Color & Control:


A look at making communication more accessible for all

Support for those living with autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury or intellectual and developmental disabilities, accessibility for those who cannot speak are often overlooked, not available or inadequate. Our editors interviewed Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Ling Ly Tan for her insights on what needs to happen to improve language, speech and literacy for millions of Canadians.

Q) Can you tell us about your experience working with adults and children?

A) For over 20 years my role has been to deliver behavioral interventions for people with autism and developmental disabilities. The majority of my clinical experience involves Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) implementation and staff training to help clients develop functional communication, language, literacy and speech.

My mission is to empower the lives of people with disabilities by delivering an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system that is easy to navigate, incorporates behaviour analytic approaches to language development, engages parents and caregivers, and employs data-driven technology to improve outcomes for people with complex communication needs.

Q) This is thought to be a growing field. How so?

A) There are many disabilities that impact speech (see sidebar, page 15): There’s an urgent need for not only intervention but innovation. With the aging population and more adults and children being diagnosed with autism, aphasia and brain injuries the demand for assistive communications technologies and behavioural health services is expected to quadruple in the next 5 years.

Q) Are there enough trained health professionals available to meet the surging demand?

A) Yes, according to experts, there’s a definite shortage. Along with this surging demand we’re seeing an overwhelming number of speech language pathologist’s whose complex case loads are way too heavy. Also, many lack the necessary augmentative and alternative system knowledge to successfully support their clients whose speech has been affected. 

Q) Many communication devices aren’t used as prescribed. Is this an issue?

A) Unfortunately, data shows us that 60% of users abandon their communication device within the first year. They quit due to lack of good instruction for their communication partners (parents, teachers professionals), difficulty using the technology, and inadequate follow up.

Q) Patients also weren’t getting the desired outcomes for some. What was missing

A) For successful adoption and use of assistive communication technology software needs to be: 

1) Personalized and easier to navigate. 
2) Able to provide data and progress reports from data -driven could improve outcomes 
3) Offer effective training solutions for client’s, teachers, caregivers and clinics alike.

Q) Your team has developed Linggo that uses AI to help fill the gap. Can you tell us about that?

A) Linggo is an evidence-based, person-centered communication app that’s supports speech and literacy. Its’ capacity and value really grows with the child’s acquisition or adult’s relearning of language. It also offers data collection and progress reports to improve outcomes. And a huge plus, we pride ourselves on the development of a very effective communication partner app for training and ongoing support of parents, teachers and others on the team.

Q) Can you give us some examples of how Linggo is being used?

A) Our ground-breaking software runs on both Apple and PC and is being trialed by groups in Canada and the US with excellent early results. Some of our partners include: Acapela Group, Centre for Aging Brain Health Innovation Powered by Baycrest, Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, Seneca, Smile CDR, Tecla, Tobii Dynavox, Elemenoe Speech, Language, Behaviour and Learning, Evergreen, SidebySide Autism Therapy, Superminds and Two Can talk.

Q) Are you considered a technology start-up?

A) Very much so. We’re self-funded and have a few loyal early stage investors. It’s an exciting time for us with huge potential to help hundreds of thousands of people who are currently unable to speak. 

Ling Ly Tan, M.ADS, BCBA is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and Ontario Autism Program Clinical Supervisor.
For the last 5 years, she served as Co-chair for Seneca College’s Program Advisory Committee and has taught courses in applied behaviour analysis(ABA). Ling also delivers parent training workshops.

Case Study 1 

Bobby, 80 years old, stroke survivor

Prior to Research
• Responds with “yes” or “no”
• Few intelligible words
• Daughter reported depression
• Cognitive decline and memory loss
• Did not engage in leisure activities
• No previous experience with an iPad

After 3 months of Linggo
• Increased intelligible speech
• Able to carry conversations
• Improved relationship with daughter 
• Improved mood and affect
• More socially engaged with hospital staff
• Improved memory and clarity

“Since he’s started using Linggo, I’ve observed a slowing down of my father’s cognitive decline. He’s more confident and conversational.” 

Case Study 2

Abby, 8 year girl with autism with minimally vocal.

Prior to Research
• Self injurious and aggressive
• Discharged from intensive therapy due to lack of progress
• Previous communication systems ineffective
• No speech or literacy skills

After 3 months of Linggo
• Speaking and reading 80+ words
• Decreased self injury and aggression
• Participating in school
• Improved family quality of life

“I thought before Linggo I would have to put her on medication due to her behaviours. Linggo has helped her quality of life along with the rest of the family’s quality of life.”
—Abby’s Mother

Complimentary Issue

If you would like to receive a free digital copy of this magazine enter your email.