Slow Down for Speech Pacesetter
Speech Pacesetter is a new release on the App Store designed specifically for adult-based SLPs to helps clients pace their rate of reading with a syllable- or word-based timing strategy. People with Parkinson's Disease, dysfluency, acquired brain injury, or other neurological impairment may benefit from this app to practice slowing their rate for clearer or more fluent speech.
This universal iOS app features four passages that are frequently used by SLPs since they contain (almost) all the phonemes in English: the Rainbow, My Grandfather, North Wind and the Sun, and Arthur the Rat. Now I never have to search for my copies of these passages again! You can choose to have each word or syllable measured out visually, either with a highlight or a bouncing ball. Personally, I always use the syllable mode since it takes far longer to pronounce the word "grandfather" than it does "my." A ticking metronome sound can be added or removed as an auditory cue. The rate of syllables or words per minute is adjusted with an on-screen slider, as is the pause between sentences; even the font size is adjustable for those who need larger print. A nice feature for helping people to slow down is the "Gradual" option that reveals just one word at a time, preventing users from reading ahead. The app is also customizable, with a "Pasteboard" so you can paste any text into the app - perfect for practicing speeches or reading more personalized content. Unfortunately the syllable options aren't available in text you've pasted in yourself, but all other options are.
One of the app's best features is also one of its downsides: all options are available on-screen at once on the iPad. This makes it really easy to adjust as you're working with someone, to speed them up, slow them down, or change the visual or auditory cue, but it also makes for a cluttered user interface. On the iPhone, the settings are tucked away, but they cover the text when brought up without pausing the movement. It's not the most elegant app in terms of graphic design, but it proves very functional and easy to use.
Another improvement I'd like to see is for the text to scroll automatically if it fills more than one screen. Unless the user manually scrolls down, the words are added/highlighted off-screen. Fortunately, developer Lorraine Curran of Aptus Speech and Language Therapy is extremely receptive to feedback and quick to make updates in the app.
The free Lite version of the app contains only the Rainbow passage with just the rate slider as a setting, and unfortunately the only way to turn off the metronome sound is turn down the sound on the device itself. It gives you a taste of the app, but all the best features are only available in the full version for $6.99. If you work with adults on speech, this app is a very useful tool to add to your therapy toolbox.