Bottom Line: A parent-friendly app to use for working on speech sounds; good for kids with apraxia and other speech impairments who need practice with simpler words. Customizable!
If you would like to work on speech sounds at home or with your caseload you can download Speechbox™ for Speech Therapy (Apraxia, Autism, Down's Syndrome)($19.99, limited time sale, iPad only) using the Smart Apps for Kids handy Link:
As a speech-language pathologist who works with young children, I have used apps before to work on speech sound production. In fact, I don't even know where many of my regular picture cards are anymore, since it's so much easier to pull out the iPad and find the app that is perfect for that particular child. I have, and use, most of them.
But I was still very excited to try out and review SpeechBox. This new app, by The Jonah Bonah Learning Company, LLC, was created by the parent of a 3 year old with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). The goal was to provide a simpler app to focus on simpler words for good practice. I think it definitely meets that goal, especially for parents wanting to practice more with their children at home.
This app is not a complete program for treating CAS. It doesn't provide a treatment sequence, visual or tactile cues, or specialized assessment. It is not a replacement for a qualified speech-language pathologist. It also won't be perfect, without customization, for every child needing to work on speech sound production.
However, in combination with therapy provided by an SLP, SpeechBox is an app that is very accessible for parents to use, and also useful for therapists and teachers. It also has a parent-friendly (or friendlier!) price.
Some of the key benefits of SpeechBox:
- Organized by each individual speech sound. If an SLP says a child should practice /p/ sounds at home, the parent can simply tap the /p/ box.
- Specification by initial, medial, or final position of sounds is easy—just tap on the bottom of the screen when in each box to select.
- Easy access to settings, including being able to switch between female/male voice prompts and turning on/off any custom prompts.
- Parental Lock button to keep the child from changing any settings or accessing any social media.
- Easy to add new picture cards into preexisting boxes as well as into new boxes! Existing cards can be added to new groups for very individualized practice, and new pictures can be added, including recording an audio prompt.
- New boxes can be shared with other SpeechBox users—perfect for an SLP to set up "homework" and send to the parent.
- New boxes can be by any categorization—a box could be set up to go with a curricular theme, a holiday, or even a child's Christmas wish list (now that would be functional!)
- Over 700 realistic photo cards, with audio prompts, included in the app.
- A more interactive presentation of the picture cards. All of the cards are layered on top of one another, as if the child decided to play "picture card pick up" by tossing them all on the floor.
- An update that is supposed to include British and Australian voice prompts, Dropbox support for importing pictures, Bing image search and sorting of boxes for better organization is due out any day.
I also have many teachers who are willing to work with students on speech sound production in the classroom, but have no idea where to start. The ability to send customized boxes straight to a teacher is one I hope to be able to use.
Older students can also make their own boxes! My articulation students don't all need simple words, but they do all benefit from creative ways to make practicing their sounds fun. I am in the process with a few third grade students of making a list of words with their target sound, finding (or taking) a picture, and recording the word using a good sound. And why stop at word level? Each student can also record a sentence with that word.
Teachers also could make use of this app—use boxes when learning the "letter of the week" or create new boxes for vowel sounds or vocabulary units. With the audio cues turned off, students can also practice reading and sounding out single words.
This app is marketed as being simple, and the words are definitely simpler to produce than many in other apps. However, there were some that I considered harder—many two-syllable words and words with consonant blends. For instance, just in the /b/ box I consider these words to be potentially more difficult: bagel, balloon, banana, band, beard, belt, bench, black, blob, block, blow, blue, bread, brown, brush, butter, button, table, and zebra.
Being more difficult certainly doesn't mean they aren't worth practicing, but without any levels listed in the app for guidance, a parent may find their child frustrated when attempting words that are still too difficult.
There were also a few pictures categorized incorrectly. For example, a picture of the letter G was categorized in the /g/ box, but the letter "G" is pronounced with a "j" sound. The same is true for "page. Other problematic sounds are /s/--it's often pronounced as a /z/; and medial and final /w/--"blow" (among others) does not actually have a /w/ sound, it's just spelled that way. Several of the sound positions have very few cards, as well. There is only one card (sushi) for medial /sh/, making it not very useful for any kind of practice. These issues may be addressed in an update due out this week.
As a professional, I found myself wishing that I could also sort by vowel sounds. And of course, I can do so by setting up a customized box. It's more work, of course, but the customization makes this app much more useful for me. I can delete cards out of the boxes where they don't belong, and add them where they should be.
Overall, this is a creative app that parents may find easy to use, with direction from their child's speech-language pathologist. SLPs will also be able to utilize it, especially for the customization and ability to share. The pictures are clear and varied, the narration is professional, and I'm glad to have it in my bag of tricks.