App Review: Lingraphica
Before June ends, I'd like to highlight a series of apps specifically for aphasia as part of Aphasia Awareness Month. Lingraphica has been making speech-generating devices specifically for aphasia since 1990, and in 2009 they released a series of 13 free apps called "SmallTalk". The Lingraphica website does a nice job of detailing what's in each app, but I'd like to highlight 7 of the apps and how they can be used.
There are five SmallTalk apps that provide video after selecting an icon (Phonemes, Consonant Blends, Days/Months/Dates, Letters/Numbers/Colors, and Common Phrases), perfect for repeated therapeutic practice for people with aphasia and/or apraxia. The video of the mouth allows the client to practice speaking in unison with the virtual therapist. The speech is slow and clear, giving a good model and often 2 repetitions with subtitles. Starting with single phonemes and working up to common phrases, these five apps provide a good range of practice. I wish there were a way to do all the numbers, days of the week, and months of the year in a continuous sequence, but I have heard clients practice with these apps for hours trying to master each element.
Aphasia-Male and Aphasia-Female are the same except for the gender of the voice used on the icon mode, offering a choice of icons or videos. When the icon mode is selected, the options scroll as a list (portrait) or in cover-flow style (landscape). People with aphasia often have difficulty with category-based navigation. So often when making a picture communication book, I'll organize the pages by semantic theme, adding tabs and color-coding to make it easier, only to have my client persistently thumb through the book page-by-page until they find the desired picture. The design of these apps reflects understanding of the linear search strategy used by this population. (Not by chance, a similar design is used in the MyVoice AAC app, a popular fully-customizable app used by people with aphasia.) These two SmallTalk apps can be customized if the user also has the laptop-style AllTalk device from Lingraphica.
Once the message is selected, the audio or video play. This can communicate the message directly or the user can repeat the message, putting the message in their own voice. If repetition or unison speech is effective, the user may elect to use an earbud with the device to make it less obvious they are using an app to assist their communication.
While not customizable on their own, each app allows for deleting the unnecessary items so the user can have an edited list of targets. With so many SmallTalk apps, it's best for the SLP to recommend the most appropriate app(s) for each client (video vs. icons, phonemes vs. phrases, etc). I don't know that we can expect many new features from these free apps (last update was in November 2010), but they are quite useful, and for the price, a must-download.
Apps: Lingraphica SmallTalk
Details: iPhone-sized, Free
Therapy Uses: AAC, apraxia, aphasia, unison speech, repetition
Features: video demonstration, icons, clear speech, variety of targets, price
Drawbacks: not optimized for iPad, doesn't rotate, can't customize, few updates
Verdict: Must Have