So, the district decided to buy the student I work with an iPad. The district rep explained that it was supposed to be mainly used as a communication aid. It has an app on it where essentially my student can click on different pictures of things to put together sentences and then this little robot voice will read the sentence for her. We (as in, the teacher and I - my student can't hear the little robot voice) had a great deal of fun going through all the voices available. "Tommy the bad guy" was a close contender, but we eventually just settled with one of the generic default "female" voices. No, I'm not making up the "Tommy the bad guy." That's what the voice was called. When you played the sample, he said something like, "Hi, my name is Tommy and I sound like a bad guy."
The main reasoning behind the app is that the student I work with is Deaf, so she communicates pretty exclusively through American Sign Language. Which virtually nobody except for other Deaf people understands. So the app is supposed to give her a "voice" when she's trying to communicate with the hearing people around her. She can't hear the voice, but the people around her can. That's helpful to those around her, but not necessarily for her. I guess it's supposed to be a more independent voice vs. the voice I already provide by interpreting for her.
The main issue I have is the app is still a one-sided communication modality. If she uses Sign Language, most people are not likely to know either what she's expressing or how to express themselves to her. If she uses the app, she can express herself, but people still can't really express themselves to her unless they're versed in how the app works and unless my student can read the sentences the other person's put together, which she can't. Her reading skills are at about a preschool level. So it doesn't really do her a lot of good to be able to say, "hello, how are you?" to somebody if that person then has absolutely no way to answer her question.
It's not communication, it's just sort of putting a thought out there in the void. That's an incredibly frustrating and isolating world to live in - one where people are ignorant to the way you express yourself so you never really have anybody to talk to.