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Speaking of Apps

The Exception to the Rule

Published September 4, 2013 10:26 AM by Megan Sutton
I have always advocated that apps designed for kids should not be used with adults in speech therapy. Rules usually have exceptions, and my biggest exception to this rule has always been My PlayHome. Now, with the new My PlayHome Stores, there are two exceptions.

My PlayHome (universal iOS, $3.99, free lite version; Android, $2.99) is a virtual dollhouse with a living room, kitchen, kids' bedroom, master bedroom with walk-in closet, full bathroom, and backyard. Each scene is filled with elements that can be manipulated in realistic ways: the TV turns on and off, the curtains open and close changing the light in the room, the carrots in the garden grow when you water them, and the toilet flushes when you touch it. Characters can be added to interact with the environment: eating the food in the kitchen, drying off from the shower with the towel, trying on the clothes in the closets, and more.

My PlayHome Stores (universal iOS, $1.99) is the brand-new addition, allowing characters from the house to go around the corner to the stores on a street filled with an ice cream parlor, a clothing store, a produce market, a grocery store, and an ATM. Each store has interactive features and employees, increasing the number of topics to discuss and act out. These apps work seamlessly together, with characters from one moving into the other, bringing home their new clothes from the shop or taking a coffee along for the errands.

These apps work nicely for aphasia and cognitive therapy because they bring all the functional vocabulary of the home and community into the clinic, allowing clients to talk about and "act out" everyday activities from the therapy table. Most adults have no qualms about using the app when it is introduced as a structured activity. Here are examples of ways to target a variety of goals using the PlayHome apps in speech therapy:

Word Comprehension (in the back yard): Touch the watering can. Point to the tire swing. Find the trampoline.

Following Directions (in the kitchen): 1-step: Open the fridge. 2-step: Open the fridge and take out a slice of pizza. 3-step: Open the fridge, take out the milk, and pour a bowl of cereal. 

Understanding Prepositions (in the bathroom): Put the rubber duck under the sink. Put the toothpaste next to the razor.

Sequencing (in the house): Before you go to the kitchen, turn off the stereo.

After you flush the toilet, brush your teeth. Turn on the lamp before you close the curtains.

Naming in Context (in the living room): chair, coffee table, TV, stereo, fish tank, fish food, CDs, vase, flower, apple, book, plant, lamp, curtains, cat, pictures, frames, clock, window, door, ottoman, area rug, light switch, shelves

Problem Solving & Reasoning (in the house):  What might happen if we left the refrigerator door open? What can we do to turn off the music? What will make it brighter in this room?

Executive Functioning (both apps): Give the client a list of errands to run in "town," such as picking up some milk, bananas, juice, cash, and flowers at the stores. Add constraints such as first brushing teeth, changing clothes, and eating breakfast. Aid the client as they make a list of tasks, schedule time for each, estimate a budget for the errands, and plan a logical order. Once they've executed the tasks, review if it went as planned or what could be changed.

Barrier Game: Pick a room/store, arrange the items and people a certain way, then snap a screenshot (press power + home). Print out the screenshot from your Photos app, or email it so it can be seen on another screen.

  • Receptive: Give the client the iPad with a "tidied" room, then give verbal or written instructions on which people to add to the room, where they should go, and which elements to change or reposition so that they can arrange the screen to look like your screenshot. Compare and discuss where things went wrong.
  • Expressive: Give the client the screenshot to reference. Have them give you instructions on how to set the scene by describing each element's position. Great for using names, pronouns, and prepositions.
  • Memory: After studying a screenshot, the client has to arrange a scene to match what they saw in the picture. Add a delay or distraction to increase the difficulty, or add items from other rooms/stores for an additional problem-solving element.
posted by Megan Sutton
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2 comments

I love my play home and stores and I find I can target virtually every language goal with little ones. Using the barrier activity is brilliant idea. I had never thought how to use it with an app

Nikki Heyman, Paediatric - SLP September 5, 2013 3:24 AM
South Africa

Thanks for bringing up this app. I'll be checking it out for sure!

Lindsey Hall September 4, 2013 9:52 PM

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About this Blog


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