-finding, its most remarkable effects derive from the processing support it provides.

SentenceShaper might be useful in tandem with another aid. For example, you might create messages on SentenceShaper and then transfer them onto an existing AAC aid. And you can use another device to help you find words while you are creating speech on SentenceShaper.

By describing SentenceShaper as communication aid, we make no claim that it would be appropriate for someone who has virtually no verbal output.

Are reading or writing abilities required in order to use SentenceShaper?

Most areas of the program do not require text skills. The Vocabulary Cue Buttons display text words, but clicking these words causes them to be played aloud. And while the Caption Box allows displays text, both Windows and iOS allow the user to enable text-to-speech playback from the settings menu.

What kind of computer skills are required in order to use the program?

While experience with a computer is useful, it is not necessary. The iOS version runs on the iPad’s user-friendly, familiar, touch screen interface. The Windows version may require a mouse, but  the program requires only single-clicking and dragging. People with hemiplegia have operated the mouse with their non-dominant hand in several of the research studies.

In terms of program mechanics, the most challenging part is recording your speech. First you turn on the recorder, then you speak, then you turn it off. Performing these three actions in the right order may take a fair amount of practice. If possible, you may want to let a helper work these buttons at first, while the person is getting used to the program.

Can I try out SentenceShaper before I buy it?

Yes! Both the Windows and iOS versions offer free trials that allow you to try out the program before buying it.

Can I run  SentenceShaper on an iPad?

Yes! Click here here for more information.

Shouldn’t the program workbooks give feedback about whether my utterances are correct?

There are two reasons why SentenceShaper does not provide this kind of feedback.

First, it would be technologically challenging at this time, because  SentenceShaper would need to understand what the user has said, not just record it. And it would have to be able to decide whether a particular utterance is appropriate (for example, if the user is describing a picture of a woman feeding a cat, would the sentence “Mary takes very good care of her pets” be appropriate?). Although speech recognition and computer processing of human language are exciting technologies, they are not yet able to handle the range of possible utterances that users may create, and it would be frustrating for the user to be bombarded with misunderstandings and corrections by the program. That said, we have reported that speech created with SentenceShaper appears to be easier for computers to understand, and we are intrigued with the potential of integrating the program with a speech recognizer in the future.

Second, and probably more important, is that SentenceShaper helps people to listen to their own speech more carefully (this is called self-monitoring). Improved self-monitoring is probably one reason why speech created with SentenceShaper is often better than spontaneous speech, and why people’s spontaneous speech may improve after using SentenceShaper. Self-monitoring does not require — and might even be disrupted by — a focus on the system’s feedback about correctness.

Why are the pictures in the preposition workbooks so odd?!

We are often asked why the workbooks that train prepositions depict unusual scenes, such as a man dropping a fish into a hat. The reason is that people are more likely to mention location if it is somewhat unexpected. If the picture shows a man reading a newspaper at the kitchen table, they may or may not mention where he is. But if he is sitting in a wagon while reading the paper, this is much more likely to be mentioned.

Can I add pictures from the Internet to my workbooks?

If you are creating materials for your own use, and not planning to distribute them, then it is absolutely fine to download images (Google Images, for example, is a very good source of pictures when you are making a SentenceShaper workbook). If you are uploading SentenceShaper videos containing these pictures to post on the Internet, be aware that many sites like YouTube and Vimeo do not allow you to post videos that violate copyrights. Also, be careful when downloading anything from the Internet.