Learn creative way to utilize your iPad for promoting speech and language development.

Using themes in articulation therapy

Using themes in articulation therapy

Oh! The thematic units, don’t we all love them? Theme based intervention is a common practice during speech and language sessions. Generally speaking, using themes is something that we think about more for language based interventions than speech and articulation interventions. Many school-based clinicians use themes in their sessions; especially the themes that fall along with the themes being used in the classroom. When a clinician makes the decision to incorporate themes into a session many times they have to create custom materials to fit the classroom theme, especially if we are talking about articulation materials.

Some clinicians have go-to materials for each theme, which makes our lives so much easier. While it is possible and somewhat easy to adapt any articulation material for articulation, it is even better when the articulation material not only integrates the theme, but adds to the beauty of using a theme during a session. Many SLPs now use iPad apps as the go-to for articulation therapy, however not only we get tired of using the same app over and over again, but we all know the children also do. Articulate it is the one and only app that allows users to switch themes on its activities.

Articulate it includes 18 themes that allows clinicians to finally offer children a fresh look into each articulation and phonology session.

Clinicians can tap on the menu and select from the following themes:

  1. 4th of July
  2. Cinema
  3. Christmas
  4. Dog
  5. Fall
  6. Halloween
  7. Ninja
  8. Pirates
  9. Princess
  10. Space
  11. Spring
  12. St. Patricks’ Day
  13. Summer
  14. Super Heroes
  15. Thanksgiving
  16. Underwater/Ocean
  17. Valentine’s Day
  18. Winter

The themes change the skin within the screen on the matching activity, the flashcard activity and the guess what activity. Let me show you guys what some of the themes look like on all three activities:

Besides changing the skin, children can experience a few other changes such as the audio feedback for each activity. The fall theme for example has a gobble gobble audio feedback when switching from one target word to another.

Since Articulate it also offers an activity called ” Guess What?” which used questions to elicit the target word, the app is often used by clinicians with mixed groups of articulation and language students. Therefore, having the theme built-in the app can also make the app a tool for kids working on specific language skills when a thematic unit is in place.

Some themes within Articulate it can actually be a part of several other themes. Clinicians often used the ocean theme on ” Talk like a Pirate” week. However, the now have a dedicated pirate theme.

If you are not yet using thematic units within your therapy session, Kristin from Simply Speech has a great table with ideas for themes here:

If students are older or have moved from word to more complex levels of practice, many of the ideas used for language-based therapy such as reading a thematic book or having a discussion using target words are also excellent ways to integrate themes into articulation therapy.



Three essential apps for individuals with aphasia

Three essential apps for individuals with aphasia

three essential apps for individuals with aphasia

When individuals suffer a stroke, the changes in their lives can have devastating effects. With the help of skilled professionals such as speech-language-pathologist, occupational therapists and physical therapists, stroke survivors can learn to cope with their disability of recover functions lost. There are a lot of apps in the market that can also have a positive effect in recovering language skills lost due to a stroke. Apps such as some developed by Smarty Ears were designed with stroke survivors in mind.

Language Trainer was created specifically to help individuals improve their mastery of spoken language. Designed by a certified speech-language pathologist, Language Trainer is perfect for working on vocabulary, word finding, stuttering, and receptive or expressive language therapy. Language Trainer compliments and facilitates the work of the busy speech-language pathologist or caregiver. Language Trainer includes four activities within one application. You can download it from iTunes here:


Another app that is essential to stroke survivors who struggle with reading is called Reading Rehabilitation Toolkit. The Reading Rehabilitation Toolkit integrates six state-of-the-art reading activities at the word and phrase levels all specifically crafted to promote success in reading rehabilitation. Learn more about it here:


The third essential app is called iName it. iName It is specifically designed to help individuals with difficulty recalling the names of common items found in the home. Developed by speech-language pathologists, iName It provides users with a systematic way to recall functional words needed for activities of daily living. iName It consists of fifty nouns that are displayed within the context of the rooms where they are typically located, such as bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc… Each target word can be elicited by using one of more of the five different types of cues available: phonemic, phase completion, whole word or semantic. Learn more about this app here:




The anatomy of an educational app update

The anatomy of an educational app update

We have been making apps since 2009 and throughout the years we have made hundreds of updates throughout our apps. Creating educational apps requires a great deal of upkeep. We always want to make sure our apps don’t get left behind. When we started creating apps in 2009, the iPad was not even out yet. While it does seem like another lifetime, it was just the other day. Our apps back then were the most advanced apps at the time they were created, however if you were to play with some of those original versions today you would certainly be disappointed in Smarty Ears.

As Apple makes each device more advanced, we also strive to make sure all our apps are also as wonderful as each new device. Updating over fifty apps take a significant amount of time and effort on our part and we absolutely love looking at our apps with critical eyes and ask ourselves ” how can I make this app better?”. Each year, we probably release updates to each app, as Apple updates their iOS systems.

Updating apps is a must at times, when Apple’s operating system goes through major changes and makes apps simply stop working or causing strange behaviors.

Customer feedback is also something we always take note when updating our apps. We love receiving suggestions from our customers and we try very hard to look at every suggestion and criticism as an opportunity to make our app better.  While our apps go through in-house testing, clinicians and parents out there can have major insights as to how certain features would be helpful to specific children and adults we aim to help though out apps.

Many times, when we create a new app we realize we should have used that new feature on all previous apps and that’s how we go back and start implementing that new feature on all our apps, such as the compatibility with the Therapy Report Center app.

Some other source of insight of our updates comes from chatting with users at conventions. As we have just returned from the 2016 Asha Convention in Philadelphia, we are pumped with ideas of new features for some of our most loved apps. If you have a suggestion, write to us, we would love to hear from you.

Ultimately, we strive often to make sure anyone who opens and buys Smarty Ears apps feel like  they have just unlocked the best of what is out there, regardless if that app is a brand new release or an app that was created in 2009.


Bridging the Gap Between Reading Comprehension and Speech Difficulties Through Apps

Bridging the Gap Between Reading Comprehension and Speech Difficulties Through Apps

Reading and speaking are directly related. Though you can read without speaking, thoughts usually come from absorbed information in which reading is a big part, and speech is the expression of thoughts.

Reading, including reading comprehension, therefore, can be a problem for children with speech difficulties. In fact, studies have shown that children who have difficulty with spoken language are often at risk of having reading problems.

Phonological processes have also been found to be critical in learning, and acquiring different fundamental skills like reading and spelling. Phoneme awareness is also used as a predictor if a student will turn out to be a good or poor reader at the end of third grade onwards. A high level of accuracy in the projection is reached using phonological tests.

Apps to the Rescue

Considering that today’s generation relies on mobile devices, a technological approach to the aforementioned dilemmas will be effective. The use of technological learning environments usually fall into two categories: to remedy specific skills through individual and repeated practice, which means self-use or; to bypass barriers of the disability through compensation, which means external assistance.

Apps generally fall under both, meaning they can be operated by the user again and again, and they can provide the support the user needs. As such, they become effective tools for aiding children and students who lack reading skills and/or have speech deficiency.

Reading Comprehension Camp is a collection of stories, spread across multiple levels to facilitate and measure improvements in reading skills. There are quizzes, which can further gauge the development of the user.

It also has in-app data logging system to help educators, therapists and speech-language pathologists who use the app as a teaching tool. A microphone feature is included as well to record the student’s progress in fluency and intonation.

Sentence Ninja, on the other hand, works more in a game-like experience. Understanding sentence structure and word order is a crucial piece of developing reading comprehension skills, and the app makes for an engaging and fun way for students to learn these subjects.

Bridging the gap, however, can also go the other way around. Users can start on the other side with articulation apps like Articulate it! for practicing pronunciation skills. Aside from single player, it has a multiplayer option, which can give clinicians the edge when working with a small group of students.

Built-in text-to-speech (TTS) functions of smartphones are also now used for reading practice to bypass several reading issues. These include decoding and low levels of phonetic awareness. Additionally, TTS can decrease reliance on human support, providing a sense of independence for the reader.

Virtual assistants (VA) work in a similar way, albeit in a conversational manner. Tech resource O2 mentions that premium handsets like the iPhone 6S now have a smarter Siri, along with other enhancements. It can be used as a practice platform, which may be available 24/7 for the user.

Furthermore, since VAs are computer simulations, users will not feel the fear of being judged and/or receiving feedback, given that students who lack skills and have deficiencies normally have low self-esteem and self-confidence. Same with other apps, these types of software let the user learn at their own pace and comfort level.

When using technology and apps as tools, improving reading comprehension and overcoming speech deficiency is made easier. Students, parents and corresponding medical and psychological professionals all benefit from the process, considering that for learning to be more effective and successful, a collaborative effort should be applied.

Exclusively written for Smarty Ears Apps
by Teaching JB


Why is the Social Quest app so Successful with Students Struggling with Social Skills?

Why is the Social Quest app so Successful with Students Struggling with Social Skills?

social-quest-img2There is a lot of social fabric that we take for granted because it just seems invisible to us. It’s so integral to our everyday lives that it just fades into the background, but that simply isn’t true for everyone…
Little social norms that seem like nothing to you and me can be really overwhelming and daunting to many students. This can be even more pronounced of a problem for students with autism or other special needs, as it can even cause a fair degree of anxiety. Social Quest has become the go-to-app for older students who struggle with social skills as it gives real practical practice for learning to reflect, predict and practice good social etiquette and problem solving skills within everyday life so that they feel better prepared and less stressed as they encounter social situations in real life.

Practice Real-world situations in the home, school and community —- This app does a brilliant job of covering real life things that will likely come up in the places they will spend the most time. This pragmatic approach makes it easy to see the real world carry over.


A third of the app is based where kids spend the most time— HOME: If you’re a parent you know first hand that just getting kids to get along better with those they live with is so important for the quality of life to both the child and the rest of their family. Basic family life has so many important social situations many of which will be vital for the rest of their lives. Home includes the following areas as sub targets with — living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and the garage/yard.

Another third of the app is based on SCHOOL— let’s face it if you’re a teacher or an SLP you really want things to go smoothly for your student, not to be selfish but it makes your day go so much smoother and you feels great knowing the student can move from different areas of the school without you there to help them. If you’re a parent, you don’t want to be worrying about what goes on when you’re not there. You’re probably already aware of the difficulties your child has in social situations and it is a big relief knowing your kid is walking into them a little more prepared. School includes the following areas as sub targets with classroom, auditorium/library, cafeteria, hallway/office, yard/gymnasium

The last third is divided into common areas in the Community— eventually you want the student to be successful not just at home and at school but at places they will most frequently visit. Community includes the following areas as sub targets with grocery store, mall, restaurant, neighborhood, movies, doctor/dentist office

There’s more than one right answer— time to promote flexible thinking! — rarely is life like a math equation with just one right answer. So often there are multiple appropriate decisions that could have been made. Teaching flexible thinking is crucial in getting students to start making better social decisions. By recognizing that there is more than one right way can alleviate the stress of the situation. It also builds those critical thinking skills that are so important in day to day life.
The receptive mode (multiple choice) of the app contains two correct answers for every question. In the settings you can decide whether the student must find both correct answers or if one correct answer is sufficient. This is great as a scaffolding technique so that the app can be more at the student’s current individual level. If the student is very successful finding both correct answers in the receptive mode then we have a more challenging setting to match their needs “expressive” mode.

social quest
In the expressive mode (open ended responses) of the app students can receive credit for multiple correct answers. You can mark multiple incorrect answers too, but the importance is that it is a big progression when a student can finally start envisioning for themselves the multiple appropriate ways to handle a situation!

There is an enormous amount of content on Social Quest— 850 questions. Don’t settle for all these second rate apps in the app store that are out there that only have 10, 20, 30, or 50 questions. Fortunately, Social Quest was developed by Smarty Ears who has been a leader and an innovator that have over the last 7 years solidified their status as the Gold Standard of apps in the Speech therapy and Special Education community. They design all of their apps to make sure that it is something you can use often without much repetition. All of their apps have been thoughtfully designed from the inside out by a real SLP and a real teacher— this is not just lip service they know what its like to be in the classroom and they care about the experience that both the adult SLP or teacher experience as well as they care about the success of the student.

It has a Fun Game-like-approach that makes being a “social detective” engaging.
From the “teleporter” than brings students to their target areas, to the “Hall of Rewards” that stores the trophies students earn while playing the receptive mode, this app incorporates some of the techniques that make video games fun to teens to make for a more engaging experience while practicing Social Skills.

Learn more about Social Quest here:

You can also download it from the app store here: