Friday, December 30, 2011

App Development Update

I recently asked to be assigned a new project manager.

I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the project manager. I found her emails to me to be patronizing and contentless. On the two occasions we met, she was late, first 10 minutes then 20 minutes. During the second meeting it seemed that I had waited 20 minutes so that she could get up to speed on where the project stood.  Mid-December I called her to find out if the company would be open during the last two weeks of the month so that I would know if my project would be on hold until everyone returned. She said that people would take a day or two off but that my project would not be delayed. She said that I will be pleased with the progress. Not having heard from her, I called again on Dec.21 to find out about the status of the project. The receptionist said that my project manager would be out for the week. I had been considering requesting a new project manager and decided that the time had come. I called Earl and told him about my frustrations.

This afternoon I met with Earl, the head of animations and my new project manager. It turns out that the animation team had a number of questions about the script as well as changes they wished to propose. Some of the actions in the script were too difficult or not doable. The designers also felt that the script was boring because it was repetitive. I appreciated the feedback. I explained my reasons for the writing the script the way I had. We talked about their ideas. Earl proposed that another meeting take place once the animators had a chance to show me their ideas. I should hear back from the team within 2 weeks.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apps for Auditory Comprehension

Patti McAleer Hamaguchi, M.A., CCC-SLP is on the right track with her three apps: Fun with Directions, First Phrases and Picture the Sentence. The reason that she is on the right track is because these apps target specific aspects of language, the specific language targets are clear, they utilize the animation and interactive qualities of the iPad, are reasonably priced, and avoid the problems inherent in speech recognition targeted apps. I like the clear and simple pictures. The apps offer primarily receptive language tasks with some opportunities for expressive language during the phrase repetition, record and playback components. It is clear that considerable time and thought has gone into the development of the apps.

Of the three apps my favorite is Fun with Directions. This app offers three levels: easy, intermediate, and advanced. This app allows the speech pathologist to work on directions in a systematic manner without the preparation and presentation I have always found to be tedious. The fun animation and interactive components will certainly make this app appealing to children. At the easy level, one simple direction is such as "Close the gate" is given. The intermediate level increases the complexity by including colors or an additional descriptive element such as bottom, middle, top, close, erase, open, push or touch. At the advanced level, the length of the direction is the longest and most complex adding the concepts left/right, size, more adjectives, and/or a second step. At each level there are different concepts one can access by tapping on the New Concept button at the top of the screen. At the bottom of the screen for each level are two buttons: New Direction advances to the next screen, and Hear Again repeats the direction. The Settings screen allows one to turn text on for readers, turn voice commands off, have concepts presented randomly or select the concept on which one wishes the app to focus. Random appearances by Superstar Directions (this can be turned off in Settings)  is a combination of understanding concepts and directions and sentence repetition tasks. The child listens to a direction. After the child follows through on the direction, a screen with a microphone appears. The child is asked to repeat and record the direction by pressing the record button. After the recording is completed, a new screen appears that allows the child to listen to his recording and compare it with the narrator's instruction.

First Phrases focuses on simple grammatical structures presented in command form such as, "Pour the juice." When the child taps anywhere on the screen (Easy Level), or the pictoral/word representations, the narrator verbalizes each part of speech as it is tapped such as, "Pour," "The trash" in the 2 part verb + the object setting, or "Pour," "the," "Juice" in the 3 part verb+the+object choice. Once each part of speech has been tapped, the narrator answers the command by saying, "Sure, I'll pour the juice." The screen automatically moves to an animated demonstration of the command being carried out. If the record option has been selected a new screen appears for the child to record her repetition of the narrated command and compare it to the narration. This app also offers one the option to focus on specific verbs among the 29 offered rather than have them presented randomly. Challenge Play is another option available in this app. In Challenge Play, the child needs to drag the word/picture part of the phrase to the correct box above, in the correct order.

The information portion of Picture the Sentence states that the app targets auditory comprehension and conceptualization of basic English sentences. After reviewing the app, I think it is as much an app for sentence recall and repetition. In this app, the child to listens to a sentence and then selects the picture that goes with the sentence. The app presents the task in two steps. First, the sentence is narrated while a blank screen flashes pictures representing each part of speech. For instance, for the sentence, "She is eating a cookie in a car," the following pictures flash, one at a time, to represent the parts of the sentence: Girl's face (she),  the girl eating a cookie (is eating), cookie , a cage with a ball inside (in), car. Then the screen automatically advances to show five pictures. The child needs to drag the picture, that best represents the sentence heard, to the empty frame above. There are different levels of play based on length of sentence and complexity. The simplest level is subject +verb followed by subject +verb+object. The next level up is subject+verb+prepositional phrase. The most challenging level is subject+verb+object+ prepositional phrase. One can also opt for a random selection of target sentences. In addition to selecting the challenge to the student based on sentence length, one can further increase or decrease the wait time between the narration and the selections and change from colored drawings to stick figures or no pictures with the narration. Additionally, one can select to have the subject presented as either a  pronoun, noun, or mixed. There is a cute reward feature built into this app called Pick-A-Door that one can select to appear after 3, 5, or 10 responses. A screen appears with 8 brightly colored doors. The child taps on each door until he finds the door that has the animal.

The three apps allow for the individual settings of 15 children to be stored. There is no scoring feature. The reasons for this, according to Ms. Hamaguchi, are, "...the touch and drag is not a reliable way to acquire assessment data due to the fact that objects are accidentally touched, dropped when dragged, etc. In addition, we are trying to keep the cost of the apps down, and adding a data collection feature would drive up the price and also add to the memory load."

Ages: 3-5; Fun with Directions can be used with aphasic adults.
Ratings: Fun with Directions +++++; First Phrases +++, Picture the Sentence ++++
Developer's website:
Cost: $9.99 for the full version, $.99 for the Lite version (the Lite Version is free during the month of December).

Monday, December 12, 2011

App Developement Update

I'm happy to report that the illustrations for the two main characters are completed. My next job was to refine the script, which I did. Did you know that a script needs to be written? I didn't until I started this project. Fortunately, I had already written a script a couple of years ago for what was to be another Help Me Talk Right book. I got sidetracked and then along came the iPad. I realized that the script could be the starting point for an app.

Stay tuned for the next step in the process.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

App Development Update

It has been a little over a month since I wrote my first blog about my app. So far the main characters have been developed. The main characters needed a bit of  tweaking. It's been a week now and I am still waiting for the character updates. I emailed the project manager twice in 2 days and hadn't heard back from her so I emailed one of the owners. Heard back from the project manager 10 minutes later.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Apps to Use for Descriptives

When I write about apps, I often have a debate with myself about whether or not to blog about apps that are not worth downloading, even for free. Inevitably, I mention them and then delete them from my iPad. For now, I'll continue with that policy thinking that maybe someone may find the app useful.

I have 7 apps I placed in the Descriptives category.  I've stretched the use of some of the apps a bit so that they fit into this category.

Four of the apps focus on emotions. They are Feel Electric, Touch and Learn Emotions, ABA Flash Cards and Games-Emotions and Emoticons.

The Electric Company has produced an excellent app for emotions and is by far the best of the bunch.  Feel Electric is animated, interactive and offers a variety of options to learn a range of 50 emotions. The child starts with What's the Word to see faces of real people expressing each emotion. From there, the child can select her emotions at the moment, create a diary of emotions, manipulate the facial features of creature to show specific emotions and play a Mad Libs type game that, when completed, will create a zany story based on the words selected. There are three fun interactive games where the child needs to pair the facial expression with the written word. Each of these 3 games is scored. The app also allows one to add ones own pictures, music and videos. I also recommend this app for parents, therapists and psychologists who wish to gain insight into a child's emotions when talking about them is hard.

Ages: 5+
Rating: +++++
Developer: The Electric Company by Sesame Street

Cost: Free

The Touch and Learn Emotions app is interactive in that a narrator names an emotion and the user points to the appropriate picture. The pictures are photographs of children and adults; there are four photographs per screen. One does not simply find the individual showing the named emotion. Rather, one needs to distinguish between a toddler, child, adult, girl, boy, kid and teenager based on the instruction. Also, one may need to identify more than one picture depicting that emotion. For instance, the narrator may direct the user to point to the girls who are sad. Besides adjectives, some targeted words are nouns or verbs. In Settings, one has the option to present nouns only, adjectives and nouns only, verbs and nouns only or progressive difficulty. This is a great free app.

Ages: 4-7
Rating: ++++
Developer: Alligator Apps
Cost: Free

ABA Flash Cards and Games can be used as a precursor to Touch and Learn Emotions. The pictures are the same, but presented one at a time. The photos are clear and the corresponding word is written below it. Each emotion is clearly narrated. The Settings screen allows one to customize the pictures and words.

Ages: 3-5
Rating: +++
Developer: Alligator Apps
Cost: Free

Abby Emoticons Maker is a frenzied app. The constant sounds emanate from the annoying round ball. The facial expressions on the "emoticon" are in constant facial contortion mode and have nothing to do with the facial expressions on the ball. Turning of the sound helps reduce the frenzied level a bit. I would think twice about using this app with children who are excitable, which eliminates all but the calmest. Emotions are presented by a round yellow ball with eyes and a mouth. One selects the eyes and mouth out of a choice of 6 each. The eyes and mouth one selects do not necessarily offer a clear emotional picture. For instance, one can select crying eyes with a smiling mouth.  Also, the free version of this app has a large strip of advertising at the bottom of the screen. This app is in the to be deleted (tbd) category.

Ages: 3-5
Rating: +
Developer: Arch Square
Cost: $1.99 for the full version

If one's goal is to teach big and small, Big and Small is an app that focuses on those adjectives using letters of the alphabet. Two letters, one big and one small appear on the screen. The narrator says, "Take a big/small _________." The user has to tap on the either the large or small version of the letter. Some letters appear as upper case and others as lower case. The narrator sounds like she is sitting in an echo chamber, making the quality of sound mediocre. The app does provide scoring. The lite version of this app has constantly changing advertising at the bottom of the app. Another app tbd.

Ages: 3-5
Rating: +
Developer: Sanghoon Lee
Cost: $4.99 for the full version

I put Build It Up in the descriptives category because one can easily use this simple app to teach large/big, small/little and their appropriate superlatives. The child needs to stack blocks or rings in the correct order from large to small. Colors are also easy to teach with this app.

Ages: 2-3
Rating: ++
Developer: MyFirstApp
Cost: Free for the stacking blocks and rings.

Kids Juke Box Animals is an animated story app that can be used to teach the concepts long and big.  The story is presented as a song. It is a cute app that is appropriate for children 1-2 years old.

Ages: 1-2
Rating: ++
Developer: WagleBagle
Cost: free

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is the iPad Worth the Investment?

Some colleagues may be wondering if they should purchase the iPad to use as a therapy tool. I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic in an article I wrote for the Independent Clinician (
I love my iPad. I bought it when it first came out. I cannot say why I decided that I must have it. I am not a techie, nor had I ever had to have the latest and greatest new tech device. That is my husband’s department. But, I surprised my husband when I announced that I wanted the iPad. At the time, I did not know what its potential, as a device for our profession, would be. Now I know. It’s potential as a therapy tool is huge. But is it worth the investment? Yes and no.

By now I have downloaded about 500 apps. After reviewing each of the apps, there is good and bad news about them. The good news is that more and more apps are being developed that utilize the animation and interactivity potential of the iPad. There are a few creative and fun apps that can be adapted for our use in therapy. They are primarily apps for vocabulary, reading or fun game apps. Now, here is the not so good news. To date, speech recognition technology does not support the type of work we do when we work on an individual’s sound system. Thus, sound production is compromised in apps that target sounds in isolation, syllables or words (minimal pairs and articulation apps) making this type of app quasi usable. That cannot be helped right now. Also, there is no app that can accurately recognize correct or incorrect production of a sound or word. In this respect, the speech pathologist must work with the child in the same way she does when using paper materials. At present, apps for language hold the greatest potential use for our profession. However, there is a paucity of language therapy apps that utilize the capabilities of the iPad. For creative speech therapists, this is an open field.

Back to my original question: Is the iPad worth the investment? If one is a speech pathologist just starting out in the profession and wishes to build a library of standard materials available in catalogs, the iPad is worth considering. Instead of buying the standard paper materials, one can download an app of the same type. One then has to weigh whether the initial minimum $500.00 cost of the iPad plus the sometimes steep prices of these paper identical apps is worth it. Another consideration is the fact that if one works for a school district or clinic, the materials are already available in paper form. If one’s therapy sessions include fun games used to motivate, then the iPad is wonderful. It is an extremely motivating device and there are a number of fun apps one can download. The iPad should also be a serious consideration for speech pathologists who work with children needing augmentative communication. However, the prices for AAC apps are among the highest.

So, is the iPad worth the investment? If your plan is to use it for reasons beyond therapy, it is worth the investment. It is a wonderful gadget with a multitude of uses. If your plan is to buy it primarily to use in therapy, then you may want to wait until the therapy apps catch up to the technology of the iPad. I expect that apps for our profession will soon improve in quality, so that having the iPad will greatly enhance what we do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reasoning Skills---Associations

There are many apps that one can adapt for use when targeting reasoning skills. So far, I've found 6 apps that work directly on associations.

Drag and Match offers a 12 different games in this app. Among them are 4 games that can be used to teach associations. The games are: match an animal to its home, match a food to the animal that eats it, match an object that goes with another such as arrow with bow, and match a tool to an object such as a needle with thread and match the dots on dice with the written number. In each of the games the child drags the object on the left to its match on the right. The pictures are simple and clear.

Ages: 3-5
Rating: +++
Developer: Cambui Labs
Cost: $.99

Matching Jobs is an app that has the child match a worker with a vehicle. The child has to drag the worker to one of three vehicles at the bottom of the screen. The app names the worker and the word for the worker is written at the top of the screen. Once the child has made the correct worker-vehicle association one hears clapping and a new screen appears. The new screen shows the worker next to the correct vehicle. A narrator again names the worker and and tells the child, "The_________ drives a _______." (Again, the written word for the worker appears on this page along with the the words, "Drives a ______." ) One then hears the sound that vehicle makes such as a siren, honk, etc. The pictures are attractive and offer other language opportunities such as talking about what the worker does and where he may be going in the vehicle.

Ages: 3-6
Rating: ++++
Developer: HippoPoPoPo
Cost: Free for 5 workers. The cost to unlock an addition 11 workers is $.99

Vehicle Matching also developed by Hippo PoPoPo works along the same line as Matching Jobs. With this app the child matches the vehicle to a location such a a fire truck to a fire station. Unfortunately, the narration for this app is monotone and boring. A slight accent was also noticeable.

Ages: 3-6
Rating: ++++
Developer: HippoPoPoPo
Cost: Free for 5 vehicles. The cost to unlock an addition 15 vehicles is $.99

Together offers two levels of association. The first level has the child match an object to one of two at the bottom of the screen. The second level increases the level of difficulty by offering three objects instead of two at the bottom of the screen. The objects are presented in photograph form. Scoring in percent is visible in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Ages: 2-4
Rating: +++
Developer: Different Roads to Learning
Cost: Free

In one of my earlier blogs I briefly reviewed the Match It Up apps. All Match It Up apps show a central box with an object. Surrounding the box are seven pictures. Of the three, I placed the Match It Up 3  into my associations file. In this app, the center box has an item in it. Surrounding the box are seven pictures. The child has to find the picture that one associates with the item in the box. The first two games are free. One has the child match the animal to its food. The other has the child find the part that goes best with the item in the box. For instance, in the center is a flower pot. The child has to drag the flower into the box. I can also see using this game when working on part-whole concepts.

Ages: 3-5
Rating: +++
Developer: My First Apps
Cost: Free for the first two games. Additional seven games are $.99.

Reasoning Skills--- Categorization

Brain-Go! is a categorization app that tells the child, "Put the object that does not belong into the trash can." This is good exposure to the categorical exclusion concept "does not belong."  There are opportunities for the child to talk about why the selection does not belong and what is the name of the category for the objects that do go together. Discussion of similarities and differences is another option when using this app. The pictures are photos of real objects. There are 10 levels to this app. I spoke with the developer, a teacher/tutor, about the additional levels. She said that they are similar in difficulty to the first level. She said that the tenth level is more difficult. The idea of the different levels is to provide additional practice to children who need help with categorization.

Ages: 3-6 for the first level
Cost: The first level is free. The other 10 levels can be purchased for $1.99.
Rating: ++
Developer: Brain-Go

Clean Up: Category Sorting displays either a toy, food or article of clothing in the middle of the screen. At the bottom of the screen are a basket, toy box and closet. The child needs to determine if the object appearing on the screen goes into the basket, toy box or closet. The child drags the object into one of the three. A happy face star briefly appears if the object has been correctly place before a new object appears. The app provides a score of percentage correctly sorted in the upper right hand corner of the screen and in a window once the game has ended. This app also provides vocabulary opportunities in the form of object naming before it is sorted.

Ages: 3-5
Cost: free until January/February at which time the apps will be updated.
Rating: ++
Developer: Different Roads to Learning

MyFirstApp created Families 1 and Families 2. They were reviewed August 26, 2011 in Categories, Opposites and More.

Next blog: Reasoning Skills---Associations

Monday, October 31, 2011

Apps to Use with a Two-Year-Old, Possibly on the Spectrum

A colleague asked for my suggestions for apps a parent can use with a 2 year old. She wrote, "I need some advice on a brand new client of mine.  I met him for the first time this week.  I will be seeing him at his preschool for one hour a week. This boy is 2 y.o..  His dad has an iPad and says that he enjoys using it.  (I don't own an iPad).  Once this boy warms up to you, he does "speak" but you can understand one single thing he says.  It is all jargon.  I am questioning whether he may be on the ASD spectrum.  I am wondering if there are any apps I can suggest to the parents for them to use at home and/or to use in therapy if they will "lend" me the iPad for the sessions.  I am not technology savvy when it comes to Apps and I would greatly appreciate any advice on where to start with this boy in terms of technology recommendations.  (and any other Tx recommendations!).  HELP!"

I wrote back and asked what the short-term goals were. She answered, "Some of his Short-Term goals include:  use 10 gestures/signs in songs/play; use mama or dada; answer simple questions with single words; name pix in a book; name snack given choice of 2."

Here were my suggestions:
Nonverbal communication: Toddler Sign (iSpeech), Pics Aloud, Smart Hands
Books: I Like Books---these are wonderful apps. There is a whole series of these iBooks.
Answer simple questions: has a few apps you might want to look at. The pictures lend themselves to asking simple questions.
Snacks: I would use the real thing instead of an app for this one.
Talking: Chippy Talk, Talking Gina, Talking Anya, Talking Ben. These apps could be used to encourage the child make sounds/say words.
Others: Spot the Animals, Peekaboo Pets, Baby

I also suggested that she instruct the parents on how to best stimulate speech and language development interactively. I would show them what is done during sessions and ask them to do the same. I have handouts I give to the parents to help them. I offered to email the suggestions. If any follower of this blog would like the same, please let me know and I will post it as a blog.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Diary of an App--meeting the team

Last week I met with the team with whom I'll be working. In addition to Alison, my project manager, I met with Brandon, the Creative Director, and Adam the Illustrator/Animator. We had a productive 2 hour meeting. We discussed what the app will target and the age range of the target group. This initial meeting turned out to be extremely important. During the discussion, I discovered that one of the original ideas for bringing the app to users would not work. I don't want to reveal what the issue was, but I will say that had this been discovered later in the process, it would have meant a change of course that would have been more costly and time consuming. I am waiting to hear back from one of the team members about proceeding in our new direction.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shape and Color Apps

There are a multitude of apps available for shapes and colors. 

The shape app that is the most fun is Giggle Spittles. Giggle Spittles are three alien creatures that drop down from a brick wall. As they drop they they make a whizzing sound and then a bouncing sound when they hit the ground.  There is a different shape on the belly of each Giggle Spittle. The shape on the alien needs to be matched with the shape that appears on the brick wall. The child needs to touch the belly of the alien that matches the shape on the wall. When the alien's belly is touched, the alien laughs, the belly distends, and the alien belches out the shape. The child moves the now floating shape onto its matching shape on the wall.  After the child has successfully matches the shapes, the screen automatically changes to scene with a animals. The child is instructed to touch a specific shape found within the scene. The free app is limited to circle, square and triangle. More shapes are available for $1.99. Ages: 3+. Rating: ++++

Shapes by presents four shapes---circle, triangle, square, rectangle---as photographs of common objects, such as a stamp for square, a slice of pizza for triangle and so on. Accompanying each frame, is the narration, "The ____(name of the object) is ______(shape)." I like the association of shape with a real object. However, some shapes are inaccurately named and thus can mislead. For instance, 2 dimensional shapes are named as one dimensional:  a road cone is presented as a triangle, a typewriter as square, and grocery bag full of groceries as a rectangle. I prefer that a goal be worked on as cleanly as possible. By that I mean that if the child needs to learn the names of basic shapes, then drawings of shapes are sufficient. If one wishes to draw associations between common objects and shapes then this app is the one to use. Ages: 3+. Rating: ++

Kids Place has two free apps for colors: Baby Hot Air Balloons and Baby colors. The apps teach colors using either balloons or hot air balloons that appear out of a heavenly horizon and bounce around on the screen in the sky or above a beach and blue body of water. Depending on the app clouds that look like genies float across the screen, different colored bubbles shoot up in geyser like fashion out of the sand or sky, float around, or erupt in a sphere before they disappear and the process starts over again. The background also changes with zen like environmental sounds and musical accompaniment. The effect is somewhat mesmerizing. Tapping the screen changes the color of the balloon. The narrator speaks with a British accent. Free when I downloaded them, these apps are now $.99. Ages: 2-4. Rating: ++

Shapes and Colors offers learning in Chinese or English. Colors are presented in a variety of different shapes. The app has learn and play options. The learn option presents a color highlighted by an object of that color and 8 shapes below it. The word for the color is written in English and Chinese. The play option has 24 shapes and colors on the screen. A voice says, "Please select the _________ blocks." The blank is either a color or shaped named. The child has to then tap on all the shapes, among the 24, of that color or shape named. There is a visible timer that counts down from 120 seconds to 0. Thus, the child needs to work as quickly as possible finding all the shapes or colors named. The instruction varies throughout the time available. The child's score is visible on the screen as he/she works. Once the game is completed, a screen appears allowing the child to build a picture on an empty screen using a variety of different objects.  Or, one can click the x and return to the main screen. This app is free. Ages: 3-6. Rating: +++

Abby The Train Driver, by developer CF Corp, instructs the child to tap on a toy of a specific color. Tapping on the correct color, transfers the object to a train. The train waits until each of its three wagons has an object before it chugs away. The settings option allows one to select the minimum number of toys to display (1-4 on the free version, up to 10 on the $1.99 upgrade) and the colors (there are 11). Fortunately, one can opt out of the music and sounds that can be distracting and annoying. Ages: 2-4. Rating: ++

Baby Shapes, by GrasshopperApps, offers different colored silhouettes of common and inventive shapes such a lightening bolt and shamrock, making this a vocabulary app as much as a shape app. The settings option allows one to select the minimum and maximum number of items to display and customization of items and sounds. One can also select from a library of shapes to display. This app was free when I downloaded it, but is now available for $.99. This is a nominal price to pay for a creative app that allows beyond the presentation of simple basic apps. Ages: 3+. Rating: +++

Speak Colors, by RWH Technology, offers seven basic colors--black, blue, green, orange, red, white, yellow. These colors appear at the top of the screen. Tap on a color and a big square turns that color. Next to the colored square is a picture of a common object of the same or similar color (a vibrant blue square was demonstrated in the form of a light blue dress). If one taps on either square, an audio setup button appears. Tap on the green arrow and hear a dull sounding voice name the color or object. A better option is the exclamation point button. It allows you to record your voice naming the color and object. This app is free.
Ages: 2-4. Rating: +

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Diary of an app development---The start

For those of you who have been following my blogs, you know that I have been critical of a good number of apps that have been developed specifically for speech and language therapy. Well, I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and develop an app that utilizes the animation and interactivity abilities of the iPad. I would like to take you on this journey with me in the hopes that you too may decide to develop your own great apps.

My journey began a few weeks ago. I contacted a number of companies to get an idea of the cost of developing a speech/language app. I found companies by googling "app development," "app developers," and "app development companies."

Pricing was all over the map.
The most reasonable was about $5000 and the costliest $40,000. The contact people tended to be in sales. This does not suggest that they were not knowledgeable. They were, but to a point. Some issues were beyond their expertise and they needed to consult with their tech department. Some expressed interest but did not reply after a few back and forth emails. Then, out of the blue I got a cold call from a local company that does web design and management. I may have sounded a little irritated with the woman because I do not like marketers calling. But she called in the midst of my search and used the words "web design." I told her I was interested in developing an app. A few days later, I was sitting in the conference room with one of the owners, Earl. The minute he started talking it was clear that Earl was a knowledgeable software guy. He immediately understood where I was headed and offered his own ideas based on his expertise. He was also enthusiastic about my ideas. His expertise talked to my comfort level. Earl did a great job translating tech know-how into terms I could understand.

My Decision
I decided to go with Earl's company. His price was not the best. But my thinking is that, since this is my very first app, working with a company close by will offer me greater insight into the process. By sitting down with the people who will do the work, rather than conducting all interactions via computer or telephone, I am hoping to get better picture of what it takes to bring my idea to fruition.

The Contract/Agreement
Earl and I went back and forth a few times about the terms of the agreement until we found the sweet spot to satisfy us both. Two of the sticking points were cost and payment terms. Yesterday I signed the contract. I was assigned a project manager, Allison. She will be the link between me and those people working on my app.

My next blog will give more details about the project.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Analogies app

The other day I downloaded another Grasshopper Apps app. Little Solver targets analogies, not verbal analogies, but rather shape figural analogies. The analogies start out simple but quickly advance to analogies that I found challenging. Good spatial recognition skills are helpful. At first glance, one might question its usability for speech paths. I thought about this and it occurred to me that this app could be used to elicit language.

The app presents analogies in four square fashion with the blank-is-to-blank visuals in the two upper quadrants. The two bottom quadrants have the blank-is-to-? visuals. At the most basic level, this app could be used to elicit conversation about shapes, similarities and differences. At at more advanced level, the child could explain what picture, among the four choices works best to complete the analogy and why. Discussion could ensue as to why an different choice may be better. This type of discussion would encourage the child to use reasoning skills, comparing, contrasting and descriptive abilities.

There are two scoring features. At the top of each analogy screen are three red hearts. If an incorrect answer is selected, a heart turns gray.  It is possible to return a heart to red by correctly answering a set number of analogies correctly. The game stops after the three hearts have turned gray, at which point a score screen appears. The total score is given as a percentage. Below the total score are the levels by number and name, the number of attempts at each level and the accuracy at each level. It is also possible to retrieve scores by tapping on the pause button on the screen of every analogy. The scoring is for the existing game only. One cannot input names to track progress over time.

Cost: Free for a limited time
Ages: 6 to adult
Rating: ++++
Developer: Grasshopper Apps 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ASHA Leader article on apps

"Apps: An Emerging Tool for SLPs" by Jessica Gosnell, MS, CCC-SLP, in the latest issue of the ASHA leader, discusses apps and their use in our field. One of the points she makes is that speech apps should not take the place of an SLP. She may be correct, for now.

There is no doubt that technology has the ability to change the way we provide services and for many of us the change has already begun. Having said that, there is no speech or language app available now (by now I have downloaded about 500) dedicated solely towards remediation of speech or language problems that is a game changer. The speech and language apps that are available are electronic products of the paper materials available through catalogs. The apps are unimaginative and many are costly. This is hugely disappointing since they make little to no use of the interactivity potential of the devices. Actually, some of the best apps are free and can be easily adapted to therapy, primarily for vocabulary, language elicitation and as motivational tools.

There are a few reasons that iDevices can only be used as an adjunct to therapy and not as a replacement for an SLP, for now. As mentioned above, there are no apps up to the task. Speech recognition technology is not advanced enough to accurately and consistently determine if a sound is correctly produced. Children and their ways are also problematic. Children tend to tap all over the screen rather than selectively tap to learn. They tend to gravitate towards the easy rather than the challenge. We, on the other hand, challenge the child to stay focused and to move on to the next challenging level.

There likely will come a time when technology will be used in place of an SLP for certain types of therapy. I, for one, do not have a problem with that. Our services will need to evolve along with the technology.