Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The iPad as a Window...

This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie.

Picking up a caseload of, say, 35 kiddos can be a bit daunting.  You do your best to schedule and group, skim IEPs, and then you have your first sessions.  Actually working with the kids is at once a reminder of why we do this work, and also sort of scary...that many kids at that many different grade levels and developmental zones- I have found my iPad to be a huge help.

An app can provide a language-enhancing activity, but it also can provide a window through which you can assess the child and decide where to go next. In my first couple of days of therapy, I found Smarty Ears' House of Learning to be an invaluable interactive context in which I got to know many of my students better.  House of Learning lets you choose from 12 scenes-various rooms of a home, and also a classroom-and then position a huge array of objects and people within the scene. The app allows you to customize families in a multicultural manner, and when tapped, each object in the scene or scene menu is named aloud, though this feature is a bit robotic and could be improved (though certainly, you'll be doing much of the talking). The ability to change the position and poses of people in the app provides the opportunity to develop verbs, play skills, concepts, sentence formulation and preposition use, while the variety of rooms and objects available is a great context for vocabulary and category growth.  The app was pretty much a universal hit with the kids I tried it out with, and while they were engaged, I got a lot of information about:

Endurance/attention span: How long the students stayed engaged helped me get a sense of therapy planning.  Some students added one or two objects to the room and attempted to switch to a different room, while others happily decorated for much of the session.  This let me know how many activities I might need to plan within a session: a lengthier activity that hits on many goals, or more discrete tasks?

Level of structure: Some students will be able to independently do "hands off" the app in order for you to use House of Learning as a direction-following activity, while others will need more physical structuring (e.g. visually presenting the screen while delivering the direction, then providing physical access).

Social interaction: A valuable window into a child's social skills can be provided by using an app such as this. Do they focus only on the screen or establish joint attention with you, commenting and questioning? Are they able to respond to your comments and questions while using the app?

Syntactic, semantic and organizational skills: Students' ability to respond to your suggestions or comments about specific items or items in a categories can be gauged with an app such as House of Learning. What they say (or don't say) when using a visual exploration app can be hugely revealing! Additionally, the end result can say a lot about the student's organizational skills and, well, their ability to accept cueing:



House of Learning by Smarty Ears is available in the App Store for $6.99.  This iPad-only app is activated by tapping and dragging items into the scene, and will operate without WiFi connection once installed. Overall, in addition to being a great informal assessment activity, I am sure it will serve as hours of therapy and fun!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bla Bla Bla

App Name/Publisher: Bla Bla Bla/Lorenzo Bravi

Description: Bla Bla Bla is an app which allows you to choose a black and white design that will then react to sounds entering the microphone.  According to the Creative Applications Network, Bla Bla Bla  was "created by the students at the design department of IUAV of Venice and later at the ISIA of Urbino. This app is a little selection of an exercise called “Parametric Mask” with aim to introduce students to “Procedures of Basic Design” and the basics of programming." How interesting that an app developed in this manner could be useful to SLPs! (see below).  Thank you to OT Beth Lloyd for pointing out this app to me.

Therapy Use: Bla Bla Bla is like a VisiPitch, but without the quantitative information (and frankly it is more fun).  We all have students that have difficulty moderating the volume of their voices, whether they be kiddos heading for vocal nodules or those with autism spectrum disorders or related issues. Bla Bla Bla can provide good visual feedback to help kids develop a sense of voice volume, as the SLP works on related processes like breath control or perhaps in conjunction with an Incredible 5 Point Scale of volume.  The app could also be used to encourage nonverbal children to vocalize.

The kitty responding to my phonating at a normal volume.

The kitty looks a bit surprised by my increased volume.
App Benefits/Likes: Fun visual interface, many choices of designs to keep the activity novel.

Cautions: Some children may find the designs scary, or not be able to leave the "experimentation" phase with the app and be reinforced by what happens when they shout! Use your judgment. Also, beware that there is another app called Bla Bla Bla in the app store which "automatically generates political or business speeches) and costs $.99. That's not the one I am reviewing here.

App Summary
Skill(s) Targeted:
Social Skills/Pragmatics
Voice

Age/Grade Levels Targeted 
Preschool
Kindergarten
Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3)
Upper Elementary (Grades 3- 6)

How to Activate 
Isolated finger point
Microphone

Type of Device: iOS Device,Universal

Cost: FREE

Would you recommend this app? Yes

Hyperlink
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bla-bla-bla/id430815432?mt=8

Reviewed by
Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

Review Date
September 15, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comprehension TherAppy




App Name/Publisher:  Comprehension TherAppy by Tactus Therapy Solutions

Description:  Auditory and reading comprehension for single words (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) for adults with aphasia

Therapy Use:  Although there are a growing number of apps available for AAC-related use with adults, this is the first app I have used that is targeted specifically for adults with aphasia (though as the developers point out, it could also be used for those with alexia). Even if I didn’t think it was a great app, I would probably be using it simply for the fact that there is nothing else like it available. Luckily, it is a great app.

Comprehension TherAppy works on both auditory and reading comprehension of single words. This can be done through the “Listen” mode, “Read” mode, or a combination of listening and reading. Stimuli include images (high-quality photographs), written words and spoken words. Settings can be adjusted to control the difficulty, the field size of stimuli, and the number of trials.

Although I love to use technology whenever I can during therapy sessions, I also like the idea of using technology as an extension to one-on-one sessions. Comprehension TherAppy is easy-to-use, and has the perfect balance of automation and the ability to customize. This allows you to have your patient/client use it on his or her own and not worry about it being too challenging (or not challenging enough). I used it recently with an 81 year-old patient with multiple communication impairments who has never used a computer, and within moments she was independently practicing while her family and I discussed discharge plans. Despite this being a comprehension-focused tool, the patient produced more spontaneous language while using the app than she usually did during therapy tasks. I am certain this was a direct result of the engagement, interest, and sense of empowerment she felt from being able to use Comprehension TherAppy to control her own therapy.     

App Benefits/Likes: 
  •  clean, bright, simple and intuitive interface
  • adult-focused content and tasks (no more having to apologize for using child-like images or program
  • careful selection of content and imagery (as has been documented in other reviews of the app online - see the discussions on foils and vocabulary choices at http://ispeakapp.com/2011/06/24/comprehension-therappy/
  •  large selection of content and ability to extend use with add-on vocabulary packages (all within one app as opposed to many child-targeted vocabulary apps where one has to download separate apps for each category of vocabulary)
  •  ability to adjust difficulty level (and the fact that the app automatically and appropriately adjusts based on client performance)
  •   ability to email session data for report-writing (technology should be saving us time, shouldn’t it?)

Cautions:  Rather than cautions, the following are a few points regarding added flexibility I would love to see in future apps/versions of Comprehension TherAppy:
  • ability to customize/exclude certain words
  • a list of errors to analyze areas of difficulty
  • reporting of response times

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Aphasia
Receptive Language
Reading
Attention

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Adult

How to Activate
Isolated finger point

Type of Device
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost
$24.99 + $3.99 for add-ons (verbs and adjectives)

Would you recommend this app?
Yes. Wholeheartedly. I’m looking forward to future apps from Tactus Therapy.

Hyperlink

Reviewed by
Kevin Frew, M.Sc., RSLP(C)

Review Date
August 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Toca Tea Party

This app review also appears on TiPS: Technology in Practice for S-LPs


App Name/Publisher: Toca Tea Party/Toca Boca

Description:
Every student I've used this app with loves it!  This app turns your iPad into a virtual and interactive tea party.  Invite your friends, both real and stuffed to participate in this fun activity.  Students begin engaging with the app by setting the table:  choosing a tablecloth, plates and cups.  Once, the table is set, students may choose his/her favourite sweets and serve tea and lemonade by pouring it into cup.  Music plays quietly in the background and the radio station can be changed.  Light candles to set a relaxing mood.  Eat cookies and drink with the touch of a finger.  Spills may also happen if you're not careful.  But not to worry, you can also clean up your mess using a tissue (this is also available on your iPad table setting).  When you're finished, it's time to wash the dishes.  This video will give you an idea of how this app works:  
  



Therapy Use:
Toca Tea Party is an app that provides many opportunities to target articulation, fluency, language and pragmatics.
Articulation:  You can choose to work on individual targets or use this app for sound generalization/carryover.  Choose words that correspond with target sounds you might be working on (e.g., for /k/, "cookie", "cake", "cup", "candle", "coffee", "carrot cake")
Fluency:  Work on individual fluency targets or facilitate carryover/generalization (e.g., easy onset, light contacts, phrasing, rate) 
Expressive & Receptive Language:  Use the app to work on simple requests (e.g., "I want a cookie.", "I want lemonade.", "I want pie."), questions (e.g., "What would you like to eat/drink?", " Who wants pie?",  "Would you like more?",  "Are you finished?", "Do you want lemonade?", "Could I have more drink?" ).  In addition, target language skills such as giving and following directions (e.g., "Put the cake on the green plate", "Put the star cookie on the plate next to the tea cup."), spatial concepts (e.g., on, beside, next to, top, bottom, right, left).
Social Skills/Pragmatics: Use it to work on skills such as turn-taking, eye contact and establishing joint attention.


You could extend this activity to a table-top using a tea party play set. 

Toca Boca has a lot of great apps that can be incorporated very nicely in S-LP practice.  Click to see a review of Toca Boca's Helicopter Taxi by S-LP Sean Sweeney.

App Benefits/Likes:
Fun, interactive and engaging.
Provides many opportunities to work on speech-language targets across a variety of treatment domains (e.g., language, fluency, articulation, pragmatics), as listed above.

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted 
Articulation & Phonology (clinician chooses appropriate target words)
Fluency
Expressive & Receptive Language
Social Skills/Pragmatics

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Toddler
Preschool
Kindergarten
Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3)

How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Hold and drag

Type of Device
iPad only

Cost
$2.99 (at time of review)

Would you recommend this app?
Yes

Hyperlink

Reviewed by 
Renena Joy, M.Sc., S-LP(C)

Review Date
September 2, 2011