#TechTuesday: How apps can help kids with speech problems

2012-05-24 16:39:53 by Laurie Schueler, Media Relations Specialist, as posted on the inside.akronchildrens.org blog.

We’ve officially entered generation tech. A study by Internet security company AVG found that more kids ages 2 to 5 can play computer games than ride a bike. And while the availability of technology can certainly create concerns with overuse, they have a very real and valuable place in our lives.

That’s why we’re introducing “Tech Tuesday,” a weekly review of recommended apps and other technology that can help your child learn as well as cope with a medical condition.

This week I talked to Akron Children’s speech pathologist Lisa Gonidakis, CCC-SLP. Gonidakis uses iPads as teaching tools and to reinforce good work and learning skills.

“I have families asking me nearly every day for recommendations on using their iPad or iPod to reinforce their child’s speech and language needs,” said Gonidakis. “It’s very easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm surrounding the seemingly endless use of these devices. After all, ‘there’s an app for that’ now refers to just about every daily task we could encounter.”

Here’s a list of a few of Gonidakis’ favorite apps, in no particular order. Check back next Tuesday for more recommendations.

Starfall ABCs– This phonics-based app costs $2.99 and helps introduce letters, letter-sound correspondence and early literacy. The graphics and animation work to motivate children as they “see, hear and interact with letters and sounds in words, sentences, and games.” Gonidakis says she often recommends this app as a supplement to articulation therapy and/or phonological awareness.

Teach Me apps – These educational apps for toddlers through second-graders target age-appropriate tasks (colors, letters, numbers, math, handwriting) with frequent reinforcements. Kids earn coins to shop in their virtual store, and parents get a “report card” of their child’s achievement in each area. Each app in the series is $0.99.

WeetWoo – This educational app has been rated the “#1 kid-friendly video app.” It offers fun and engaging videos to help your child learn. “As a therapist, I believe that music and singing have a significant effect on language development,” said Gonidakis. “This app works to filter safe, educational, parent-reviewed YouTube videos for your child. A child can scroll through their favorite videos without parents worrying that they’ll encounter inappropriate material.” The app costs $3.99.

ABA apps – This series of apps from kindergarten.com is free. Used by educators and speech pathologists, the ABA apps target identification of objects, categories and concepts. They include flash cards and games that teach language concepts to young children. The apps are also customizable and use a visual reward system to keep the child engaged.

While Gonidakis is an app enthusiast, she cautions parents that the iPad is just a tool in our toolbox of learning and language. It doesn’t replace speech and language therapy and won’t provide a quick fix to your child’s needs.

It’s what you do with apps that make them valuable. We encourage parents to play these apps with their children.  Apps related to your child’s speech and language goals should be discussed with your child’s teacher or speech-language pathologist to ensure that settings and tasks are appropriate to address their needs.

If you’re interested in using an iPad as a speech-generating device, discuss the options with your speech pathologist so she can find an app that’s appropriate for your child’s needs and skill level.

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