Thursday, April 18, 2013

App Review: Describe With Art

Last week, I used two new apps by Virtual Speech Center in some of my therapy sessions:  Syntax Workout (see my review of that app HERE) and Describe With Art.  According to the Virtual Speech Center's website, Describe with Art was created by a certified speech and language pathologist.   It's designed to be used with preschool and elementary school-age children who struggle with verbally describing or following directions containing descriptive vocabulary.  Describe With Art was created to teach children how to describe things surrounding them and help them follow directions with descriptors in a fun and motivating way. 

Using the App:

Home Screen
When you open the app, you see the screen above.  From hear, you can go straight to the reinforcement (Paint) activity, view your reports from previous sessions, see information regarding the app and Virtual Speech Center, modify your settings, and start to play.  

Settings screen

The settings you can modify for this app are:

  • User Alternate Count - For use with more than one player
  • Enable Audio - Turns on/off audio instructions
  • Show Instructions - Turns on/off written instructions
  • Automatic Paging - When turned on, the app will move to the next item after a correct response.
  • Random Paging - Changes the order of presentation of items.
  • Enable Reward - Turn on/off Painting reward
  • Award Counter - The number of correct responses needed for reward.

Once you hit "Start," you will be prompted to add/select students.  You are able to add multiple students and track their data.  After selecting your students, you will then select the activity/activities you wish to use for each selected student:  

Activity Selection

Describe it (Expressive Activity):  The first set of activities is the expressive portion of the app.  You can select from seven basic categories for describing:
  • People
  • Animals
  • Objects
  • Places
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Transportation

In the "Describe It" activity, students are shown a picture and asked to describe the picture.  In the example picture below, the prompt given is "Describe this person."  You can tap the record button and record the student's response.  If a student has difficulty generating a response independently, there are question prompts that can be accessed by tapping the numbers below the picture.

The question prompts for describing people are:

  1. Who is it? How old is this person?
  2. Describe his/her height and weight.
  3. Describe his/her hair color, style, and length.
  4. Describe his/her face, skin, eyes, and nose.
  5. Describe his/her clothes.
Here's an example from "Places"

The question prompts for "places" are:
  1. What place is it?
  2. What do you see in this place?
  3. What can we do there?

Follow Directions (Receptive Activity):  For this activity, you can choose from five sets of questions.  The student is shown 4 images and asked to select one based on descriptors.  Here are some examples (one from each set:

Set 1:  "Show me the tall farm animal that has white and black spots and gives us milk."

Set 2:  "Show me the garden tool that is sharp and used for trimming."

Set 3:  "Show me the elegant piece of clothing for a man worn around the neck."

Set 4:  "Show me the metal instrument that we play by shaking it."

Set 5:  "Show me the farm animal with short red fur that we can ride."

There are some points I wanted to add about the "following directions" activity.  First, the app will automatically tally correct/incorrect responses.  For kids who are used to the iPad, you may want to turn on "automatic paging."  If a student taps a correct answer and nothing happens, I've noticed that they'll either keep tapping the picture, or try tapping the others pictures.  Even though a sound indicates correct/incorrect responses, I've found that the kids always expect something to happen (i.e. move on to the next item).  In this activity, you can record a student either repeating the direction, responding to the direction, or describing the target object.  And my favorite thing about this activity.  Notice in the screen below that the images are faded?  Well, the student CANNOT respond to the direction until the entire direction is stated!  Why do I love this?  Well, I have a lot of impulsive/impatient kiddos on my caseload.  They hear the first description and immediately begin tapping away at one of the pictures without hearing the entire description.  This forces them to listen to the whole thing!  You can always repeat the direction by pressing the replay button at the bottom of the screen.

After a certain number of correct responses (the number you chose in the settings), you are able to do the reinforcement activity of painting.  The painter comes on the screen and asks if you'd like to paint now (you also have the option to skip):

Reinforcement introduction

Reinforcement activity

Data Collection:
Like most speech-specific apps, Describe With Art has built-in data collection.  At the end of your sessions, you can generate a report (like the one below), which you can print (if you have Air Print capabilities), or email to yourself for printing.

And there you have Describe With Art!  Here's the breakdown:


  • The use of photographs.  This is always a plus in my opinion!  Photos are more easily relatable than drawings/symbols, especially for children with lower cognitive function.
  • Receptive/Expressive components in the same app.  This not only increases the versatility of the app, but also increases your ability to use the app with mixed groups of students.  
  • The question prompts in the "Describe It" activity are great for students who have difficulty formulating sentences/describing pictures on their own.  
  • As stated above, I love the fact that you need to listen to the entire direction before making a selection when using the "Following Directions" activity.  Also, many of our students can follow simple directions and even simple multi-step directions.  This is the only app I've come across that targets complex single step directions.  
  • Built-in reinforcement and data collection.  The painting activity is fun and motivating for students, and who doesn't love data collection!
Changes I would make in an update:
  • You can't change the settings without finishing your sessions.  I would love it if there was a way to return to the home screen and change settings/add targets without finishing the session entirely.  
  • Some of the question prompts weren't 100% logical for each of the pictures.  For example, when describing a picture of a desert, one of my students required the question prompts.  He had difficulty coming up with a good response to the prompt "What can we do there?" 

The Bottom Line:
Describe With Art is a great app for targeting understanding and using descriptions, building descriptive vocabulary, and following directions.  You could also use this app to target articulation/voice/fluency carry-over, syntax/grammar, and WH- questions.  You definitely get your money's worth with this app and it has proven to be both engaging and motivating for my students!  You can find Describe With Art in the App Store.  It sells for $9.99.

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