Wednesday, May 1, 2013

App Review: Apraxia Ville

A few months ago, when I first saw the announcement that Smarty Ears was getting ready to submit their newest app, Apraxia Ville, to Apple, I was super excited!  If you are an SLP who works with children with Apraxia (or a parent of a child with Apraxia), you know that the key to effective treatment is frequent and intense practice.  (Want the evidence?  See "The Importance of Production Frequency in Therapy for Childhood Apraxia of Speech" by Denise Michelle Edeal and Christina Elke Gildersleeve-Neumann from the May 2011 edition of the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology).  "Frequent intense practice," 
that means "drill," right?  Finding activities that incorporate drill and are motivating for our students can be 
challenging.  That's why I was so excited to check out this app and provide this review for you!

Here's Apraxia Ville:

As you can see, Apraxia Ville has a fun farm theme!  The first time you open the app, you have the option of  watching a video tutorial (narrated by Barbara Fernandes of Smarty Ears).  I highly recommend watching this video.  If you don't watch it the first time around, you can access it HERE (scroll to the bottom) or by tapping the "Support Button". You can also start a "Quick Play" session, "Select (and enter) Player" for data collection and reports, View your "Reports and (create) Homework," and contact Smarty Ears for "Support." Tapping "More Games" will give you a list of all of the apps available from Smarty Ears.

When you add players, you are given the option of using one of many avatars or a photograph:

You can select multiple players and even import players from Therapy Report Center (TRC - a free app from Smarty Ears to which you can import data from most of your Smarty Ears apps and view in one place!).  Tapping "Settings" allows you to modify the words used for each phoneme and even to add your own words!

There are three activities to choose from in Apraxia Ville - The Sound Windows; The Farm House; and The Words Farm:

The Sound Windows:

In this mode, you can target CV sequences.  The boy is animated to show the child how to produce the consonant sound and the girl produces the vowel sound.  You can activate production of the sound by tapping the child.  See the apple under the boy and girl?  You can slow down the speed of production by sliding the apple.  This will help children visualize how the sounds are made.

The default for this activity is /b/ and /a/.  However, you can change the sounds by tapping on the wooden sign with the sound.  Then you will be able to scroll through the available sounds:

Another fun feature - you can tap the camera icon (if your iPad has a camera) and have the child watch themselves produce the sound:

The Farm House:

When you choose this activity, you will be prompted to select syllable structures and phoneme targets for each student.  You can choose consonant sounds and/or specific vowels.  Note:  If you choose consonants and vowels, they won't necessarily appear in each word (e.g., selecting vowels will cause different consonants to appear in your activity).

In "The Farm House," target words appear in the main doors.  Selected players will appear in the upper windows, and you can utilize the Sound Windows if needed by tapping the magnifying glass.  To select a player/change players, tap on the avatar.  Icons for marking accuracy of responses will appear above the player's avatar.  You can mark a response as correct (green), almost/assisted (yellow), or incorrect (red):

You can also tap the red circle to record a student's production of the target words and the green triangle to play the recording back.

The Words Farm:

For this activity, you will be prompted to select the number of words per screen for each student.  You can choose specific consonant sounds and syllable shapes in the activity itself.

Here is what the activity looks like using two words per screen:

And here is an example using three words per screen:

Notice that you still have the option of marking the accuracy of responses and of recording responses.  You can change the target phonemes by tapping the phoneme circle (in the example above, I used /p/, /t/, /k/).  You can change the syllable shape by tapping the CV circle (your options are CV & VC or CVC).  You can tap any word to hear an audio model of that specific word.  Tapping the green arrow above the words will play and audio model of the three words in succession.

Reports & Homework:

From the home screen, if you tap "Reports and Homework," you can view data collection and generate homework for selected students.

You can view data by "History."  This will give you the Session Date(s), Session Duration, Number of Participants, Activity, Target Phonemes, Syllable Structure, and Accuracy:

You can also view data by consonant production:

And vowel production:

You can generate a homework document for students by selecting the target phoneme and syllable shape:

This will generate a pdf which you can email to yourself or to the parent, open in iBooks/Kindle, or print via Air Print (if you have that capability):

So that's a basic overview of Apraxia Ville (which sells for $21.99 in iTunes).  Here are some of my thoughts:

The Pros:

  • The drill work that is necessary for targeting Apraxia can be tedious for both therapists and students.  Most of my students are much happier to work with the iPad than without.  This app makes the drill work more fun for all involved!
  • I love that you can view the Sound Windows while targeting words in "The Farm House."  If a child is having trouble producing a word, this can be an incredibly helpful tool!
  • I also love that you can use the iPad camera function in the Windows for students to view themselves making a sound.  
  • I love "The Words Farm" for those students who have moved beyond the word level.  This activity is very similar to the Word FLIPS book from Super Duper that I use regularly within my sessions, but gives you more flexibility in that you can change the syllable shapes as well as the phonemes.
  • Built in data collection and homework pages!  Data collection is fabulous, but the addition of generating homework pages is amazing!  You can print pages to share with parents and teachers.  This provides a great way to increase trials in the classroom and at home.
Changes I would like to see in an update:
  • I used this app with a child who has a diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).  She is working on sound sequencing in multisyllable words, so we used "The Words Farm."  After a few minutes, she said to me "I thought we were gonna play a game."  Even though the drill work is a necessary evil for students with this diagnosis, I would love to see some sort of reinforcement after a predetermined time frame (5 minutes, 10 responses, etc.).  Even something as simple as feeding the cow, brushing the horse, etc, would increase the motivation of students.
  • I've gone back and forth about whether or not to include this point.  I decided to include it, even though I know it might not be feasible/prudent of the developers to make this change (More on that in a minute).  With respect to the syllable shapes, I would LOVE it if CV and VC were separated.  I've been using this app with a little guy who just can't switch between the two targets in one session.  We just skip over the VC words, but it would be easier if they were separated out.  With that said, I understand why they aren't...there just aren't enough VC and CV words for any given target!  However, if I was thinking it, some of you might as well.  
The bottom line:

Apraxia Ville is a great app for use with students with a diagnosis of CAS, Apraxia, motor planning difficulties, and even articulation/phonological delays.  We all know that drill-work is not fun, but this app can help to alleviate some of the tedium of the drills.  Apraxia Ville is great for students who are just beginning to sequence CV, VC, and CVC syllable shapes and also for students who are working on combining syllables.

What is your favorite way to "spice up" drill work for kids with CAS?

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