Keyword Understanding: App Review
Auditory comprehension at the sentence level is a common goal for students with language disorders and adults with brain injuries. Many apps focus on single-word comprehension, so it's nice to see one that offers sentence-level work on a few target words to step-up the difficulty.
Keyword Understanding is a new app for iPad by Lorraine Curran. The app uses 30 common nouns, 5 colors, 2 sizes, and 2 temporal directions to create a large number of comprehension exercises for following directions. The app is laid out in a logical hierarchy and tracks performance. It can be used for informal assessments, language therapy (provided you supply additional cues and strategies), and home practice. It can also be used to target auditory attention and working memory for cognitive-communication goals.
First, check your client's understanding of the basic concepts using "Comprehension Check." Test each category of words separately, hearing "touch the ___" for objects, and "which one is _____?" for colors (blue, red, pink, yellow, green) and sizes (big and small).
"Information Carrying Words" is the next activity; select from 2, 3, 4, or 6 words in the directions. Select photos to match the stated color and object; then work on identifying colors, sizes, and objects; and finally move up to picking two items described with various adjectives. Order does not matter when selecting multiple items, allowing users to work backward through their memory to get all the details. When I used this app with a client with receptive aphasia, I was impressed by how challenging the harder levels were for him without text on the screen.
The "Temporal Directions" activity allows you to focus on "before," "after," or both words, as well as put them in the beginning, middle, or any part of the sentence. Order does matter in this activity, requiring careful processing. While these aren't functional directions for everyday life, they do motivate clients to really listen and plan their responses.
The Options of the app are very customizable, allowing you to present instructions in text to work on reading, hear audio only, or go for total stimulation with both. Each object and color can be turned on or off, so if a user doesn't understand a specific word or you want to limit the exercises to a smaller set, you can adjust accordingly.
There is some room for improvement in the app. The automated voice in the app (Siri) is not always clear, especially for people with comprehension deficits. I don't see the lack of visual/auditory rewards in the app as a downside; however, children who need lots of encouragement and feedback won't find it here. This app is only available for iPads using iOS7 because it uses the new automated voice feature, making it inaccessible for people still using first generation devices. The developer has let us know there will be a free trial version and iPhone compatibility coming in future updates.
Keyword Understanding is on sale for half price throughout April to celebrate Autism Awareness Month. Regular price is $11.99 USD, available on the App Store.