Monday, September 9, 2013

Autism Language Learning - Review

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Bottom Line: A great option for video modeling to help children with a language impairment or delay. It’s pricey, and the user interface takes a little time to learn, but the content is fantastic and a great addition to the therapy toolbox. Free lite versions available for both modules.  **ON SALE FOR A LIMITED TIME: Series I for just $19.99 and Series II for $10.99**

 If you would like to download Autism Language Learning Series I (iPad/iPhone, $26.99) or Series II (iPad/iPhone $15.99), please use these links to support Smart Apps For Kids:
Series I:                        Series II:


Series I Lite:                Series II Lite:



Autism Language Learning from TalkTime Pediatric Speech Academy is a unique app in a market of All2 more than 900,000 apps. While it seems at least one third of that total is made up of alphabet learning apps, there are surprisingly few that use video to teach, and even fewer that use video to teach to learners at a lower language level. When you take out any app that is “babyish” or geared to the average two-year-old, Autism Language Learning really stands alone.

So it’s a good thing that it does what it is designed to do very well. The goal of this app series is to provide video modeling to teach basic language skills — in the two current modules, the skills include the early sentence structure of “pronoun + is/are + verb + ing,” and answering basic yes/no questions. Both of these skills can be particularly hard for young children with a language delay or impairment to master, especially children with autism.
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Each module is also divided easily to target a specific level or skill. In the actions series, the user can choose to work on he, she, they, or a mix, with videos demonstrating sentences like “He is eating,” “They are sneezing,” and “She is dusting.”  In the yes/no questions series, there are divisions for common objects (“Is this a banana?”), actions (“Is she jumping”?) and common facts (“Does the giraffe have a trunk?”).

The inclusion of the divisions in the yes/no questions actually led to a moment of joy for me. This is one of my biggest complaints with the way many apps and materials treat yes/no questions. The ability to answer the questions depends a lot on the type of yes/no question asked. Having them easily divided helps me as the therapist target exactly what I want to target.

I love that the app uses videos of real people and photographs of real objects, instead of cartoons or All5 animals or even cartoon animals. Often those who are delayed in language development have difficulty making the connection between a representation and real life — a cartoon cow jumping up and down might not help in learning the phrase “He is jumping.”

Each video clip is short and focuses exclusively on the targeted vocabulary. It is helpful that the app has removed any competing features in the environment, so that students can focus on learning the right verb. If the scene were visually crowded, it might be hard for the student to focus on exactly the targeted action. The same is true for apps that incorporate games — the game can often be a distracting feature, especially in a therapeutic context.

The amount of content in each module is excellent — there are 54 actions and almost 150 video clips in Series I, and 13 still pictures with 43 videos in Series II (yes/no questions.) A reasonably priced in-app purchase (currently $1.99) allows users to add video to Series I, which is an amazing feature. If there is an action to teach that isn’t included in the app, it’s very easy to add a new slide. This also allows the adult user to set up a module to help teach the first person pronoun "I" as well by taking videos of the child performing different actions.
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The narration in this app is very clear, with great intonation and rate. It makes a good model for individuals learning language. There is also a record feature on each photo, allowing the child or client to use the model to produce language, though the recordings are not saved in the data. I also liked that the text of each action or question can be turned on or off on the start page of each module, and the narration can be muted easily on each slide.

The overall cost of the app modules is higher than many iOS users will like. With the regular price of Series I at 26.99 and Series II at $15.99, the app may be out of reach for families who are interested in using it in a home setting. I know that the cost must be high in order to develop such great a app with videos, and it is far more useful to me clinically than apps with just photos or drawings. Both modules provide excellent therapy material, and aren’t designed to entertain, so while the price is high, it seems reasonable from a therapeutic viewpoint.

There are also free demo versions of each module. These lite versions have limited content, but they do allow a user to try it out before committing to the full app. Those unsure if the app will meet their needs can take advantage of a true "try before you buy" model.

As much as I like this app, a few tweaks to the user interface would be nice. It was the first app I’ve All6 used in a long time that didn’t feel at all intuitive, and it took me some time to figure out how to use it, especially the data collection in Series I. There is a help section for the data collection, and because the app isn’t easy to figure out, I’d recommend every user start there.

Once I figured out how to navigate and score, I decided this app is now indispensable in my therapy. The only other thing I would like to see would be people of diverse ethnicities. While I assume the author of this app used her own children or family members, every clip I viewed was of Caucasian individuals. My caseload (even my own family!) is much more diverse than that, as is the world as a whole.

Overall, this app meets a big need in the app market, and provides excellent therapy material. In spite of the higher price, it is highly recommended for anyone who helps to facilitate language development.
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Heather H. is sitting. She is writing. She is chewing gum. She is getting really annoyed at her dog who won’t stop barking. TalkTime Pediatric Speech Academy is an advertiser at SmartAppsForKids.com.

Originally posted on Smart Apps for Kids.

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