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Speaking Freely

Empowering Speech Therapy Apps and Technologies for Parents and Teachers

Table of Contents

Overview

Causes and Symptoms:

  • Articulation Disorders
  • Disfluency
  • Phonological Disorders
  • Muteness
  • Voice Disorders

Overview

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Communication is one way we insert ourselves into the world around us. It plays a major role in our ability to form relationships, express ourselves, seek opportunities, and share and take in knowledge. It’s no surprise, then, that when children struggle with speaking it can often set them back developmentally and negatively affect their wellbeing.

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) play a key role in helping children with speech disorders develop their communication skills. But technological developments are also making huge strides in this arena. There are a growing number of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices and applications and other educational and developmental applications available for use by SLPs, parents, teachers, and the children in their care.

Following is a resource guide featuring a collection of speech therapy apps and other technologies organized by the disorders for which they’re most useful. A dependable connection from AT&T U-verse Internet can help you utilize these apps on your favorite devices. Check out available U-verse Internet service packages and find a bundle that works for you and your family. Many of these apps can be used by children to complement the therapy they’re receiving from their SLP while others can be used by SLPs, parents, and teachers to help guide children with speech disorders through their therapies.

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Causes and Symptoms

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The first step in assisting a child with a disorder is knowing how to recognize that they’re having problems communicating. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of common disorders.

  • Articulation Disorders – As MedlinePlus explains, articulation disorders typically present as distorted sounds, especially consonant sounds that are "substituted, left off, added, or changed." The article also notes that sometimes the cause isn’t known. In other cases, family members may have similar issues or the problem may be caused by physical damage or deformity.
  • Disfluency – There are several symptoms of a disfluency. In this article, the New York Times presents a few of them, such as repeating sounds or words, inserting extra sounds or words, lengthening words, and more. Stuttering is the most common disfluency, and there are many causes. For example, according to MindDisorders.com, a child’s stuttering could be the result of a genetic predisposition, physiological, or even environmental.
  • Phonological Disorders – Children with these disorders substitute certain sounds for other sounds. As the "Speech Sound Assessment and Intervention Module" notes, a child might substitute a "t" sound for an "s." As TheCommunicationTrust.org explains, these disorders are usually connected to a language delay, disorder, or impairment.
  • Muteness – When not caused by a physical issue, HealthofChildren.com explains, that mutism is usually the result of social anxiety. Often, children will speak normally in one environment but will be selectively mute in others where they feel less secure.
  • Voice Disorders – As noted by Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, hoarseness, loss of voice, and throat pain, among other symptoms may indicate a voice disorder. Most often, as SpeechandVoiceTherapyCenter.com explains, these disorders are the result of vocal strain.

Speech Therapy Apps and Technologies Organized by Disorder

Today, there are many computer programs, applications, and other technologies available for people with speaking issues. In order to avoid becoming overwhelmed, it is helpful to first learn how to assess these apps based on your needs. The Kansas Speech Language Hearing Association has created a presentation to help potential users evaluate AAC apps. Once you’ve thought about the needs of your child, take a look at the information below to find the high-tech solution that will work best for them.

Articulation Disorders:

Apraxia – As the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association explains, children with apraxia have difficulty saying "sounds, syllables, and words." The problem occurs because the brain "has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary" for the child to say what they want to say.

  • NACD Home Speech Therapist – Developed by the National Association for Child Development, this family of iPad apps helps children at different points in their therapy. For example, "Speech Therapy for Apraxia" helps children at the syllable level while "Apraxia – Endings" helps with word endings:
  • Apraxia Picture Sound Cards – Developed by a certified Speech-Language Pathologist, the Sound Cards program presents "775 colorful and engaging picture cards, 45 phonogram cards & 10 number cards, and the Speech-EZ® Hand Cues in video format." It allows parents and therapists to tailor a session for a child’s specific needs and collects session-by-session data for tracking progress.
  • SmartyEars – This company was created by an SLP and was the first to develop speech therapy apps for mobile devices. Its suite of apraxia games helps children work on articulation and sound production. The games are great sources of practice for children in between therapy sessions.
  • LinguiSystems Apraxia Cards App – Designed for kids Pre-K – 7 years of age, five levels are used to guide children from basic syllable sequences to multisyllabic word production in sentences. It also includes record and playback features.
  • Mouthworks – Created by a practicing SLP with years of pediatric experience, children learn how to move their mouths to form certain sounds and syllables through animations and photos of real children. It is great practice for during and after therapy sessions.
  • SpeechBox – This easy-to-use app was developed by the father of a child with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. It uses retina-quality photos to help kids practice their words. And while it provides 700 photos, it also allows you to add your own to the mix using your iPad’s camera.
  • Speech FlipBook – FlipBook is unique because it arranges words by sound, making it that much easier for users to practice. It also allows users to record and playback sounds to see how they’re progressing and to isolate and playback sounds where they need extra practice.
  • Sly Speech – Produced by an SLP, the Sly Speech apps are laser-focused. They are designed to help users with specific sounds, from F,V sounds known as "Lip Coolers" to K,G sounds known as "Tongue Scrapers," and more.

Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia – The Dyspraxia Foundation explains that children with this disorder struggle with the precise movements needed to speak clearly. The result is that it is very difficult for others, even family members, to understand them.

  • SpeakColorsHD – Specifically designed for toddlers, users are prompted to "imitate and use simple sentences using colors and photos of objects."
  • Proloquo2Go – Therapists and parents will like this program because it can cater to beginning, intermediate, and advanced communicators. It helps users work on vocabulary, tone, and other areas of language development.
  • NDP3 – Designed for use by clinicians working with 3-7 year olds, the Nuffield Centre Dyspraxia Programme provides resources that span from pre- to connected speech. It features 500 structured worksheets, 42 articulogram cards, six 20-page flipbooks for assessments, and more.

Dysarthria – This disorder affects the muscles used for speaking. According to Mayo Clinic, the muscles are either too weak or too difficult to control and can be caused by "stroke, brain injury, brain tumors, and conditions that cause facial paralysis or tongue or throat muscle weakness."

  • TigaTalk – Licensed SLPs helped create this app, which works with children to help them learn how to make 23 phonetic sounds. In addition to helping children improve their skills and muscles, the site notes that the app is a great confidence-booster for users as it encourages them every step of the way.

Disfluency:

Cluttering – Missouri State University explains that people who clutter often have difficulty controlling the rate and clarity of their speech. The article notes that cluttering is usually accompanied by racing thoughts, "leaving off the end of words," frequent starts and stops, and other factors.

  • Computer Aided Assessment of Cluttering Severity – Presented by Minnesota State University, this program was created to help SLPs assess their clients’ cluttering severity. It determines the frequency and duration of cluttering. The program is free to download.
  • Speech Pacing Toolkit – Created by a UK Speech and Language Therapist, the toolkit includes two programs, Conversation Paceboard and Speech Pacesetter. Users work on pacing their speech using the Conversation Paceboard and with Speech Pacesetter they read text while following a "speed adjustable visual cue" to help control their pace and improve clarity.
  • Turtle Talk – From the creator of the Speech Pacing Toolkit, Turtle Talk also helps users pace their speech, but it is designed specifically for children.
  • Speak Better – From a software developer who specializes in Assistive Technology, Speak Better guides users through reading passages and provides pacing cues to help them slow their speech.

Stuttering – As the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders notes, with stuttering "sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech."

  • SpeechEasy – As the website explains, often people who stutter have improved fluency when singing, reading, or speaking along with others. This phenomenon is called the "choral effect." SpeechEasy is a device that is worn in the ear and simulates the choral effect to help a person who stutters speak more freely.
  • MyLynel – This app offers those who stutter the opportunity to continue practicing the techniques they use in their SLPs office after their session is over. It offers 30 therapy packs, 10 unique speech drills, and live sessions to help users practice in real conversations.
  • Speech Pathology Toolkit – Created for use by speech pathologists and therapists by two SLPs, the toolkit bundles together equipment frequently used in the field so that therapists and pathologists have them all in one place, right at their fingertips.
  • Fluency Smart Intervention Strategy – The Strategy was created for pathologists and therapists to use with children ages 8 – 12.

Phonological Disorders:

  • Sunny Articulation Phonology Test Kit – This assessment was developed through a partnership with SmartyEars and a trilingual SLP. It offers a quick, easy, and engaging way for clinicians to assess the articulation skills of children and adults.
  • Phonological Processes – As ASHA explains, minimal pair therapy helps children develop their phonological system by pairing words that "differ by only one phoneme or single feature signaling a change in meaning." Phonological Processes is designed for children ages 4 and up and offers an interactive and engaging way to lead the child through minimal pair therapy.
  • Minimal Pairs – For children in Pre-K – Sixth Grade, this program, which was developed by SLPs, leads children through three types of drills — Auditory Training, Contrast Drills, and Target Drills. The app is equipped to record each session so that clinicians can track their clients’ performance.
  • Articulation Test Center – Designed for use by SLPs, parents, and teachers, a child’s articulation ability is assessed using two tests — an easy-to-use screener that provides a general assessment of whether a child’s articulation skills are age-appropriate and a more in depth test for use by SLPs.
  • Easy Does It – This 2-Book Set and accompanying CD helps children with phonological disorders develop their phonological processes. It includes guidance materials for clinicians as well as activities materials for their clients.
  • Artikpix – Created by a tech developer who is also an SLP and Assistive Technology Specialist working in education, Artikpix can be used on iPhones and iPads. It uses a flashcard system that allows the cards to be arranged by sound group to help children work on specific articulation skills.
  • Phonopix – From the creator of Artikpix, this app uses minimal pairs to develop several phonological processes, including prevocalic voicing, final consonant deletion, marked blend reduction, and more. It can be used on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Muteness and Voice Disorders

  • Verbally – This AAC app helps those who struggle to speak communicate with others. Users simply type in what they want to say and it is played back using their selected "voice."
  • MyVoice – MyVoice offers two apps with customizable options that make communication easier for people with ALS, Aphasia, Autism, Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, MND, and Parkinson’s:
  • TouchChat – Created for people with Autism, Down Syndrome, ALS, apraxia, stroke, or others who have difficulty using their natural voice, TouchChat is an AAC app. It offers a built-in voice synthesizer and text sharing options.
  • JABTalk – This AAC app for Android was created by the parents of a non-verbal child. It gives a voice to those who have difficulty speaking. It is easily customizable and the creators provide several helpful video tutorials to assist users in getting started.
  • GabbyTabs – Designed for children who struggle to effectively communicate, this AAC program is easy for kids to use and is divided into tabs that help guide them through what they’re wanting to say. It was created by the parents of a non-verbal child with autism.
  • QuickTalk AAC – With versions for both iOS and Android devices, QuickTalk offers a way for young people who struggle to speak to communicate via their mobile devices. It is easy to setup and includes helpful features such as word prediction.
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