Founded by a language and culture lover, Smarty Ears CEO, Barbara Fernandes is vested in providing quality apps that will help children not only in English but also in as many languages as possible. Smarty Ears has released a new version of two apps: WhQuestions & Fun & Functional that will help children with language difficulties reach their potential in their native languages. WhQuestion is now available in Spanish, Portuguese & French. While Fun & Functional is now also available in Spanish & Portuguese. All language are available inside the same app, users can switch language choices within the settings of each app.
“As a practicing speech-therapist, 95% of the children I saw were Spanish speakers; Spanish speaking clinicians end up pulling their hair out to come up with materials in languages other than English. I want to make sure other Spanish speaking therapists in the Unites States and around the world can have more tools to help children communicate.”
The latest version of WhQuestions includes a receptive and an expressive component to answering a variety of WhQuestions. WH Questions features over 400 opportunities to answer and ask real-world questions. With beautifully designed fun illustrations, and versatile yet real world questions, WH Questions is the “go-to” app for helping students attain proficiency at asking and answering basic questions. The app is available on the app store and compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Fun & Functional, authored by speech-language-pathologist Rosie Simms, was designed to help improve language comprehension and expression in individuals by enhancing the ability to identify and describe the function or use of real-world objects. Fun & Functional users can now easily switch language of choice of the app by accessing the settings function. Fun & Functional can be downloaded from the app store on the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fun-functional/id498640017?mt=8
Smarty Ears is already one of the leading providers of apps for speech therapy in Brazil with over 14 apps in Portuguese. Smarty Ears has a dedicated website for their Brazilian users on www.ipadfono.com. Smarty Ears has also started building their dedicated Spanish website which will be released in the last quarter of 2014.
The company has spent a large amount of effort in 2014 in translating their apps into other languages. Some of Smarty Ears apps are now available in five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, German & French. Smarty Ears plans to release two additional apps in Portuguese and Spanish before the end of 2014, and to start offering more apps in French in 2015.
Smarty Ears has not only been the leader in app development for speech, language and communication apps, but also has started to push the development of the first apps in languages other than English for promoting language and speech development. Smarty Ears is proud to announce the release of WhQuestions in three additional languages: French, Spanish & Portuguese.
WhQuestions was initially released in January of 2010, and it was one of the first speech therapy apps on the app store. Since its conception and initial release, WhQuestions has gone through many updates and improvements. Most of what users see today is a result of a lot of hard work from all of our team members. The current version of WhQuestions, version 3.6, contains both a receptive and an expressive task. The receptive task was also introduced on this latest version of the app.
Barbara Fernandes, Smarty Ears CEO, has always had a commitment for offering apps in as many languages as possible. Smarty Ears already offers over 10 apps in Portuguese ( www.sefono.com), several in Spanish ( www.espanol.smartyearsapps.com ) , two in French and one in German.
by Rick Waters ’95
Updated: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Barbara Fernandes ’08 MA is the founder and CEO of Smarty Ears apps, an industry leader in speech therapy and assistive technology. (Photo by Carolyn Cruz)
Barbara Fernandes ’08 MA still calls it the “a-ha moment.”
In fall 2008, she was a first-year speech pathologist and language evaluator for the Irving school district, the only bilingual therapist in the district, when she met Michael, a 5-year-old preschooler who had not spoken at school in his first two months. His teacher suspected autism.
Fernandes knew the boy liked cars and trains, but he had little interest in talking or looking at flashcards with her. He did, however, think her mobile phone was a toy with which he could entertain himself.
Rather than put the device away, Fernandes did a search for “transportation,” downloaded some images of various vehicles and handed over her iPhone.
“Boat,” the boy whispered. “Plane.”
His voice grew louder and more assured.
“He just began naming them. I was just trying to get him to speak, for him to say a word, and this unlocked him,” she said. “I never expected to have that kind of immediate response.”
The iPhone was less than a year old then, but Fernandes realized paper flashcards were an ancient technology and mobile devices had worlds of possibility with images and sound and animation.
A technophile growing up in Brazil, Fernandes tinkered with her own website growing up and had come to the United States to study assistive technology, but now she had a vision for how it could be used in schools and homes with children with disabilities and their parents.
In fall 2009, she published her first app under the name Smarty Ears. It featured the entire phonetic alphabet with corresponding sounds, words and images for each letter or blend. She took it to conferences and got a lukewarm response.
“Most people were very resistant at first, but some were really intrigued,” she said. “I was surprised it wasn’t 100 percent.”
But families loved it. What used to be a frustrating daily practice was now being seen as play.
As word-of-mouth spread to practitioners and they tried it, the app began selling fast. By then, Fernandes was about to release her second app — on conjugating verbs — and had four more in the works.
In the spring of 2010, Apple released the iPad and Smarty Ears “really took off,” she said.
“It pushed me to make my old apps better,” she said. “The tablet is really the ideal size for working with children.”
Now, Fernandes has 60 apps in English, Spanish and her native Portuguese and is considered a pioneer in the speech therapy industry. Ranging in cost from $1.99 to $49.99, Smarty Ears apps are the No. 1 brand with more than 150,000 downloads and are used in more than 40 countries, covering language development, articulation, autism, aphasia and voice disorders.
Fernandes and her husband Jonathan, a former English teacher who now helps craft the curriculum, employ six programmers, illustrators and interface designers. Smarty Ears has published 26 authors in nearly every practice within speech pathology and language evaluation. The company also has an 11-member advisory board of experts, parents and teachers.
Those first Smarty Ears apps seem primitive compared to the ones the company makes now, which include games, stories and animation that rival computer games and Saturday morning cartoons. Voice recording and camera technology also soup up the experience, allowing students to listen and watch their own mouths form phonics and sounds. There are also sophisticated reporting components built in, which track students’ scores and allow speech therapists to monitor progress.
Now, Fernandes is a highly sought speaker at conferences and is considered an expert in assistive technology.
“I have people come up to me now who just want to shake my hand or take a picture with me like I am some personality,” she said. “It’s gratifying to see the impact this is having.”
How educational institutions can purchase Smarty Ears apps and get 50% off on all our apps.
Apple has implemented a program called “The Volume Purchase” program. This program allows approved educational institutions to receive 50% off when 20 or more copies of the same app are purchased for their staff members. It is important to note that the developers have the option to opt out of this discount; therefore, not every application will offer the discount even if you purchase 20 copies. All Smarty Ears apps have opt in (option) for the discount. This way, if an educational institution chooses to purchase 20 copies of any of the Smarty Ears apps, they will receive 50% off on the cost of the application. This is a significant saving for the educational institution.
Here is how the program works:
Someone from an educational program must enroll by becoming the program manager for your institution. The program manager will be in charge of making the purchases, and after the codes are downloaded this person is in charge of distributing codes that teachers, therapists and other staff members can use to download the application free of charge on their end.
The program manager can make payments using credit cards (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa), debit cards, cashier’s check, money orders, and even wire transfer. Financing is also available. For more information you can visit : http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/volume/us/terms.html
How do I get the app?
After the program manager purchases the copies of the application he will receive codes that can be distributed to the staff members or students. Each person receiving the code must login to their iTunes account and redeem the code. The redeem link is on the right side of the iTunes store (see image below).
Now just click on the link and redeem the app by entering the code given to you.
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.
It is time for the Macworld 2011. Smarty Ears will be participating at the Macworld this year with other Mac fanatics. We have 50 free guest passes to give away. If you wish to come, join us and try out our apps just send an an e-mail to [email protected] and we will add your name to our VIP guest list granting you FREE access to the Macworld expo.
Match2Say has just been released and it is already a success thanks to all of you who love using Smarty Ears’ apps. Today Match2Say was featured on “New and Noteworthy” on iTunes. This is another great accomplishment for Smarty Ears, speech therapists, teacher and most importantly children with speech delays.
At the same time on 11/07/2010 Match2Say was the top #5 Best selling education app: