Bottom Line: Nearly perfect, this app is great for Speech-Language Pathologists and parents practicing at home. The only issue is the price. We've included free-trial links below.
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Free trial (with in-apps) Full ($49.99)
Articulation Station, from Little Bee Speech, was designed by a certified Speech-Language Pathologist to target speech-sound production, but is useful for much more.
The Pro version includes all 22 sound decks with more than 1,200 beautiful, full-color target words. The original free version includes the /p/ sound deck, and each of the other decks can be purchased individually. This is a great feature for parents as the specific sounds your child is targeting in therapy can be purchased to practice at home.
The app opens to the speech-sound decks, all listed by letter. Choose a letter to access the sound program. Tap the letter to hear the sound, and tap the light bulb at the top of each sound card for access to quick tips for teaching the sound and a link to the video tutorial. This video tutorial is a must-see and is just one of many excellent features in this app.
After choosing the sound, the user has to select from three options: words, sentences or stories, each with two activities. For words, the activities are flashcards and matching. The sentence activities include both rotating and unique sentences; and the stories section includes level 1 and level 2 stories. Before each activity begins, the user also chooses which sound position to work target (intial, medial, or final); they can all be selected at the word level, but only one at a time can be used when targeting sentences or stories.
In the flashcard activity, the picture is only named when tapped, a feature I like. Sometimes I want the child to attempt the production without hearing a model, while other times they need to hear it first. Each word can also be recorded quickly and easily by tapping the record button in the bottom left corner. Scroll through the pictures with a simple swipe; the app won't advance automatically, again, a great feature that allows for multiple practice attempts. The matching game can also track multiple-child scoring on each card or match, perfect for therapy sessions.
Most of the pictures are familiar vocabulary for children, though some were unfamiliar to my younger students - images such as shamrock, torch, and hedge. However, the images are clear and engaging, making it easier to teach the new words. I also used the pictures to practice phonological awareness, describing skills, comparison and categorization.
Articulation Station’s sentence level is especially creative. The rotating sentences activity provides a single sentence with one word that changes with the push of the "spin" button, while the unique sentences activity creates a different sentence each time, giving multiple opportunities to practice the target sound. Children who are not yet reading will benefit from the rotating sentences activity and the spin to change the word aspect was the highlight for every student, regardless of reading level.
For medial position /k/, the sentence “Becky put the _____ in the picnic basket,” resulted in some silly combinations when “raccoon” and “rocket” were in the picnic basket! This kept everyone eager to practice more.
I use the sentence level to practice sentence formation, and a group of older students worked on absurdities and inferences: Why is a piano in a purse silly? What would happen if you put a grasshopper in the dresser? This style of discussion question also provided practice on speech sounds in a more natural context, along with practice on answering simple comprehension questions about each sentence.
By far my favorite part about Articulation Station is the story level. The level one stories include 2-3 pictures per sentence, with two sentences on each card, and end with comprehension questions. The questions have three picture choices available, and all three include the target sound. The questions must be answered before moving on to the next question, but it is possible to go backward and review the story to look for the answer.
Level 2 stories are simply sound-loaded paragraphs to read aloud. Many SLPs have probably spent time creating stories just like this. The story for initial /l/ provided 27 practice attempts in the presented paragraph, which can be scored while the student reads. And just like in Level 1, the story is followed by several comprehension questions with picture-cue answers that must be completed before moving on. The story can also be heard by tapping the card.
This app also includes comprehensive data storage under individual profiles, allowing for easy collection for up to six in one session. One student can practice /l/ in words in the medial position while another works on /r/ blends in the Level 2 stories. These data options make utilizing this app in group therapy a breeze for the SLP. To end a group session, tap the home button, and then tap the done button, both in the upper left.
Articulation Station also has the ability to turn off several features: scoring buttons can be hidden, scoring sounds can be turned off, the voice audio can be turned off, and passing can be set at 80 or 90 percent correct. These options are always accessible in the bottom left corner—in one group session, I was able to turn voice audio on and off to meet individual needs.
It was hard for me to find any flaws in this app! Most of my favorite features are present: the layout is smooth and intuitive; data collection is easy and available for groups; data from each session can be emailed; qualitative notes can be added in the data section; each sound can be recorded; and there are multiple opportunities for creative use and language expansion.
On some sounds, the word selection was confusing. On several initial sounds (/f/ and /t/, for example), there were blends included in the word selection, such as “flag” and "truck". In addition, on some early developing sounds, the word choices include multi-syllabic words with more difficult sounds, which were harder for students with more significant speech-sound disorders. Thankfully, it is easy to skip words just by scrolling to the next word, so this is a minor point.
All of the students I have used it with have found the app itself highly motivating. Although they are accustomed to a reinforcing game after any articulation practice (say five words, get a turn), I have yet to provide game play along with this app because it hasn't been necessary. My seven-year old son loved working on his production of /l/ with the story activities--he also didn't even need a bribe!
I highly recommend this app for any SLP working with children. For a professional I think the cost of the pro version ($49.99) is fair compared to the cost of the normal articulation picture cards that the app would replace, especially considering the record-keeping options and not ever having to put the real cards back in order!
For parents, this app provides a great way to practice at home with your child to supplement speech therapy. If the cost of the pro edition is too high, the free version is a great way to try it out before committing, and with the in-apps packaged as individual sounds, parents can just buy the ones they need.
This review was written by Heather Hetler, a happy SLP grad student who loves helpful apps that make helping her three children and K-4 students hear how to produce sounds. Hooray!