Visual Feedback for Volume
"Do you remember what we did yesterday?" I asked the soft-spoken elderly woman as she entered the speech treatment room.
"We scared the cat."
Oh right! I was thinking of the sequencing activities, elaborating on descriptions of common tasks, that I had cued her through in an attempt to increase her utterances from short phrases to full sentences. She remembered the cat. I had set an iPad up on the table with the cat face of Bla | Bla | Bla to encourage her to answer with a loud voice. It worked.
Bla | Bla | Bla is a beautifully simple and FREE universal app for iOS. Created in Italy from a one-day workshop for design students, the app consists of 16 black & white abstract faces that react to sound. I'm sure they had no idea how useful this project would be for speech-language pathologists.
There are plenty of sound level meters on the App Store (search decibel, sound levels, volume meter), but while they give numeric and graphic information, none is quite as captivating as Bla | Bla | Bla. Each character in the app reacts differently to sound, usually with eye-widening surprise that entertains, as well as gives useful visual feedback on volume. The abstract artwork is very appropriate for adults, adding a whimsy to therapy that is neither childish nor cartoony.
This app can be used clients with stroke, brain injury, Parkinson's disease, dysphonia, and any other disorder resulting in soft (or excessively loud) speech. It can be the focus of the therapy or a background reminder. Unlike the Talking Tom/Gina/Ben/etc. apps that play back what someone has said, Bla | Bla | Bla gives real-time feedback, encouraging continuous voicing, ongoing attempts, and competition between group members or repeated attempts.
The app has only 3 screens: information about the design, a menu of faces, and the face screen. You can switch between faces easily with the forward and back arrows at the bottom. One drawback is that it only works in portrait orientation, and many iPad stands display only in landscape. Another caution is the ninth face on the menu: the eyes flash very quickly, which has the potential to trigger a seizure in people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders. Even for those without such a history, it can be dizzying.
Have you used Bla | Bla | Bla in therapy? How did you use it? How did your client react?
App: Bla | Bla | Bla
Details: iOS Universal app, Free
Therapy Uses: increase volume, decrease volume, encourage vocalization
Features: unique and fun, visual feedback
Drawbacks: portrait only, beware face #9, no objective numerical data
Verdict: Must Have