There aren’t many apps on Apple’s App Store that caters to the needs of individuals with language disorders. While there is a host of apps that utilize the iOS’ text-to-speech function such as Type N Talk (free) (there is also a Type N Talk Deluxe!) and Talk Bot, they are not designed for the population that need specific and functional phrases paired with simple yet engaging illustrations to communicate exactly what they wish to say. Enter SmallTalk Aphasia. There are two kinds: SmallTalk Aphasia–Female and SmallTalk Aphasia Male.
Designed by the folks at Lingraphicare, SmallTalk Aphasia converts your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into a communication board of sorts. Each illustration–minimally colored and simply yet effectively drawn–accompanies a short, functional phrase often needed (and used) by clients with aphasia. One can utilize these functional words and phrases by using the app’s “icons” or
“videos.” The user taps on “icons” and the illustration and functional phrase are shown as a scrollable list where one can tap and select a flashcard, and the card fills the screen followed by a voice that reads out the text. Tap on “videos,” and while the same scrollable list comes up, selecting one plays a video of a mouth (female or male, depends on which app you choose to download and install) speaking the selected text.
The scrollable list is divided into main headings:
- me: “I have aphasia.” “I had a stroke.” etc.
- conversation: yes/no, basic social greetings
- telephone: basic phrases that can be played onto a phone’s mouthpiece such as “I am using a speech device to talk to you.” “Speak slowly.” “I cannot write down your message.”
- emergency: “I need help.” “Call 911.” etc.
- meals: meal names, common food names such as “fried chicken,” “waffles,” “sandwich”
- restaurants: “Starbucks.” “Pizza Hut.” etc.
- health: “I don’t feel well today.” “pain.” etc.
- pain scale: a 6-point scale showing face illustrations ranging from “no pain” to “worst pain possible.”
Hold the iOS device upright and it shows the scrollable list. Hold it in landscape position and the choices are presented in cover flow mode.
The videos’ scrollable list have a slightly different set. It includes several conversation-appropriate lines such as “It’s hard to talk.” “What should we do today.” days of the week, common color names, and several phonemes such as /b, d, g, k, w, ow, s/. Each video clip repeats a chosen word twice and a chosen phrase once.
There’s much to love about this app, aside from the fact that it IS free. Several of these nice points are:
- easy-to-use interface
- functional, applicable words and phrases: has many of what a client with aphasia needs to say
- the included videos of a mouth speaking can be beneficial to both the client and the person he/she is talking to: the client can use the video to cue him/herself to say the same word/s
- big tap areas: perfect for not-so-small fingers and not-so-fine hand/finger movements
- cover flow on landscape position: easier way to swipe and select among flashcards
- illustrations are simple and easy to process visually
- clear voice clips, and reasonably loud at max volume setting
- could have included a button to bring the user back to the main screen (to select “icons” or “videos). Instead, one has to hit the Home button on the iOS device and go start the app again
- can be used by only a select group of clients with aphasia, namely by those who have enough processing and visual/reading comprehension that allows them to select their desired picture/word
- could have included options for customization: the present selections appear to be culturally bound. Not everyone has bagels for breakfast or goes to Olive Garden for dinner. Options to allow a caregiver or family member customize the app by taking a picture and adding it to the flashcard library, inserting text under it, and recording a voice to say the card won’t only make this app astoundingly functional, it would have made it my dream app!
I can go on and on about including options to customize within apps for special populations. As any allied health professional would know, each client has specific needs, and each culture has its own reality sets and languages. And as any speech-language pathologist working with adults would know, not all aphasic clients have English as their primary language.
But since this app is not by and large designed to replace any form of language intervention, it is perfectly reasonable to value its pluses for itself. Ask me to design an app for clients with global aphasia or even Wernicke’s, there is a good chance I won’t be able to make one. The problems that aphasia presents (and the combinations thereof) are numerous and vary widely, and it may be nearly impossible to design an app that covers the communicative needs of the majority.
Have I used this at therapy? No, not yet. Have I shared this with my clients and their families? Yes. It does its job and for many aphasic clients, this app can mean the world to them.
- facilitating production of speech
- facilitating imitation of sounds, target words
- facilitating communicative exchanges
- facilitate selective attention
- facilitates word retrieval during word/phrase search within the app
- Wh- questions whose answers are within the app’s word/phrase database