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Speaking of Apps

Start the Conversation

Published August 13, 2012 9:20 AM by Megan Sutton
One might think that Speech-Language Pathologists are natural conversationalists, but that's not always so. We listen, explain, analyze, ask, and write (oh, do we ever write!), but when we need to get people talking, it helps to have some conversation starters on hand. Here are two apps that can help when you run out of things to talk about.

Conversation Cards ($1.99 for iOS) is my favorite conversation-starting app with over 100 thought-provoking questions.The questions are displayed in clear orange text, providing an opportunity for clients to practice oral reading. Touching anywhere on the screen flips the question, which can be a problem when clients tap the text as they read or the clinician wants to point out a particular word; however, it makes it easy for anyone with motor impairments to get a new question without swipe gestures.


A similar app is iTopics ($0.99 for iOS), with over 400 questions and an option to select one or all 13 topic categories (about me, animals, comparison, entertainment, fashion/beauty, food, health, imagination, law/politics, love, morality/religion, work/money, & world). While there are so many questions, the random presentation often makes it feel like the same question keeps popping up, especially if you're looking at just one category. 


Most questions can be answered with a single word or short phrase or expanded into a full narrative with answer and rationale. These apps are wonderful in groups for that reason - everyone can participate. Clients with dysarthria can practice reading and responding using slow, clear speech; severely aphasic individuals can use words, drawings, writing, gestures, or a device to answer; right hemisphere patients can focus on staying on-topic, taking turns, and giving concise answers; and those with word-finding difficulties can challenge themselves to give specifics. Having one client ask another encourages natural conversational flow. Most importantly, these questions require people to think and give personal opinions and experiences. I have learned so much about the communicative competence of my clients using these apps that workbook activities could never reveal.

Both apps would benefit from a means of going back to the previous question as well as an area on the screen to advance to the next question, rather than touching anywhere on the text or screen. There are questions in both apps that won't be appropriate for every client, either in the content or the answer-type required, but that's true of any therapy material. When I use these apps, Conversation Cards seems to have fewer questions I opt to bypass and better grammar, but I encourage you to try one or both and decide for yourself. These apps were designed for friends to use at parties to encourage natural, interesting conversation; what a great way to facilitate our clients to regain the joy of communication in a therapy room!



June is Aphasia Awareness Month, so I'll be highlighting apps for aphasia over the next four weeks, including

June 3, 2013 11:15 AM

Millie -

It's important to note that the age rating in iTunes is not the age group the app is intended for. It's an indication of how much violence, mature themes/humor, gambling, drug themes, etc are in the app. If there are none of the above, the app gets a 4+ rating. You have to look at the content of the app to know which age group might use it best. In these apps, the questions are abstract and require reflection on one's life - much better for adults.

Megan Sutton September 2, 2012 6:23 PM

Interesting concept and possibly great app for social skills group.

Denise Murzyn, Slp August 29, 2012 10:20 PM
Wheaton IL

I really like the concept of the conversation cards.  These could even be used in a literacy classroom as sentence starters for those kids who have trouble coming up with writing ideas.  Although it says that the app is for 4+, judging by the samples it seems as if some of these questions might be a bit abstract or hard to grasp for a "mainstream" 4 year old.  My child is autistic and there's no way he could answer those questions.  Perhaps there could be an easier version for autistic children.

Millie August 29, 2012 10:07 PM

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About this Blog

    Speaking of Apps
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Rehabilitation
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