TippyTalk: Tech that bridges the gap between the disabled and their caregivers

Rob Laffan created an app that helps his autistic daughter communicate from anywhere at anytime.

From the Series

PECS Boards are often difficult to maintain
PECS Boards are often difficult to maintain

A father who desperately needed a better way to communicate with his autistic daughter developed an app that brings nonverbal communication tools to a simple touch screen communications system. Named TippyTalk, the app removes many of the challenges associated with the picture exchange communication system (PECS) usually used to assist nonverbal communication.

The PECS board resembles a picture book or file. Nonverbal people can point to what they need or remove the picture, taking it to someone who can assist them. According to The Mighty, a media platform that advocates for the disabled, Rob Laffan found the PECS board presented a number of challenges in his daily exchanges with his daughter Sadie.

He found that she was not always able to physically take the picture him and the pictures were easily lost or damaged.

Using expertise gained as a student at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) in Ireland, Laffen designed an app that would transfer the pictures to text messages, allowing his daughter to communicate with him at any time from anywhere.

The touchscreen communication system takes the PECS board to a computer, tablet or phone. When the user needs something, for instance, an apple, they would click the picture and a text message is sent straight to the caregiver.

Speaking to The Mighty, Laffan said the convenience of the system has strengthened his relationship with his daughter: “Being able to understand my girl’s exact desire, needs and feeling has brought me closer to really understanding and loving her little personality,” he was quoted as saying. “Now it’s just a case of giving the same joy to other parents like me.”

After winning awards and securing additional investors, Laffan is set to make the innovation available to the public soon.