What It Is: A speech sound discrimination app by Therapy Box.
How It Works: This app has two parts: discrimination and phrase completion. Upon opening the app, if you enter the discrimination side, you are prompted to choose any two phonemes (e.g. /p/ and /b/). You are then shown two pictures (e.g. “pack” and “back”). After you touch the play button, a voice speaks one of the words to you, and you are to touch the picture/word that correctly represents what the speaker said. For example, you may hear “pack” and should then touch the picture of the pack. It will let you know if you right or wrong and give you the option to try again if you were wrong. At the end of that deck, it provides a data sheet. The phrase completion side of the app is similar. The difference is that instead of hearing a word and picking between two pictures/words, you hear the beginning of a phrase (e.g. “swim at the _______”) and pick which of the two pictures/words is correct (e.g. “beach” instead of “peach”).
My Therapy Applications: I’ve used this app with quite a few of my preschool-aged clients. With this age group, additional prompting is often needed from the therapist; however, the app has been a great way to help them distinguish between various phonemes and also practice producing the correct phonemes. Because the app allows you to pair a wide variety of sounds, I’ve been able to use it with children who do the common substitutions (e.g. t/k) as well as those who do the more unusual substitutions (e.g. f/t). I’ve also used the app as a starting point for simpler or more complex versions of this activity (e.g. pointing to one of the pictures and having the child gives me a thumbs down if I say it the wrong/silly way and thumbs up if I say it the right way).
Pros: 1. Great customization options. You can choose specifically which phonemes you want compared, whether or not the sound is on, what noises occur after a correct/incorrect response, AND if you want the choices to be presented as symbols, words, or both.
2. The format is user-friendly with an easy-to-navigate layout.
3. Many minimal pair apps that I have used seem to only focus on discrimination or production. In this app, it is possible to address both.
5. The target phonemes are always in the same spot. For example, if you choose the /k/ and /t/ phonemes, the /k/ option (e.g. a picture of “cake”) will always be shown on the left and the /t/ option (e.g. a picture of the action “take”) will always be shown on the right. This means less of the child’s focus is required to decipher the format and can instead be placed on the actual purpose of the task: phoneme discrimination/production.
6. When a mistake is made, the app offers an option to try again.
Cons: 1. Price. $29.99 is hefty when compared to many of the other speech/language apps out there; however, it is comparable to the price of similar apps and considerably less than traditional minimal pairs games. In other words, the cost is a barrier but not necessarily unfair.
2. The app has been given a 12+ rating for some mature content. For example, one picture shows a few alcoholic drinks and represents the word “bar.” I usually just skip over this with my younger clients and they’re none the wiser, but it is something I wish I didn’t have to be cautious about.
3. Many of the words are not easily represented objects. This means that, for children who cannot read, you may have to tell them the words; however, this also means that there are plenty of examples. This is something to consider but not something that has ever complicated my therapy sessions.
4. This app ONLY targets INITIAL phonemes.
5. Group data collection is not possible at this time.
6. There are currently a couple “cons” that will soon be updated. First, a British voice is currently the only option. Soon, a US recording will be available as well. Also, as of now it is not possible to skip pairs or go to the end without completing each pair. Per the app developer, these things will be possible in the update that is coming very shortly.
Overall Rating: 4/5
The Take-Away: In my experience, none of the “cons” have noticeably affected therapy, and the app has been a great tool. The biggest problem that most SLPs will face is the cost. Overall, the app will likely be worth the price for those who frequently focus on this skill. For those who would only need to use it occasionally, other less-expensive tools may be more appropriate.
Looking for expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!
*Full Disclosure: I was contacted by the app developer to review this app.*