Speech therapist Barbrara Fernandez foundedSmarty-Ears apps last January and has since created over 15 apps for the field. I spoke to her about Expressive (US $29.95) an augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) app that at first seems similar to the much more expensive Proloquo2Go, but it serves two purposes.
Like most AAC apps or devices, it allows those without the power of speech due to Autism, Downs Syndrome or even temporary verbal problems to communicate. Tapping on categorized symbols allow one to build phrases that are spoken. The app contains 450 pre-set symbols and more can be added.
The second purpose of the app is to teach language and the relationship between symbols and words. Many children have a limited vocabulary and too many unfamiliar symbols would be confusing and overwhelming. “You can start out and delete everything and slowly build the vocabulary and specifically design the application to meet the needs of a student. I think that’s the main concept here.” Expressive helps with “limited expressive language communication skills” so it’s appropriate of all levels of communication disorders.
Expressive is meant to be used by speech therapists in conjunction with parents to build a child’s vocabulary and communication skills. In its simplest iteration, you would start with a noun. When that has been learned, an instructor can odd modifying words and build up from there. Although it may sound simple, seeing a picture of a ball and understanding that it represents all balls may not be obvious for some. There is an edit mode where symbols can be added or deleted and a user mode that doesn’t allow changes. Without this a child could inadvertently delete everything.
Smarty-Ears also has apps for people with other communication problems. There are apps for those that stutter, and kids with articulation delays who have problems pronouncing specific sounds. A number of them are meant to be used by speech therapists, along with special education and ESL teachers. Barbara hopes to make all of her apps bi-lingual. Expressive will be offered in Spanish and Portugese very soon.
One of Barbara’s favorite apps is Pocket Pond HD, an interactive fish pond which she uses to teach the simple concept of interaction. The app looks great, and touching anything in the pond creates splashes while fish, lily-pads and other objects can be added. Cause and effect is not always a simple concept.
Currently, only about 15 percent of speech therapists are using AAC apps but the number is growing and Smarty-Ears will be in the forefront of the field.
With its 1001 ways to improve the life of any human being, the use of the iPad has also been a hot topic in the disability community. It is the combination of superb touch screen devices with the scientific knowledge and experience from a speech therapist that is making the difference for thousands of children and adults with special needs around the world. Barbara Fernandes, a speech pathologist and CEO of Smarty Ears has been developing applications for Apple devices for over one year to help children and adults with a variety of speech and language disorders to improve their communication skills and consequently their quality of life.
Smarty Ears will be showcasing their most recent releases at the Macworld Expo 2011 in San Francisco. Macworld 2011 is “a four day celebration that entertains and educates. Macworld offers access to hundreds of Apple related products and services.” Source: MacworldExpo.com
This year parents of children with a communication disorder such as stuttering, difficulty pronouncing words, or children that cannot communicate due to Autism or Apraxia of speech will have a chance to try out Smarty Ears apps at the Mobile Apps Showcase at the Macworld 2011. Smarty Ears wants to share with the parents and professionals that already use apple devices how this technology can help children with their communication skills.
Smarty Ears will be showcasing their newest app releases. “Articulate it!” is a application designed to help parents practice pronouncing sounds with their children. Many children with articulation disorders have difficulty pronouncing specific sounds. This application gives parents a fun way for in-home pronunciation practice.
Match2Say is a game also designed for children with difficulty pronouncing their sounds in the English language. Match2Say is a game that allows children to have fun while listening to high quality samples of specific sounds while learning at the same time.
Many children with developmental disorders, such as Autism or Down’s syndrome have difficulty speaking using their own voice. Smarty Ears created an application called “Expressive”. With Expressive, children who may have never expressed themselves have a chance to combine pictures that will speak for them. At US$34.99 Expressive is one of the most affordable apps on the market and it costs a fraction of the devices it rivals, which typically cost anywhere between US$800 and US$4000.
Smarty Ears, a company created in August of 2009 has been the new breakthrough in the area of speech and language therapy. They have released innovative products that combine technology and speech and language sciences, making speech therapy more affordable, fun, and greener. Smarty Ears has already released 15 products on the app Store as of January 2011 and it is expected to release at least 5 new products this spring.