The introduction to this series of posts can be found here.
Articulation, or speech sound production, is the part of a speech-language pathologist’s job that the public is most aware of. When we tell the majority of lay people what we do for a living, they assume we spend our days working with kids on their /l/, /r/ and /s/ sounds, and when children are referred to us due to concerns about language development, we often have a lot to explain about the breadth of our expertise. No matter what our areas of expertise, most of us spend at least some of our time working with children on articulation.
There are some terrific iPad apps dedicated to assisting children in their articulation development. While there are many apps that families can use at home to improve their children’s communication, these dedicated apps are more appropriate for use under supervision of a trained clinician in a therapy session.
Why would a speech-language pathologist work on articulation using an iPad? For one thing the device makes the clinician’s job substantially easier in that it holds a great many pictures, replacing the boxes of (typically) outdated picture cards that often sit on our shelves, and it makes it very simple to collect and share data. Further, kids are highly motivated by the interactive, hands-on nature of the device. However, there is absolutely no reason to purchase more than one dedicated articulation app for your clients – choose carefully to make sure that the app you invest in will work for the majority of the kids you see.
The articulation app I have been using the most in my work this past year is ArtikPix. ArticPix allows you to customize the flashcards you use in practice and then in a matching game. The graphics are simple drawings, similar to Mayer-Johnson symbols. After selecting target phoneme(s), the clinician can select which word position will be practiced (e.g., you can create an activity that includes /s/ in initial word position and medial /l/). When the child taps the screen, the word is clearly pronounced. The child can tap a microphone icon to record him or herself repeating the word, and then listen to it. This immediate feedback is wonderful. The clinician then taps the smiley face or frown face to collect data on accuracy. There are “yay!” and “awww…” sounds that correspond with these, but you can also turn those sounds off in Settings. However, the child can see how you judged their production and with older children, I’ll ask them to rate their own productions that way. The latest update of ArtikPix allows the clinician to collect data easily for up to four students in a group. The app saves your data for each child (and any notes you have added on that session). You can share results by email.
For $29.99 you can purchase the “Full” version which comes with 21 card decks of 40 cards for each phoneme – there are close to 1,000 total articulation cards. Click here for a complete description. We did not purchase the full version at our office. We downloaded the free ArtikPix app and we purchase individual phoneme decks for $1.99 each as needed. It is possible to download extra decks of cards from within the app so it’s very quick and easy. Since we see a small number of children for speech sound production, this worked well for us, but if you are working with many kids who have a variety of error sounds, it would be more cost effective to purchase the Full version.
This app does not target phonological processes, but the developer created an additional app to address this. PhonoPix-Full can be purchased separately for $24.99.
Here is a video of a client working with one of my graduate student clinicians on his /l/ sound using ArtikPix:
I recently purchased Articulate It! for my iPad. Articulate It! was developed by Smarty Ears, whose wide variety of apps are created by a speech-language pathologist. This app includes all English phonemes and over 1,200 photo cards. Similar to ArtikPix, the clinician can collect data and share it (but more easily, in a clear graph form, and you can opt to include the client’s recordings in your email). Additionally, the clinician can choose targets based on phoneme, phonological processes (e.g., fronting, stopping, initial consonant deletion, to name a few), or manner of articulation (e.g., fricatives, glides, nasals). Again, it is possible to set up this app for group therapy. The clinician has the option to write a note for each production of the target sound rather than a general note at the end of the activity. Another helpful feature of Articulate It! is that there are randomized transition sounds (which can be turned off if desired) so that the child isn’t made overly aware of his or her mistakes when data is collected. For some of the sensitive kids I work with, games that have a “wrong answer” sound are very anxiety-provoking. To take a look at this app, click here. It’s easy to use and quite intuitive.
This Articulate It! app is costlier, at $49.99, but it does provide targets for both articulation and phonological work in one app. The cost is only slightly higher than buying both ArtikPix and PhonoPix, and there are more features. We have begun to switch our clients over to Articulate It! and feel that it is worth the price.
While not designed to be a therapeutic tool, Toontastic is an app we find many, many uses for in speech and language intervention. It is one of our most beloved apps because we can work on such a wide range of goals with it – and it’s only $.99! In the area of speech sound production, I have found it to be a very fun and motivating way for kids to work on their sounds in a structured conversation or story-telling format. This link, for example, will take you to a story we created with a 4-year old client who was working hard on her “sh” sound. She asked to make a cartoon on the iPad and so we adapted the activity by helping steer her toward a theme that might have more “sh” sounds in it, and then working with her on filling in the story with the words we’d decided upon.
I will review this app further in my post on ways to work on language with the iPad, but the general idea is that the child chooses a background theme and characters (or draws their own!), and then uses the structured narrative arc to create and narrate his or her own story. After creating each scene, the child has an opportunity to choose appropriate background music that fits the mood of the scene (e.g., scary, happy, excited). For our older clients we usually incorporate all pieces of the story arc, but with younger children like this one we stick to a beginning, middle, and ending by deleting some steps within the app. Kids love it and it’s been a really fun way to move into less structured articulation practice! If the clinician and child want to share the story, it can be uploaded to the Toontastic website. Before doing so, I make sure that the child’s identification is protected.
In any therapy, the iPad is only as creative as you are.
Toontastic illustrates an important point about use of the iPad in speech therapy, which is that you can go light years beyond dedicated speech apps in therapy if you use your natural creativity as a clinician. If you are able to think outside the box without the iPad, you’ll be able to do the same with it. It is simply another tool in your toolbox. You can have as much success with apps that were never intended for therapy as with dedicated ones like ArtikPix or Articulate It! In addition to activities like Toontastic, you might engage a child in drawing a series of nice, long /s/ sounds while producing the “sssssss”, using a free app like Draw, or you could work with a young child on a puzzle in an app like Puzzld!, targeting all the /s/ words in it. The sky’s the limit!
Please feel free to share your experiences with these apps – and any others you’ve tried – when remediating articulation and phonology difficulties in a pediatric population!
Stay tuned for a summary of our favorite iPad apps for language remediation!
Jordan Sadler, MS, CCC/SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and has been the Director of Communication Therapy, P.C. since 2004. She loves finding new ways to bring the iPad into therapy sessions and helping families find useful apps for home and community settings.
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