The iPad has enhanced the delivery of speech therapy services. No longer am I required to lug 10 different vocabulary card decks, board games, and reinforcers (i.e. bribery such as stamps, candy, stickers, etc) to therapy sessions. Not only are the apps easily adaptable for various types of disorders but the ability of apps to record voice/video, document data, and email data to caregivers really makes them an invaluable tool in my tool box. Some children may even use the iPad as an augmentative alternative communication (ACC) device as there are many excellent apps created specifically for this purpose.
Since the introduction of the iPad to my therapy sessions last year, I have really been amazed at the unlimited opportunities for learning. I can adapt any of my applications to the individual needs of each client. Additionally, the iPad is so motivating that I can use it to encourage even the most reluctant talkers. However, I must share two beliefs that I have in regards to the iPad. First, verbal communication and interaction between child and caregiver is strongly encouraged over time spent with the iPad. Second, if you have any concerns regarding your child’s communication, seek help through a professional as the iPad does not replace a licensed speech language pathologist.
These reviews are based on my personal experience in working with my young population, toddlers through six. Please remember that each child is as unique as their fingerprint, and what one likes another may not. Here are my top 5 most frequently used apps in therapy.
My all-time favorite that I use with my toddlers and early talkers is Peek-a-boo Barn. This app encourages little ones to tap the barn door to find the animal hiding behind it. Children can hear the animal names and their sounds. After all the animals are labeled, the sun goes down and all the animals go to sleep. I also use this app to model asking the question, “what’s that?” and concepts such as “open”, “close”, “night, night”, “shh”, and “sleeping.” This app can also be used with 9 different languages, which is wonderful for my Spanish speakers. This app has a free lite version and the full version is 99 cents.
Balloon Pops is a very simple app. The child touches the balloon and the balloon pops. The app allows the child to pop balloons while counting them, 10 total, or pop to music. I use it to encourage imitation of any early developing sound (b,p,m, w, h), targeted words, or silly sounds. I may even use it to count 1,2,3. Toddlers don’t need to know how to count to 10 in my book. This app is 99 cents.
Talking Tom Cat responds to any touch and also mimics any verbal sound. There are many different versions of this type of app but I found toddlers enjoy the cat the most. At first, I find most little ones don’t fully grasp the concept until I model it several times and within minutes they love to hear their own voice. I use this app to model asking questions, describing, and demonstrate verbal turn taking. This app is free.
Toddler Jukebox plays 12 classic children songs. What I sincerely appreciate in this app is the fact that I can slow down or speed up the music. This is especially helpful with early talkers who can’t sing along to faster paced songs. I use this app to encourage choice making, turn taking, and overall expressive language. This app is priced at $1.99 but and worth it if you have a little singer.
Toddler Flashcards (iTot) are real-life photo flashcards. The cards are organized into different categories and the app is available in several different languages. I use this app for learning new vocabulary and working on yes/no (i.e., “is it a bird?”) questions. There is a lite version (free) and an upgraded version for $1.99.
Zoo Train is a puzzle app that has five different categories of puzzles. It can also be used with ages ranging from kinder level to beginning readers. I use this app to describe what the child sees, answering a variety of “wh” questions, encouraging 2-3 word phrases, and the concepts “in,” “on,” “fast,” “slow.”
Toca Doctor not only encourages language development but also fine motor skills. The child gets to play doctor but also solve mini puzzles and games in the human body. I focus on body part names, concepts “first, then” or “first, next, last” , and pointing. I use all of the Toca Boca apps – they are excellent!
The Apple store describes Is that Silly? as “an engaging app that children get to observe, notice, make decision, and verbalize which image is silly or not silly. “ There are so many different language opportunities in this application that I wouldn’t know where to begin to list them. However, it does cost $9.99, which is expensive if you aren’t a speech therapist who is going to use this on a weekly basis.
Tozzle is another puzzle type app that one of my parents introduced me to, and I couldn’t be more thankful. What I enjoy about this app is that there are frequent updates (puzzles change every few months) and the levels range from earliest puzzle solver to the highly skilled puzzle solver. I utilize this app for 2 word (label + prepositions) utterances, vocabulary, and overall reinforcement (they are quick puzzles and breaks are needed in speech therapy).
Cookie Doodle is probably the most favorite app of my preschool population (next to Angry Birds which we never play in speech therapy). Children get to bake without making a mess. They can use instant cookie dough or a recipe. When making a recipe the child can shake the salt, pour the vanilla, crack the egg, mix the flour, roll the dough, and so much more. They can choose their cookie cutters, bake the cookie, and decorate the cookie. All this fun without a single crumb on the floor! Cooking is always a fun language experience and this app allows me to do it easily. The price is 99 cents.
*This app does have many choices so if it is overwhelming for your child, Cupcakes by Maverick Software may be a better app.
There are so many educational apps that this post could have went on forever. My suggestions are: read the reviews, try the lite version, and sign up for a few good app review pages (see below). Many of the developers are on Facebook. There are often giveaways or sales on apps so you just have to keep your eyes open.
If you have know any other great iPad app that you find helpful, just let us know at TeachSpeech. We would love to hear what works for your little one(s).
Others Apps I Use:
Verbs with Milo
Sounds –Different Roads to Learning
Monkey Math (older preschool)
Excellent App Review Sites: