Lisa Gonidakis, a speech pathologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, believes in the power of tablet apps for kids experiencing speech difficulties. But she cautions buyers, beware.
“Anybody can make an app and say it is a great app,” said Gonidakis. “You have to be picky about which ones you invest in. Some really aren’t that worthwhile.”
She encourages you to work with your children’s speech pathologist to weed out the ineffective apps. Apps should never replace speech therapy, just offer a fun way to reinforce all their new skills and drills.
She also reminds parents that what might appeal to one child may bore the next. “An app doesn’t mean anything unless it actually engages the child,” she said.
Gonidakis also recommends switching apps every few weeks to keep the learning fresh and fun for your kids.
“There are a ton of great ones out there. Make sure to back it up in your iTunes library so you don’t end up using all of your memory on your device,” she said. “When you are ready to reintroduce the app to your child, it will be there waiting for you.”
Following are some of the apps that Gonidakis has been recommending her patients with speech difficulties:
Balloonimals: This is a fun, interactive app that is great for cause-and-effect, labeling colors and animals, and following basic motor commands (push, shake, pop, etc). It uses balloon animal cartoons, which your child can blow up, shape into an animal, animate and pop. You can try the “lite” version for free, and if your child seems to enjoy it, you can buy the regular version for $1.99.
Magic Voice: Created by certified speech and language pathologists, this free app “allows children to initiate and move animated scenes using the power of their voice.” You can set the skill level to easy, medium or hard, depending on your child’s abilities. “This has cute animation and quick rewards for kids who are learning to use their voice,” said Gonidakis.
JibJab Jr. Books: Put your child’s face into an interactive storybook. Kids love to see themselves as the main characters, and it gives parents a great opportunity to target pronouns (“I”, “he”, “she”), labeling objects/actions and story sequences. Purchasing each book can get pricey, but you can try out a free book to see how your child responds to it before buying more. The app itself is free.
iPrompts: While pricey at $49.99, this app can be valuable for kids with special needs who benefit from using a picture schedule for daily routines. iPrompts allows you to make and save picture schedules, make choice boards, and has a countdown timer to assist with transitioning between activities. This app comes with a photo library, or you can easily import pictures from your own device to customize each schedule.