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Speaking of Apps

Guess What, Who, Where?
October 27, 2014 12:50 PM by Ashley Brannon

"Guess What," "Guess Who," and "Guess Where," are apps from I Can Do Apps. I purchased the set in an iTunes bundle for $4.99 however each can be purchased separately for $1.99 as well.  I have tons of apps that do a lot of cool things for speech therapy. I like these apps because they just get to the basics without all the fluff to target vocabulary, problem solving, and answering questions.

ADVANCE thanks I Can Do Apps

These three apps are very simple to use. Each focuses on the use of four clues to determine one answer dependent on which app you chose to name the object, person, or place being described. The makers designed the apps to target educational skills including inferencing, making predictions, and deductive reasoning skills. As SLPs, we know the importance of making inferences within text and reading proficiency. These skills are important in early reading comprehension and use of context clues to derive meaning from text when something is implied but not directly stated. In addition, we use this same kind of activity to target word finding for children and adults who have deficits in this area.

Using each app is simple.  The student or clinician can manually reveal the clues one at a time and discuss each clue.  The clinician may choose to the read clue aloud or let the student read the clue to target more reading fluency and comprehension. After each clue, discuss what kinds of objects, people, or places each clue may relate to. There are 4 clues for each target. You may press the answer button when you think you have the answer to reveal the photograph and written word indicating the correct answer. The answer can only be seen after at least two clues are viewed. 
See below for Example pictures from each app:

Guess What?

       

Guess Who?

Guess Where?

In conclusion, if you are looking for a few very easy to operate apps to target inferencing and word retrieval, these are great!  I love the use of real photographs and simple backdrops that do not distract clients of any age. The vocabulary and pictures cover a vast range and can also be used to further enhance the vocabulary of your student or adult client.  

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So Many Choices, So Little Time, Part 1
October 22, 2014 12:51 PM by Lynn LaValley
BITSBOARD is unique app which allows its user to play 18 mini-games.  At the low cost of FREE, it's a gem! Bitsboard has a large catalog of content which was created by fellow SLPs, teachers, and/or parents.  It is easy to create and customize boards, as well as share with anyone via the Bitsboard catalog.  This week we will review games one through 9. (Stay tuned for 10-18 in the following weeks.)

The Home Screen allows its user to select a board and begin a Bitsboard game.  Within the home screen users can view self-generated boards, or view/edit collections.  It is easy to organize all these boards and collections by student, class, subject, etc., and the search button allows you to find the targeted board quickly.  Tracking progress is also available. 

Kids love this app because everything feels like a game.  SLPs love it because the possibilities are endless. 

Bitsboard Games are as follow:

  1. Flashcards -- this is a great way to introduce new vocabulary, as it is a single visual witch shows both the word and picture. The record feature allows the user to say what they hear/see. There are setting options within Flashcards which allow you to decide how the cards progress (e.g. swipe, tap, or automatically), display options (i.e. picture only, word only, both, or one followed by the other), capitalization of text, and sequence (i.e. alphabetically, randomly, or as were entered.
  2. Explore -- allow you to view all items in a board.
  3. Photo Touch -- the user hears the audio, and is required to identify its corresponding "bit." The game automatically adjusts itself based on the user's skills and will add and/or remove visuals as needed. Settings within this option allow you to specify the minimum and maximum number of images to display, turn this into a reading game by activating text only, and control the length of sessions. As with the Flashcards, sequence and progression can also be controlled by the developer.
  4. True or False -- requires the user to identify whether the image, label, and audio presented go together. ("Yes"= true; "No"= false.) Again, this can be turned into a reading game by turning off the audio hints. The developer has control as to if the audio always matches what is being displayed, or to always follow the label. Length of session (i.e. "rounds"), sequence, and progression are all able to be controlled.
  5. Genius -- this game shuffles through all boards available, and the user never knows what type of question is coming. Setting options for this mode allows you to turn on/off: Flashcards, Photo Touch, True or False, Match Up, Pop Quiz, Reader, Word Builder, and Spelling Bee. (Please note: this mode only uses simple question games, therefore Memory, Bingo, and Photo Hunt are not included.) Within this mode, length of session and sequence can be controlled.
  6. Memory Cards -- allows for matching images, or images to text, or images to audio or label. This game can be played with up to 4 players with varying abilities as it can be played "face up."
  7. Pop Quiz -- even a quiz can be made fun with Bitsboard. Pop Quiz has various displays (from 2-6 possible answers) depending on the sills of the user, and like Photo Touch the difficulty is automatically increased/decreased based on the user's response. Setting options include minimum/maximum number of answer choices to display, hints, session length, sequence, and progression.
  8. Match Up -- is four mini- matching games in one. The default game requires images to be matched up with their corresponding word, however the other versions allow for different matching options such as matching to audio, or identical matching. Again, this is automatically adjusted based on the user's skill, and has the same setting options as previously mentioned.

I hope you explore this app and the aforementioned games over the next two weeks, and stay tuned for the Part 2 when we explore games 9-18. 

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Conversation Builder
October 6, 2014 11:19 AM by Ashley Brannon
Conversation Builder is another great app for Speech Therapy created by Mobile Education. There are 2 primary versions available for $19.99 each. They may also be purchased as part of the MES Speech Therapy Bundle. One is intended for elementary aged children and the other is for teens. The app was created to improve conversational abilities of elementary aged children. It works to increase the child's conversational turn-taking as well as to improve topic maintenance for social and conversational purposes.

Conversation Builder App

After creating a profile, you may choose a topic of interest for the child. The settings screen includes the student's profile, level of play, conversation initiator, as well as the choices of modules. There are 160 conversations in elementary level and 300 to choose from for teens on a variety of topics. For young children, the topics may include:  animals, holidays, and friends around town while teens may select bullying, entertainment, or relationships to name a few.

Conversation Types include:

  • One on one -- four exchanges: The student has four conversational exchanges with the virtual peer given picture and conversational exchange as stimulus. Each takes 2 turns whenspeaking.
  • One on one -- eight exchanges: The student has eight conversational exchanges with the virtual peer, each taking four turns when speaking.
  • Group -- 4 Exchange: Each student takes turns having conversational exchanges with real-life peer.

Conversation Builder App Conversation Builder App

You may also select whether or not the student initiates the conversation or continues a conversation begun by the peer.

In the single player mode, the child gets a photo accompanied by three answer choices.  If the child answers incorrectly, an audio clip will give you a clue about the correct answer (e.g., "that was an uncommon way to start a conversation"). If the child answers correctly then they are able to record their sentence.  

I've found that this is a great way to talk through various scenarios and teach the children appropriate ways to answer questions, comment, and interact. Reading and teaching through all of the options provided helps the child get a better sense of why the "correct" answer is the best.  For some children, I may also allow them to attempt to respond prior to reading for additional practice and get a more realistic sense of their actual responses. The recorded response also gives a good opportunity to focus on correct prosody and volume if needed.

In the group mode, children are shown a photo. Each child gets to record a sentence to create several conversational exchanges. This is a complex form for advanced learners. You may also upload images yourself to use as stimulus pictures.

I think this app is great at providing different levels of play, ability to record, and use of photo images. They also include a good variety of conversational topics. Besides conversational exchanges, you may use the pictures for problem solving, gauging emotions, and helping to expand on the child's language. I recommend this to any SLP looking to target conversational level communication.

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Apps for Treatment and Evaluation of the Voice
September 22, 2014 11:23 AM by Ashley Brannon
When evaluating adults with voice disorders in the past, it may have been difficult to show baseline parameters and progress without having expensive equipment. If you are a clinician who does not have access to VisiPitch Software or works outside of a clinic, use of voice apps may be the key to providing the necessary data needed for a basic voice evaluation or to further determine whether an ENT referral is needed. Here are some inexpensive options that I have tried and tested.

Voice Test is an app designed by the Danube Team. This is a very simple app to use in evaluating the voice characteristics to check for vocal fold health risks. It measures 3 important voice parameters: fundamental frequency, jitter and shimmer. These values are reportedly compared to thresholds given in latest medical publications. The app is recommended to evaluate adult males and females and is not suitable for children.

 

To use the app, the clinician must first choose whether to evaluate female or male. Once you have selected the appropriate option, you may click the record option and have the client hold out "ah" for a minimum of 3 seconds. There is a countdown to indicate when to begin phonation of "ah" and a visual "gone zone" to try to remain in for the best possible voicing. Once complete, the clinician may press "play" to repeat the recorded voice and then "calculate." This will automatically evaluate the voice and provide the data for fundamental frequency, jitter and shimmer of the recorded voice. I would have liked for the actual normative data comparisons to be provided, however the developers do a nice job of providing a legend to indicate 3 levels of the voicing condition: 1) normal healthy range, 2) parameter is slightly out of range, and 3) parameters significantly exceeding boundaries of normal human voice. The clinician may then choose to include the actual data values in the evaluation and compare to their own preferred normative data chart.                         

This software appears to be reliable from my personal use. In addition, some clinicians have reportedly compared their client's voicing using both the app and VisiPitch software, which showed very similar results.

Another app that can be used for testing voice is Pitch Analyzer by Ting Wang. This is another very simple app for measuring voice function. The app analyzes frequency and amplitude. It also provides the cent tolerance, note name, note MIDI number, note position on a staff and note position on the piano keyboard. A pitch is detected by analyzing the input and displaying it on the screen in real-time. This app can actually be used to tune an instrument or practice singing.

When in a testing situation, the clinician may choose to target pitch range using this software. This is good for providing data related to the client's lowest and highest pitch as well as their overall vocal range. Again, no normative data is provided on the app itself, however the frequencies may be recorded and compared to normative data in the clinic.

Please note that these apps were not intended to be used as a sole means of voice evaluation, but may provide some basic data to indicate further need for assessment and/or referral to an ENT. They also provide feedback to the client regarding progression of the voice or visual feedback during therapy activities involving pitch. Always consider the testing environment to obtain the most accurate data. The room should be quiet with only the client's voice recorded. When possible, use as external microphone for the most accurate results. In addition, an ENT specialist should always be referred to when the clinician suspects a voice disorder to determine a medical diagnosis that may be related to the current vocal function.

Images courtesy of the Danube Team and Ting Wang.

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2 comments »     
Listen Up
September 15, 2014 3:21 PM by Lynn LaValley
Super Duper Publications has turned a popular software program into an iPad app!  Webber HearBuilder Following Directions provides a fun way to improve auditory skills, as well as following directions skills.  The free version provides practice with basic directions, sequential directions, quantitative and spatial directions, temporal directions, and conditional directions.  Each type of direction is offered with three levels of play: low, medium, and high. 

 

Many of my clients love that these games occur in a toy factory, and that they can become Master Toy Makers while building their own Toy Central factories. SLPs love this app because the in-app data collection system helps us to monitor progress.  Quite often its users can stay easily engaged for 15-20 minutes with this app.  HearBuilder clearly states objective of play prior to the initiation of each session.

Basic Directions:
This setting ranges from simple photo identification (low level of play), to adding two qualifiers (e.g. "choose the large, yellow car") in the medium level of play setting, and culminates with up to five qualifiers (.e.g. "choose the large yellow boat that is spinning next to the monkey") at its highest level of difficulty. 

Sequential Directions:
This setting ranges from simple directions in its lowest level of play (e.g. "set the color to green, and press start"), to four sequential step (e.g. "first, set the color to yellow, next, set the size to large, then, set the action to spin, and finally, press start") within the medium level of play.  The highest level of play targets five-step sequential directions such as: "first, set the shape to star, next, set the size to small, then, set the color to green, then, set the action to smash, and press start."

 

Quantitative & Spatial Directions:
Within the lowest level of play for quantitative and spatial directions, the use is required to follow directions with one or two quantitative element.  (For example, "choose two planes.")  Medium play targets following directions with spatial elements using first, second, third, and last.  Finally, the highest level of play requires the user to follow directions with a quantitative element or a spatial element, plus a size and a color.  An example of this would be: "Choose the first small red purse."

Temporal Directions:
Following directions with a temporal term "before" in the second clause of the sentence is the lowest level of play within this setting.  For example, "put a truck in the box before you put a jump rope in the box."  Term such as "before" and "after" are used in the medium level to provide directions such as: "put a horse in the box after you put a truck in the box."  Finally, two-step directions with temporal terms in the first or second clause of the sentence, and a color are provided in the highest level of play. "Put a yellow necklace in the box in the box after you put a red horse in the box."

Conditional Directions:
Low level play for Conditional Directions targets directions that include one element in a conditional clause.  For example, "If a dollhouse is in the box, put the box on the truck."  Following directions that include one element in the conditional clause and one element in the main clause creates the medium level of play (e.g. "If a guitar is in the box, put the box on the large truck.")  Finally, high level play provides two conditions with two elements in the first conditional clause, and one element in each main clause.  For example, "If a green drum is in the box put the box on the large truck, if not, put the box on the small truck."

The professional version of HearBuilder Following Directions provides the option to put in background noise to simulate real-life situations.  Furthermore, HearBuilder Following Directions is very user friendly, and appropriate for many kids, regardless of their reading and/or ability level.  The hierarchical presentation of information, as well as the imbedded scaffolding facilitates progress.  As an added bonus, kids get to "play games" (like driving a truck to the Toy Store) between exercises.  These games hold their interests and keep them motivated -- because who wouldn't want to avoid hitting animals on the road when going to the toy store? 

By this quick overview of HearBuilder Following Directions, you can see that it has a lot to offer! Try it out!

Images/courtesy HearBuilder

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FREE App for Cognitive Training
September 10, 2014 8:00 AM by Ashley Brannon
CogniFit Brain Fitness for iPhone and iPad is an app designed to target a variety of memory, attention and problem solving skills through the use of mini games within the app. These skills are especially important for an individual with higher-level cognitive deficits. It is intended for individuals over the age of 13 years.

Being a free app, one might think that it doesn't have a lot to offer. You would be wrong. This little app offers A LOT of skills addressed in fun and somewhat addicting games. Although presented in "game" form, this app does a great job at making you think and process information more quickly. Some of the games are ones you may be familiar with such as Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles or mahjong. The others were new to me.

Below is an overview of some games in the app.

Crossroads: In this game, the individual must prevent balls from colliding into one another as they approach the same intersection. To do so, you must click on that intersection as fast as you can to prevent the balls from colliding.

 

Fuel a Car: In this mini-game, you are managing a gas station. Icons appear on colored cars to show what each car needs. The individual must click on the corresponding colored equipment to select the service and then click on the correct car to complete that service prior to allowing the car thru the gate.  This game becomes quite fast-paced as the cars continue to come up to the gate to be serviced.

 

Reaction Field: This is very much like the game "Whac-a-Mole" with an added challenge. You must click on the moles that appear in the garden which match the same color as the targeted mole that appears on the left side of the screen. With each click, the target color changes. In addition, some moles are wearing helmets and must be hit twice instead of once to break their helmets and then "whac" them. There are also some moles with dynamite strapped to their heads. These moles should be avoided for obvious reasons.

 

Word Birds: This game requires you to rearrange birds carrying letters to form words that represent a picture at the bottom of the screen.  You can slide the columns and rows of birds to form the word in the highlighted central row. The faster you find words, the higher your score will be. 

 

Word Quest: This game is a word search in which hidden words are formed amongst the letters in a puzzle. Each word is found by matching picture names to the corresponding words/letters in the puzzle as fast as you can. There are hints provided for this activity.

 

The Flowers: Little flowers are displayed and highlighted on the screen one after another in a specific order. You must carefully observe and memorize the order to reproduce the sequence when it's your turn. After you progress, an animation will begin to appear following the sequence for added difficulty with delayed recall.

 

The available games are meant to target the following skills: visual scanning, updating, focusing skills, spatial perception, naming abilities, divided attention, planning, working memory, eye-hand coordination and visual short-term memory, as well as other skills that are also inherently targeted during game play.

A tracking system of progress is also provided for individuals to assess their skills in each targeted area. There is also the ability to play against others. 

As a therapist, I would like to have the option for multiple users to log progress. It would also be nice to be able to choose a level of difficulty to begin for specific activities targeting each skill. It is difficult to use for multiple clients in therapy when a "higher level" patient may progressively increase the level of difficulty for a given activity. I typically add this app to a patient's home exercise program or use only select activities during each session. At times, I may "play" through a given game poorly to re-set the difficulty level. Overall, I still think it is worth giving this app a try for cognitive training in therapy or for personal use. You'll be glad you did!

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Speech & Hearing Homepage

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An App for Action Words
September 5, 2014 12:24 PM by Lynn LaValley
If you are like me, in the past you've been frustrated trying to teach action words using still pictures.  Well, now there's an answer... Actions in Video.  This app was designed by Geraldine Moran, a fellow speech-language pathologist,  to work on acquiring action words, and using them to create sentences.  The free version allows you to explore the app prior to purchase, and although the full version is more than I like to spend, it is worth the $33.99. 

Visual reinforcement and color coded support for sentence creation help with error-less learning for your patients.  There are 49 action words targeted, with 3 videos for each. The action words can create two basic sentence structures: Person and Action; Person, Action, and Object.  Using this app, a speech-language pathologist is able to record their patient's sentence. Its simplicity makes it user-friendly for those very young, as well as those with various diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down's Syndrome, and even those with acquired brain injury, Aphasia, or word-finding difficulties. 

The various levels - Easy (2 choices), Intermediate (4 choices), and Difficult (4 choices mixed) - allow this app to grow with clients as they progress.  Using video modeling and real people may promote generalization. 

One drawback from this app that so many apps now offer is data collection. I have become accustomed to using data collection systems within apps, and was surprised that a fellow speech-language pathologist created Actions in Videos without putting one in place. I am hoping that updates in the future will allow us to video our clients doing the action and using the sentence formulation as is. 

I highly recommend this app to everyone, as it makes sense to see an action instead of a still picture when teaching action words. 

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6 comments »     
Language Apps
August 25, 2014 12:16 PM by Ashley Brannon
Language Empires is one of the few comprehensive language apps that I have found. Although it's a little more out of your pocket than you might want to pay ($24.99), you might find that it is worth it in the end. With more than 400 questions targeting eight different language arts skills, this app is great for working with groups in a school setting or for individual use in private or outpatient treatment.

This app covers the following eight language targets: Vocabulary, Predicting, How, Figurative Language, Sequencing, Inferencing, Why, and Which.

 

 

 

 

This SmartyEars app is illustrated with pictures related to the Roman Empire. To begin, click on "Visit the City" where you can add students and create avatars for each. Each game type allows 1-5 players. In addition, each activity also includes multiple levels of play to keep your students progressing through their goals. Players can be placed in multiple empires for various learning targets in one game dependent on the goals for each student.

The questions for each activity are read aloud from the screen. Multiple-choice answers are provided however these are not read aloud. When the child answers a question correctly, they are given a gold coin to collect at the bottom of the screen. From my experience, this has been motivating for the students to keep them engaged. Students can also unlock trophies that relate to the theme that they are working on in the empire.

Another benefit of this app is the comprehensive data tracking. Visual data collection is provided at the end of each activity to provide visual feedback of the student's level and their progression towards that goal. This data can be emailed, printed or shared however I always keep in mind confidentiality measures.

 

Now, Language Empires has also been updated to include homework worksheets for each target in each level. These homework sheets can be shared at the end of each activity to further aid in carryover of the skill.

With so many great options, this app is one that I recommend you to check out.

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Practice, Practice, Practice
August 18, 2014 4:54 PM by Lynn LaValley

Whether it be children with articulation and phonological difficulties, or those diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, repetition is important.  Word FLiPS offers just this.

Word FLiPS allows one to three repetitions of sound sequences which you create. The SLP chooses words according to syllable structure: CV, CVC, CVC or custom, and combinations are grouped by articulatory placement: Bilabial, Alveolar, Velar and Palatal.  Furthermore, the SLP can also control if all words are accessed (including nonsense words), or only the suggested "real" words. Finally, sound combinations can be combined to create novel words such as "to-day."

I began by using this app with unintelligible children by having them repeat early sounds such as, "bow- bow- bow."  As identical sound combinations were mastered, more complex sound strings such as, "boo-too-moo" or "toe-neigh-dough" can be created. The SLP can choose to keep the consonant or vowel identical for practice.  (Audio models are provided for all syllables.)

 

The visuals presented offer some similarity to the Kaufman cards for those children who have been using them, and although we all love using them, tugging around two heavy boxes is not as convenient as toting the iPad. In our clients eyes, using the iPad is often seen as "play" and not "work," (which we all know not to be true) so they are often more engaged and willing to create multiple trials with Word FLiPS then when cards are presented. 

Although a bit pricy at $29.99, the flexibility and control the SLP has over sound combinations makes it worth it. Data tracking is available for each syllable production, or for the entire string. (Data can be graphed, emailed, printed, or shared with caregivers.) Furthermore, the student's production can be recorded and played back for review.

If you are looking for an app to provide multiple opportunities for practice and grow as the children progress, this is the app for you. 

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2 comments »     
An App for Correct Verb Tense
August 11, 2014 9:21 AM by Ashley Brannon
Tense Builder is an app that has become one of my favorite apps for training correct verb tense.

So, what do you get for the $9.99 app? You receive 48 video lessons (with an expansion planned to increase to 58). You can select regular or irregular verbs and choose random or specific verbs to train from the list. Each verb is targeted in past, present, or future tense. Each of the verbs includes a video clip and lesson to train correct verb tense.  

For children who are on the spectrum, this is a great way to train verbs. The children get the benefit of using videos to see the verbs in motion rather than just looking at pictures. They are more engaged and I can see more possibility for generalization as well. I often provide training during the videos to show the progression of the verbs as they happen. The children I have used this app with have also enjoyed the humorous aspect portrayed in the clips.

There are two levels of difficulty to choose from:

Level 1: The child can watch the video clip for each verb selected and then select the picture that represents the part of the video that would identify the specific tense being targeted.

Level 2: The child can watch the video clip for the selected verb and then select the correct word or phrase that best completes a sentence using the appropriate verb tense as indicated. The words are spoken aloud as the child touches them so that the reading burden is reduced for younger children.

Following each video, the child will choose the correct picture or word/phrase that best shows the targeted verb tense. The child is then prompted to use the correct verb tense in an expressive task. This can be recorded for feedback as well.

Data collection is easily emailed or saved to the device. If you choose Stats in the app settings, you are brought to a screen where you have the option to email the stats or print them. This is a great tool for sharing data with parents and teachers. This app is very thorough in the ability to assess student's ability level with a goal as well as use as a teaching tool. In addition, you can use these videos to train basic story sequencing and answering simple questions.

If you are looking for a new way to work on verbs or other expressive language targets, you can't go wrong with this app.

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1 comments »     
A Vocabulary App
August 4, 2014 2:39 PM by Lynn LaValley

PCS Memory is an app for the iPad addressing articulation and language skills. At the low cost of $4.99, this app is a must.  (There is a limited free version as well.)

The app allows its users to have exposure to vocabulary via categorization, articulation, language concepts such as adjectives, synonyms and antonyms, and pre-literacy skills (e.g. rhyming).   

There are numerous categories and sub-categories from which to choose including:

  • animals (zoo, farm, etc)
  • actions
  • food (desserts, snacks, fruits, vegetables)
  • holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween)
  • school
  • places
  • states
  • jobs
  • instruments
  • vehicles
  • signs
  • clothing
  • body

Articulation boards have 60 PCS symbols per sound, separated into either 10 or 20 per sound for initial, medial and final positions. All sounds are included, as is vocalic /r/, prevocalic /r/, /s/, /l/, and /r/-blends. 

Rhyming words have 50 pairs of 3, 4, and 5 letter rhyming words with various vowel sounds including: o, u, y, a, and e. Some of the children used this app with for language or articulation have requested to earn the rhyming portion and make silly poems with words as they get matches. 

PCS Memory includes 100 symbols per synonyms, antonyms and adjectives. Quite often, I use the adjectives group to prompt expanded sentence formulation. As my patients match adjectives, they are required to create a sentence with that word. I use the same strategy with articulation as well (i.e. is the child's target is words in phrases or sentences, post a match, they are apply the word). 

 

A great feature of PCS Memory is its customizable board size that allows it to be used with children of all ages and abilities. The familiarity of the PCS pictures aides in its use with children with autism, developmental delay and other diagnoses. 

Although, we as therapists are always providing feedback to our patients, the auditory and visual feedback this provides is motivating for the kids we work with. Each time a match is had, "great job," "bravo," "you're amazing," or another positive praise phrase is provided. Also, intermittent reinforcement is given upon completion of a varied number of boards, with short funny animated videos being shown. 

I have yet to find a child who doesn't love to play this app, and being such a low cost, many parents have purchased it for home use as well. This summer, numerous parents have reported they purchased it to use while on vacation and love it!

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An App for Brain Injury/Stroke
July 28, 2014 8:00 AM by Ashley Brannon

BrainBaseline HD is a free app for iPad that is appropriate for adults working to improve cognitive abilities in the following areas: attention, executive function, speed of processing, and memory. The activities in each category set are similar to those used in testing conditions by neuropsychologists. Participants can monitor progress over time visually for each activity. They also compare their results to others by gender, age, education level, income range, and education.

This app is great to use for informal assessment measures and is an appropriate choice for speech therapists who are working with adults with history of brain injury or stroke to address these areas of deficit.This is meant for mild to moderate deficits for individuals who can manage coordinated motor skills to make selections on the device in a timely manner. There are 14 different activities included so you can't go wrong for the price. Remember, it's FREE.  For the Attention category, you may choose from the following tasks:  Blink, Posner, Trails, or Visual search.  When targeting Executive Function, you may choose to work on Digit-Symbol Substitution, Flanker task, Stroop, or Task Switch.  Individuals with weakness in Speed of Processing can use the Face Task and Speed activities. Lastly, participants may choose from Digit Span, N-Back, SPWM, and VSTM to target aspects of memory.

A brief description is provided for each task and indication of what skills each activity targets. In addition, each activity has a practice round to get the individual used to the timing and response requirements.

As a bonus, the newest HD version of the app can be connected to a FitBit device to track distance, steps, sleep/wake cycle, exercise and calories spent on a visual graph. This is meant to show how lifestyle and exercise patterns also impact brain function. You can use this function to set personal goals for distance, steps, sleep, exercise, and calories spent throughout the day. This is also charted on the app for visual representation once connected with your FitBit device.

If you are a clinician working with adults with cognitive deficits, you won't be disappointed with using this app. I find myself using it for informal evaluation, tracking progress during treatment, and for providing activities for patient home exercise programs.

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Tell Me A Story
July 21, 2014 9:36 AM by Lynn LaValley

Reading to our kids is great, and so is creating a story with them. This week, we will take a look at various apps that help us create our kids' stories.  I used to think we had to choose one, and be "loyal" to it, but my story has changed. Each app that is reviewed below offers something a little different, and my choices are made on which child I am working with.

Pictello ($18.99) creates visual stories and can be used for schedules.  Not only can real life photographs be used, but short video clips, and recorded sounds can be used. Furthermore, Pictello stories can be shared with Pictello Sharing Server. I have found this app easy to use not only for therapists, but for caregivers as well. With scrapbooking all the rave, many of my families have used this app as a real life scrap book so their child with complex communication needs can share a vacation, weekend, or birthday party. I have used this app as a schedule during my weekly cooking activity with children who I address ADLs with. Lastly, this app proved very useful for video modeling to modify behavior as a story was created, which demonstrated the sequence of events, and targeted appropriate behavior.

Toontastic is a great free app to address language skills. (Extra scenes and characters can be purchased for $.99-$1.99 more.) Kids love creating cartoons and telling stories, and forget they're working. This app teaches key storytelling principles by guiding its users through their story arc: setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution. The plethora of settings and characters allows there to be something for everyone's interest. A personal favorite feature that Toontastic offers is the musical background. So often emotion and is left out of my kids' stories, but with this feature, they are able to convey the emotion of the scene. The importance of this to a story has led to quite a few discussions of how important the background music is to movie we watch. If Jaws (you can tell the time period I'm from) was sneaking up on someone in dead silence, the suspense wouldn't be nearly as great as with that memorable tune. As with Pictello, this app is also able to be shared, so it's "director" can gain recognition by family, friends, and teachers.   

  

StoryMaker is a free app (with upgrade purchases available for $4.99) with simple taste. This app allows you to make your own photo album (like Pictello), as well as cards and comic books (like ToonTastic).  Much like Toontastic, its uses includes addressing reading, sequencing, vocabulary, and following directions. The free version does not allow stories to be saved or shared, but upgrading does. Its two sections, Create Story, and Tell Story, are easy to use.  As with both Pictello and Toontastic, using your own voice and pictures are possible. A great feature of StoryMaker for our little artists that Pictello and Toontastic do not offer, is drawing your own visuals for the story. 

  

I'd love to hear your story of using these or story-based apps for language activities. Please share your comments and feedback. 

 

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Between the Lines
July 8, 2014 2:40 PM by Lynn LaValley

BTLines, a Hamaguchi App, explores social communication in various ways.  Although pricy, $15.99, its many levels allow it to be useful with an array of clients (Levels 1, 2 and Advanced).

Between the Lines is easy to play, and fun! The activities address: listening and facial expressions; body language and perspective taking; and expressions, idioms, and slang. Settings allow control over encouragement frequency, answer choices and reward game. Tracking progress is also available within this app.    

When pictures are presented, they are clear and most often against a plain white background to decrease visual distractions. I find some pictures to be too exaggerated and not natural, but clients haven't commented about them. The videos and auditory stimuli are able to be repeated if needed, which has come in handy with many individuals. 

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More High-Level Word Games
July 1, 2014 10:57 AM by Megan Sutton
Two weeks ago I shared four games covering categories and word searches that clients with word finding problems may enjoy. This week let's look at four more fun and therapeutic games focusing on semantic networks, compound words, and multiple meanings. Use these games in therapy sessions to teach strategies or as home practice to stimulate the brain.

Psychobabble is a free universal app that focuses on semantic networks. There is a helpful tutorial and a few free games to get you going, with more puzzle packs available for a few dollars. Start with one word, then try typing in words that go with it. Correct words will activate new nodes as the puzzle expands. This game can be very challenging, but unlimited hints are available to keep you moving through the free association cloud with a fun Freudian theme.  Save this game for your highest-level clients, or for yourself!

Chain of Thought is a free universal app with 75 free puzzles to work on word chaining. You're given a word like "jet" and you select the word from a field of 10 choices that makes a compound word or phrase, such as "pack." Then you find the word from the nine remaining options to go with "pack", which is "rat." Each puzzle has two five-word chains. There are a limited number of hints available if you get stuck, and the app can be set to easy, medium or hard difficulty. This is a great game for working on reading, semantics, flexible thought, non-literal language and impulsivity.

Get+Together is from the same developer as Chain of Thought, but provides a simpler way of working on compound words using pictures instead of text. While somewhat more child-focused with the design, this app can be used without offense by most adults as the answers require a strong vocabulary. Given a definition such as "aquatic animal with whiskers," the user selects the pictures of the cat and the fish from the eight choices. You can turn on the words to go with the pictures if you want to make it somewhat easier. This is a nice free universal app to discuss what words mean and how the resulting compound word is different from the two parts.

4 Pics 1 Word is a popular game that can be used in therapy to work on flexible thinking for multiple meanings. Given four pictures, you must spell the word suggested with the letters provided. Sometimes the pictures are variations of the same meaning, but often they depict different meanings or more abstract concepts and can get quite challenging. Hints are available but limited, each puzzle is of very different difficulty, and ads may get in the way (just play in airplane mode), but it's worth checking out this free universal app.

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