What It Is: An articulation app from Smarty Ears that uses a video model to correct positioning of the articulators from both the side and frontal view. It also utilizes the front-facing camera to allow clients to see themselves side-by-side with the model’s movements.
How It Works: This app is fairly straightforward. It provides two brief “videos” of how to produce every consonant and vowel. One video is a lateral (side) view that gives a view of the oral, nasal, and pharyngeal cavities and shows appropriate movement of the lips, tongue, palate, etc.
The second video is an anterior (frontal) view of an avatar that mainly demonstrates appropriate lip movement. When the device is in portrait view, these videos are the only thing on the screen. With newer devices (iPad 2, iPhone 4/4S) that have the front-facing camera, placing the device on it’s side (landscape view) allows the client to see themselves on half the screen while still seeing the videos on the other half of the screen. In addition, there are step-by-step instructions for how to make each sound, highlighting the articulators involved. (E.g., for the /f/ phoneme, the first step highlights the lips/teeth and a voice says, “First, move your lower lip to touch the upper teeth.”)
My Therapy Applications: I use this at least a little with most of my clients who are working on articulation goals. We often start our activities with this. It’s been particularly helpful with my clients who are working on sounds such as /k, g/, since they cannot see my tongue placement. I also use it as a motivational tool when the kids I work with are getting a little antsy and using a mirror or placement/metaphoric cues just isn’t keeping their focus!
Pros: 1. The price is relatively low compared to many articulation apps.
2. Includes all phonemes, compared to many apps that focus on the most frequently misarticulated phonemes or leave out vowels.
3. Gives a viewpoint (of the tongue/palate in particular) that cannot be seen through modeling/mirror use.
4. The side-by-side “mirror image” allows the user to get some visual feedback on their productions directly compared to the correct production.
5. It is available for iPhone/iPad, so I can have it up on my iPhone while doing a game on the iPad.
Cons: 1. The timing of the sound production is frequently delayed.
2. Some sounds aren’t articulated very clearly.
3. The app isn’t completely anatomically correct (e.g. the tongue, vocal folds); however, this hasn’t ever gotten in the way of my therapy. In fact, the vocal fold vibration (or lack of it for unvoiced phonemes) is shown in a way that a child could easily comprehend.
Overall Rating: 4/5
The Take-Away: Overall, this app was worth the purchase. I use it frequently in articulation therapy, the kids are highly motivated by it, and it gives them access to a visual of the oral/nasal/pharyngeal cavities that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see as well as the ability to do a side-by-side comparison of their productions compared to the models. Don’t expect the perfectly coordinated movements and timing that you would see in a real human model, but it gives a good starting point for teaching articulation.