App sales are looking better and better because this time, Conversation TherAppy is taking 20% off from its original price of $24.99! An SLP from South Africa had offered to translate Conversation TherAppy to Zulu in celebration of Mandela Day. Take advantage of this app sale because future updates will include FREE translations in Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, French and Filipino! We are giving you more reasons to snap up Conversation TherAppy in our thorough review article here. Try out Conversation TherAppy Lite if you wish, but we must remind you that the sale will only be good for one day, July 18, 2013.
We enjoyed ourselves so much with Tactus Therapy Solutions’ latest app that we almost let this month pass without releasing a complete review about it. Conversation TherAppy landed in our iPad just in time for Aphasia Awareness Month this June 2013, and it arrived heavy with features.
When we received a copy of the app, we planned to field-test it with a couple of clients. We ended up using Conversation TherAppy with all of our school-age kids as well as with our adult clients with stuttering, aphasia, dementia, and verbal apraxia. In a couple of weeks, our fellow clinicians were borrowing our iPad and trying the app with their clients.
Conversation TherAppy is the eighth release from its developer. Given the success of the apps that preceded it, we were eager to discover what the latest app has in store for us. The app’s Home Screen greets the user with these:
- the Start button
- User Hub
- Settings button (top right corner)
- Users tab (on the screen’s left)
- Connect, Tutorial, and Other Apps (on the bottom of the screen)
Let’s start with Settings, for a good reason. If you are a clinician and you are about to use the app with your client, you will want to lay the parameters out first. Settings allows you to:
- select the Number of Trials: minimum of 5, or choose to tackle All items
- Content: filter the pictures according to what is appropriate for your client (Child, Teen, Adult)
- Scoring Sounds: want the Default ping? The more subtle Click? Or mute all scoring sounds?
- Email Results To: enter the primary email address to where the results can be sent to
- Links: toggle Links on/off
- Customize Database: this is the heart of Settings and will allow you to:
- select the category of the content you wish to customize and include/omit pictures from that category
- edit the questions that accompany the Question Types
- enter notes about each specific client
- include / omit questions
- delete sessions
Results are tabulated in the User Hub as well. Select a username from the list on the left of the screen and the Results window will show you the date, the time it took for the client to finish the session, his/her score by the total number of items and in percent values, option to email the results, or delete the entry.
The Users tab on the left of the screen allows one to quickly select the user/s who will participate in the activity. Tick the box next to the name then tap Start. The app (as with most of Tactus Therapy’s apps) allows you to select your categories first prior to starting with the session. By default, the following screen will show you:
- a picture that shows the topic that is up for discussion
- ten buttons that flank the picture, each representing a Question Prompt:
- User Names on tabs (maximum of 6 users on the iPad, 4 on the iPhone/iPod Touch)
- Home button on the top left corner
- Progress bar on the top right corner
- Backward and Forward arrows on the lower corners
Explore the app by downloading the Lite version here.
- clear, sharp images: This mattered a lot. A 64-year old client of ours has dementia and her cognition fluctuated a lot. We used Conversation TherAppy with her and directed her attention to specific parts in each picture, particularly the emotions in the subjects’ faces. She consistently identified these emotions and managed to note other details in most of the pictures as well. Image quality was certainly a priority when this app was developed.
- engaging topics were well portrayed in the pictures: four 11-year old boys made up our social skills group. Considering how volatile their attention spans were, it was rewarding to note that the app helped in drawing out a detailed conversation from them. They chose which pictures and topics they wanted to expound on. The scene that showed rudeness was one of their favorites because of the varied reactions the subjects had in response to the rude moviegoer. They argued about their personal interpretations of verbal abuse. The picture auto theft drew much emotion from our client with dementia, enabling her to summon enough processing powers to participate and explore the topic further.
- heaps of options in Customize the Content: we honestly do not have anything else to ask for because the app allowed one to:
- double-check which topics are unlocked for all populations and which ones are restricted to Teens and Adults or Adults only
- select or deselect which ones can be included in an activity
- edit the questions… per topic!
- user names and scoring buttons are available and are conveniently placed: It is not easy to keep track of each participant’s performance while doing any group therapy session, but with these User tabs, keeping track is as simple as tapping a button. And since we expect the iPad to be on landscape mode with the clinician beside or behind it, putting the User tabs on top of the screen just made a lot of sense.
- User Hub keeps track of each user’s scores: use the app, tap the buttons toscore, and allow yourself to get lost in the conversation. Let the User Hub track each client’s scores (as long as you consistently use the scoring buttons). Time and date are also logged in, so it is easy to monitor progress. Options for emailing the results and deleting entries are provided. And one more thing: results can be viewed in graph form. Yes: GRAPH.
- Question prompts are specific to each picture: there is no better way to allow users to expound on each given topic than by asking specific, open-ended questions. These questions encourage one to share opinions, thoughts, and stories of one’s experiences. With the app’s customization features, it is easy to edit the questions and shorten these to match a client’s processing capacity, or even write the questions using the client’s native language (one that uses Roman characters).
- 12 categories contains a total of 300 pictures accompanied by more than 3000 questions: as we said, there is much to talk about this app… 3000 questions!
What we would love to see in future updates: Try as we might, we ended up answering our own suggestions. Bump up customizability and put in Add My Own Photo option? The app covered a lot of daily life situations and issues. An option to add another question prompt? Edit one of the question prompts and customize it according to your client’s needs. How about options to view the photo only and/or be able to zoom into it? Turn off all question prompts, and if you really have to zoom into the picture, take a screenshot, open it in Photos, zoom in as much as you want.
In our opinion, Conversation TherAppy is one of the finest apps Tactus Therapy has ever put out. With it being heavy on features and flexible with all its customization options, one need not hesitate in using it with any client. Since we all aim to facilitate good conversational skills in our clients, this app may promise to be a mainstay in your device. This app need not work hard to earn your love and tapping devotion. It does its job and it does it so well, we guarantee you that you will use Conversation TherAppy over and over and over again.
- Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cognitive-communication disorders
- learning disability
- verbal apraxia, etc.
Customer Ratings (iTunes): no ratings yet iSPeak App says: 5 out of 5 smileys
After two major holidays, two typhoons, and several visiting relatives, we have finally come up with a comprehensive review on Category TherAppy, another one of Tactus Therapy Solutions’ beautiful offerings. As a fan of Tactus Therapy, the first thing we wondered about this (then) upcoming app was “What color theme would it be this time?” Our next thought was “What would the app’s logo look like?” We were that excited.
With a stellar app lineup, we had high expectations of Category TherAppy, and its developers have definitely not disappointed us. The homescreen shows the user four activities to choose from:
- Find the category member
- Categorize and sort the stimulus picture and/or word to its category
- Exclude the picture and/or word that does not belong in the category implied
- Add a picture and/or word that can belong in the category of pictures and/or words
True to form, the app gives the user control on the level of difficulty of any activity selected.
- Easy (Concrete): for basic categories such as body parts, buildings, clothing, containers, electronics, food, furniture, jobs, letters, musical instruments, plants, rooms, shapes, tools, weapons, etc. (23 in all)
- Medium (Sub): for subcategories, like accessories, African animals, condiments, desserts, flowers, footwear, forest animals, insects, joints, parts of the face, pets, sea animals, etc. (24 in all)
- Hard (Abstract): for abstract categories, such as big things, cold things, hot things, kitchen items, liquids,things made of plastic, smelly things, special occasions, things found in nature, etc. (19 in all)
As with the developer’s previous apps, the rules are simple: select the activity and the level of difficulty and the type of activity. The next screen brings the user to a list of target categories from which one can tap the checkboxes to select, then press the right arrow. The app asks a question and the user may touch the picture and/or word that he chooses as an answer. The choice will be outlined in green followed by a bell sound if the answer is correct. Should the answer be incorrect, a buzzer sounds out, the picture and/or word will fade out and is boxed in red. Correct answers are scored on the screen’s top right. Incorrect answers are counted only once per item.
There are Hint buttons in the Exclude and Add One activities. The Hint button, for example, reveals the category name to which all items belong to barring one (in Exclude).
Of course, no current app of Tactus Therapy’s is without the Results box that comes out either at the end of an activity or when the user taps the Home button. The Results box shows:
- Items answered / total items (percentage)
- Try Again
- Email Results
In the main screen’s top right corner is the Settings button, and this allows a high degree of customisability for the clinician.
- Maximum Number of Trials: options are 10, 25, 50 or All. “All” refers to the total items of all the target categories that the user has selected prior to starting the activity
- Target Type: allows the clinician to select how the question and options will be shown, is it to be as Words & Pictures, Pictures Only, or Words Only
- Field Size: a field size of Small will show 3 choices, Medium shows 4 choices, and Large will show 6 choices
- Default Email Address for Results
- Child-Friendly Mode: one can toggle this on or off as needed. Toggling this on, for example, removes the target category “Weapons” from the Easy (Concrete) level of difficulty
- Audio Reinforcement of Category: this works only for the Exclude and Add One modes. If this is toggled on and the user makes the correct answer in either mode, the app tells the user the category name.
What we love about this app:
- retains the clean, sharp design that its predecessors have been known for: we all know how crucial this is especially if one works with older clients with visual issues, or with individuals who are relatively distractible.
- well-chosen picture stimuli: these are crisp and stands out against the white background
- stimulus picture shrinks into the correct category the user has chosen: this is seen in the Classify activity, and helps establish the idea that the picture is “taken in” by the category the user had correctly selected.
- stimulus picture moves into the empty box: seen in the Add One activity, the picture that the client had selected moves to take its place along three other pictures that belong in the same category.
- age-appropriate pictures: older individuals may be more familiar with the form of film cameras than of digital cameras.
- several categories are familiar and appropriate to older kids and adults: as with the previous apps, this app was designed to be used by older individuals. Concepts such as things made of fabric, toiletries, and meats are a welcome addition to more common target categories.
- lightweight: weighing at 24.2 mb, it is hard to believe that this packs 700 images and a lot of voice clips.
available for iPhones and iPod Touches, and is optimized for iPhone 5: we were lucky enough to finally upgrade our iPhone 3GS to iPhone 5, and we saw that the app stands out nice and clear in the phone’s Retina, widescreen display. Despite the difference in screen real estate, the Retina screen makes up for it and makes the letters readable.
- affordable: this is a worthy $15 investment as this can be used over and over again across clients.
What we hope to see in future updates:
- an option in Settings to remove the audio button under the stimulus pictures/words: we used the app with a couple of our older clients with fine motor problems, and they accidentally press on the audio button rather than the picture/word.
- an added feature for iPhones and iPod Touches to zoom in on pictures: several pictures are too small to be visually understood when displayed in smaller screens. While the app does not offer the pinch-zoom function, it may benefit the client who uses the app in an iPhone/iPod Touch if a tap-zoom function can be added.
Working on categories is a common activity in language therapy. What Category TherAppy has managed to do is to collate four kinds of activities into one tight, comprehensive app, and spruced it up with customizable field sizes, filtered target categories, cue types, and best of all, difficulty levels that range from concrete to abstract categories. With 700 images in 70 categories, one can do so much with this app with any client. By taking on the bulk of preparation from the clinician, more time can be devoted into helping one’s client process what is on the screen and providing ample feedback. In our iOS device, Category TherAppy falls under our select “high frequency” apps… if you know what we mean.
- naming (objects, categories, places, etc.)
- answering what and why questions
Tactus Therapy continues to fill the void with their quality therapy apps. They have recently shifted their apps’ focus from language to cognition–specifically, attention–skills. Again, while there are apps in the App Store that we can use to target visual attention, a good number of them were made in a gaming context. Many come with timers, putting temporal stress on a task and making one wish there were ways to toggle the countdown off. Visual Attention TherAppy puts more options in the clinician (or user’s) hands, enabling one to create specific visual attention tasks and generate information about the user’s performance.
Tap the app’s icon on the iPad and it immediately shows you the main screen. On the upper right corner is the Settings button. It was a good idea that we checked out Settings first because there were a number of crucial options in it:
- Number of Trials At Each Level: 1-5, and 10. You want to have 3 trials of Letter in Symbols? Tap 3.
- Number of Lines: The more lines, the more targets and foils.
- Fewest: 4 lines
- Some: 5 lines
- More: 6 lines
- Most: 8 lines (this pretty much fills up the screen)
- Spacing: Small, Medium, Large. The number of lines depends on the spacing selected. If Small is selected, the activity can have as much as 12 lines. Choose Large spacing however, there will be 6 lines.
- Signal: specifically added for clients with neglect issues, this gives the clinician the option to have a Red, Yellow, or Flashing signal at the side of the screen to direct the client’s attention to. The toggle for a Left, Right, or No Signal is found in the main screen.
- Default Email Address for Results: As with Tactus Therapy’s previous apps, one can enter the receipient’s email address to whom the results will be forwarded.
- Child-Friendly Mode: toggle this button to turn it off or on.
There are two modes on the app’s main screen: Practice and Test. One can access all of the app’s levels in either mode. The difference between these modes is that in Practice, the client/user cannot move forward and skip targets: he/she must tap and select all targets before moving on to the next line. In Test mode, anything goes, and the user can tap at the targets in any order. Visual attention skills are measured by how many targets were selected until the Done button is tapped or until all targets have been selected. One other difference is that the Test mode takes note which quadrant of the screen the user missed targets in. The Results page includes this information under “Location of Missed Targets.”
There are 10 levels to choose from, and these are arranged by difficulty:
- Same Symbol
- Same Letter
- Symbol in Letters
- Letter in Symbols
- Symbol in Symbols and Letters
- Letter in Letters and Symbols
- Dissimilar Symbols
- Similar Symbols
- Dissimilar Letters
- Similar Letters
At the bottom of the Level Selection page, one can opt to show 1 or 2 targets.
- the Home button
- the Timer: the clock starts when the user taps the first target
- the Instructions: centered in the header bar is the target (ex: Touch Every C, Touch Every I and T)
- the Counters:
- Targets Found / Total Targets
- Trials / Total Trials
- the Skip button (Practice Mode) or the Done button (Test Mode)
On Practice Mode, tapping on a correct letter/symbol makes a soft “whooshing” sound. Tap on a wrong letter/symbol, one hears a “thunk” sound. Turn the iPad’s sound off or decrease the volume if you do not wish to hear these sounds.
The Results page is shown in email format, with a brief description on how the client performed (time it took to accomplish tasks, date, spacing, number of targets found, total targets, number of lines). The results are shown in tables with the following information:
- the Targets
- the Time it took to finish each trial
- Number Correct (including percent correct)
- the Location of Missed Targets (top/bottom left/right)
- Number of Wrong Targets
What we love about Visual Attention TherAppy:
- responsive to finger taps, area-specific: this is worth noting because a good amount of effort in app development goes into programming which areas in every screen should respond to taps (and what happens when that area is tapped). Whether the spacing is large or small, or the lines many or few, the app responds beautifully to touch.
- font size: consider the app as a tool to help clients manage written word better and pay attention to smaller, finer details. The font size is just right for older children and adults (who may use reading glasses if necessary, of course).
- provisions for individuals with neglect issues: this one’s a good plus. A colored and/or flashing line at the neglected side of the screen always comes in handy for certain cases. What’s even more awesome is the app’s ability to report what quadrants were neglected!
- high customizability: # of trials, # of lines, spacing, levels of difficulty are all within the clinician/user’s control. One needs a thick book full of similar paper-based activities in order to get as customized a visual attention task as possible. And even if one has electronic copies of such activities, printing these out takes time and uses up paper, leading us to our final point…
- Earth-friendly! some of us undergo a certain amount of guilt (well, we do) when we use up a lot of paper for visual attention tasks only to throw them away afterwards. Small whiteboards solved this problem somewhat, though making the letters and symbols eats up time. This app saves both natural and time resources.
Did we find anything we didn’t love about the app? Nope. The app is fast and lightweight (less than 1 MB!), is highly specific in its role in its app-life, and costs only $10.00. To get a feel of how the app works, get Visual Attention TherAppy Lite from the App Store. This free version packs a one level activity and lets you try out its Practice and Test modes, put out 1 to 2 targets, and email results.
It is easy to take down an engaging app from the App Store and analyze how it can be used to target specific cognitive skills. Many do address sustained, alternating, even divided attention. We knew we needed apps like these, but we also wanted highly specialized ones too. At the back of our heads years ago, we wished for a better way to address visual attention and get measured results without using up so much time. Seeing how Visual Attention TherAppy was designed to work, the bar is raised even further in therapy app development. Visual Attention TherAppy is guaranteed to be one of those beautiful apps that, when you see it and try it out, will make you exclaim “Finally!” We were this close to hugging it, to be honest. Thanks for yet another amazing release, Tactus Therapy.
- visual attention skills
Following the success of Comprehension TherAppy, Writing TherAppy, and Naming TherAppy is the long awaited fourth member of the family: Reading TherAppy. We here at iSPeak App have time and again lauded the beauty, usability, and intuitiveness of Tactus Therapy Solutions‘ apps, thus, needless to say, we had high expectations for Reading TherAppy. However, this early into our review, we must say right away that Tactus Therapy did not disappoint!
Naturally, one must keep in mind that given the app’s name, reading comprehension was what the app is after, so we did not expect sounds nor voice prompts. The developers’ webpage also made it clear in the app’s description. For anybody who has used either Comprehension TherAppy or Naming TherAppy, expect a similar look and layout on the app’s main screen. This time however, the theme color is red. There are four modes laid out for the user to choose from:
- Phrase Matching: choose the phrase out of 4 phrases that best matches the picture
- Sentence Matching: tap the sentence out of 4 sentences that best matches the picture
- Phrase Completion: select the word out of 4 choices that will complete the phrase shown
- Sentence Completion: the app shows an incomplete sentence and the user is to select the word out of 4 word choices that best completes that sentence
Tap on the main screen’s upper left corner and out pops the app’s instructions with brief descriptions about each mode, app settings, and credits plus contact details. Tap on the upper right corner of the app’s main screen and you access the Settings where you get to choose:
- the maximum number of trials or exercises that will be presented in each practice session
- default email address to which results or scores may be sent to
- child-friendly mode which, if switched on will remove items containing adult themes
We started the app and immediately got busy completing phrases and sentences. Some of our co-therapists wanted to give the app a go and after a few minutes told the others about this latest therapy app. The advantage of working in a big private therapy clinic.
Naturally, no review of iSPeak App’s is ever complete without us taking the app out for a field test. Since our present caseload did not match the audience Reading TherAppy targetted, we were lucky to find one willing participant. A friend asked us to see her elderly father, Mr. M., and check his readiness for an iPad. After walking him through the iPad’s features, we set up Reading TherAppy in front of him and started him on Phrase Matching. When we saw how fast Mr. M. was going through each question, we changed the activity to Sentence Completion. As we watched him focus and process each picture and sentence, we gathered our thoughts about Reading TherAppy:
We were happiest about the following:
- snappier than the previous apps: the app loaded and started faster as compared to its older brothers. At 7.6 mb in weight and minus sound and voice files, this was an expected observation. This may matter to some users for whom every second counts.
- category list: just like Naming TherAppy and Writing TherAppy, a category list pops up before each mode. Tap on any category you want added to your activity and the items are presented in random.
- added–VERBS and ADJECTIVES: this app can’t get any more generous than that! Comprehension TherAppy’s verb and adjective sets are offered as in-app purchases but Reading TherAppy has both sets already included in its category list. And with these extra two sets, this only meant one thing…
- A LOT OF items to choose from: Tactus Therapy has continued to be generous in their database contents: Writing TherAppy boasts of a collection of over 500 items and Naming TherAppy has 400 items in its first 2 modes and 500 items in flashcards. Reading TherAppy’s category list carries a total of 467 items with each mode containing even more items.
- clear, colorful photographs: pictures were clear and detailed enough to allow a user to take note of finer details. The size and distance of the pictures to the phrase/sentence appeared sufficient.
- big, clear fonts with sufficient spacing: the font and font sizes were similar to that of Writing TherAppy’s
- correct answers position themselves: each correct answer goes center and under the picture (and in completion activities, the word moves to position itself on the blank)
- incorrect answers gray out: the word choices are still there, but tap on an incorrect answer and the font color fades a few shades down, narrowing down possible answers for the user.
- well-chosen foils: most items contained 1 distinctly unrelated foil, while other word choices were a bit more related to the target answer. A user is encouraged to read carefully and choose an answer well.
- features that were important to any therapy app were retained: the scoring system is similar to that of its app siblings, discreet correct and incorrect answer sounds were still present, and a Results pop-up window still comes out at the end of each activity, with options to email the results to a preset email address.
We realized that the app’s target clientele are those with intact reading prerequisite skills and can go unfazed by long words and sentences, because otherwise we wished that there were ways to select difficulty levels. Writing TherAppy had easy, medium, and hard modes built in. For Reading TherAppy, a similar system may be a welcome feature, especially if it can be used to:
- filter out concrete picture stimuli (gold bracelets) from abstract concepts (a family on a cruise ship looking out to sea for “family vacation”)
- separate short phrases (“hot water”) from long ones (“brown haired boy” or “sailing the open sea”)
- pick out short sentences (“She fed the cats.”) from long ones (“The forest cannot be seen due to trees.”)
- select the number of choices to be shown: which can be similar to what Comprehension TherAppy has, where one can select the field size / number of words to choose from (or Auto, where the app adds/reduces the number of choices depending on the user’s performance).
Of course, one can always use small black plastic board cutouts to cover words and sentences (like we do) should there be a need to reduce the number of word and sentence choices.
Somewhere in the middle of the Sentence Completion activity, we realized that mode was set at 50 trials. Mr. M. remained on-task even as he passed Item # 32, which was amazing for someone who was said to tire a bit faster than usual. He worked on the iPad as if he’s had it for some time already, tapping on his chosen answers and reading each sentence carefully. Eventually, we commented, “It seems like you are liking the challenge here.” He gave us a big smile and said, “I am liking the sense of accomplishment!” Wow.
The special care and consideration that Tactus Therapy Solutions has given to each app they’ve created stood out in Reading TherAppy: clear and distinct photos, carefully selected reading stimuli and foils, challenging yet engaging reading comprehension activities, tasks that were appropriate for use by older kids and adults, and a rich database of categories to choose from. It is hard not to realize the amount of work that went into designing this app nor the special thought given to each item within it. It is clear that the developers had consciously kept in mind the numerous clients whom they hope this app could help. Reading TherAppy gave our friend Mr. M. the invaluable sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. One can only but imagine how many other individuals can feel the same just by using this app.
- reading comprehension
- focused attention
- visual processing
Ever since we were given a chance to check out the app Comprehension TherAppy last June, we here at iSPeak App have come to equate Tactus Therapy Solutions with excellent, highly-specialized intervention apps. Close at the heels of Naming TherAppy is their third and latest release: Writing TherAppy. And given our experience with the two apps that preceded Writing TherAppy, we have learned to not underestimate this new member of Tactus Therapy’s app family.
Despite its name, Writing TherAppy is not an app that helps one on writing per se: this is not an app that requires the user to physically write on the screen using a fingertip or a stylus. This app was designed to work on the spelling aspect of writing, in other words, putting letters together to spell out a target word. This is a boon for individuals with language difficulties such as aphasia: by taking out the need to use a writing instrument in order to spell the name of a picture, they are free to focus on the graphemic aspect of writing and less on the graphomotor aspect.
Fill-In-The-Blank: a picture is shown with its label spelled out under it, except for 1-2 missing letters. Tap on the correct letter from a selection of letters to spell out the target word.
Copy: a picture is shown with its label spelled out completely above it. Below the picture are squares onto which a client can drag letters from a letter set provided in the bottom of the page.
Spell What You See: a picture is shown in the middle of the screen, but instead of written label, below it are squares representing the number of letters that the target word has. Tap-drag the letters from a letter set provided in the bottom of the page. Tap on the picture itself to hear its label said out loud.
Spell What You Hear: this activity involves spelling to dictation. No picture is shown. Instead, in the middle of a page, a sound icon is shown. The page plays the target word out loud, and the client is to tap-drag the letters onto the squares to spell the target word. Should the client wish to hear the word again, the icon may be tapped to play the audio clip once more.
As with the past apps that we have done review articles on, we invited some of our clients to give Writing TherAppy a go. While we helped them use it, cued, prompted, and eventually let them take the helm, we saw more and more of what the app could do.
Awesomer and awesomer:
- lightweight! Quietly hums in its little imaginary machine: any speech-language pathologist will tell you that setting up any therapy task for a client requires a lot of performance-oriented thinking. This app can deload any clinician a lot of that work. A light bantamweight packing a mere 8.7mb, it’s barely there in your iDevice’s memory yet it was able to take over several functions: going through and mixing pictures from pre-selected categories, selecting foils depending on the level of difficulty, repeats / plays back the audio clip for the client to hear, etc. It did all of these so effectively that our adult clients were intensely engaged in each task.
- clean user interface: the developers have lived up to their name and for being known for clean, compelling interfaces. The crucial buttons were likewise present: the Home icon, Correct and Incorrect Responses indicator, progress bar, Settings button, and the Information button. Two new buttons grace the activity screens: a Hint button on the left of pictures and a Check button on the right.
- sounds remained appropriate, crisp and clear: this app shared the same audio characteristics with its older siblings: a light, non-distracting ping for correct answers and a soft thunk for incorrect ones.
- practical options under Settings: the ability to allow some tweaking is usually the very thing that extends an app’s usability across clients. We didn’t expect any less from the developer, and we were right. The musts were present:
- maximum number of trials: choose from 10, 20, 30, 50 trials, or an infinite number of trials
- maximum number of letters: ranges from 3 to 10
- default e-mail address for results: allows one to enter an email address to which a brief results page will be sent to
- child-friendly mode: toggle this on and certain pictures are eliminated, such as pictures of beer or wine
- 12 Categories, 497 pictures: this app’s picture stash is beautifully sorted under categories, with the number of pictures under each category thoughtfully specified. Tap on the checkboxes of the categories you want to include in your stack, and tap the arrow to proceed. It will present the pictures in random.
- the Check button: we consider the inclusion of a Check button as something very crucial. First, the app does not automatically accept/reject letters placed on the squares. If it did, then one can simply swipe letters onto squares until the app accepts it. Second, the button gives the client a choice: have the app check his work for him right away, or he checks his own work before submitting it for checking. All our adult clients checked their own spelling first before tapping on Check to have the app score their answer as correct or incorrect. By giving a client an opportunity to critique his own work, the app tends to address cognitive issues as well, particularly self-monitoring.
- the Hint button: we have a number of observations about this button, all of which deserve two thumbs up:
- There are two types of Hints, depending on an activity’s chosen level of difficulty: one is that it removes several foils and narrows the client’s letter options down. Tapping on the Hint button can also put a letter in the first box of the target word, cueing the user with what letter the word starts with.
- Hint has slightly different functions across activities and across difficulty levels. For example, in an easy Fill-in-the-Blank activity where there are four letter choices, there is no Hint button for the client to use. However, in a medium Fill-in-the-Blank activity where the entire alphabet is presented for the client to choose from, tapping Hint will remove majority of the foils and will leave only four letter choices.
- Again, depending on the level of difficulty, there are limits as to how many times the Hint button can be used. The Hard levels gives the user three chances to use Hint, and one can use Hint only once in Easy levels. Once the client has learned this, he is compelled to save his Hint button until he has exhausted all his resources coming up with the correct answer.
- the Spell-What-You-See activity: otherwise known as the written naming when shown a picture, a client is to select from a set of letter choices to spell out the picture’s label. The beauty of this particular activity is that the client may opt to tap on the picture to hear its label said out loud. In other words, a client may have difficulty retrieving the picture’s name and may want an auditory cue. The app allows that, letting the client spell given both visual and auditory cues.
- the Spell-What-You-Hear activity: contrary to the cueing options that the Spell-What-You-See activity has, this activity allows only spelling after a dictated word is played. A sound icon occupies the space where a picture usually appears. A client can tap on the icon as often as he wants to in order to play back the audio clip as he spells the target word out.
- foils increase across difficulty levels: do note for the following descriptions of the app’s difficulty levels, the Hint button gives the client options to reduce the number of foils or to cue him with the first letter of the target word.
- in the Easy Copy, Spell-What-You-See and Spell-What-You-Hear activities, all letter choices are to be used in the target word, and all the user has to do is to unscramble these in order to arrive at a correct answer. An Easy Fill-In-The-Blank asks the user to choose which letter was missing from four letter choices.
- In the Medium difficulty level, the client is to choose the correct letter from the entire alphabet in Fill-In-The-Blank. For the rest of the activities, two letter foils are added in the letter choices.
- In Hard levels, the Fill-In-The-Blank takes away not one but two letters from every target word, and the client must choose which letters were these from the alphabet choices. The rest of the activities also require the client to choose from the entire alphabet.
What we would love to see as updates:
Since it was important for us to critique the app from an adult client’s point of view, we made sure that we interviewed our clients who used the app about their impressions on its ease-of-use, visuals, and usefulness in therapy. They only seemed too happy to participate in this app review, thus we will list down their comments here:
- bump up the letter size in the tiles: our clients liked the font and the letters’ tiled presentation. Placing the tiles further apart can compromise word reading, and putting them a bit too near each other will make touch-dragging a challenge for our fine-motor challenged users. If increasing the fonts by a few points won’t hurt the layout of longer words, then it would be a welcome upgrade. Slightly bigger letter tiles can also be a boon to clients with fine-motor impairments.
- picture size is adequate: we were happy when our clients liked the picture size (especially when we figured we may have gotten a bit spoiled by Naming TherAppy’s big pictures).
- options for taking out specific letter positions: this applies to the Fill-In-The-Blank activity. Some of our clients preferred to be presented with words whose middle or final letters were missing, and would wish to tackle missing initial letters as a slightly more difficult activity. One client however expressed that he did not mind the randomization so much.
- written word retrieval
- copying letter-by-letter (focused attention)
- learning and relearning spelling
- spelling shown a picture
- spelling to dictation
Following the success of Tactus Therapy Solutions’ Comprehension TherAppy is their latest creation: Naming TherAppy, designed to facilitate word retrieval among children and adults who have word recall difficulties. It felt like a mini-Christmas morning that day we finally downloaded the app and ran it.
Anybody who’s downloaded and used Comprehension TherAppy (if you haven’t, we highly recommend you do) will be greeted by the familiar Tactus Therapy icon, but this time, with a yellow-orange theme. The home screen was easy on the eyes: clean, simple, straight-to-the-point. Four modes grace the home screen: Naming Practice, Describe, Naming Test, and Flashcards. The upper right corner is taken by the Settings button which will allow you to choose your desired number of trials, the email address to which you want results to be sent, and the Child-Friendly toggle button which takes out pictures that contain alcohol, violence, and adult themes. The upper left corner holds the Info button and contains the basic instructions the user needs in order to use the app.
Just as what we did with its older sibling, we used Naming TherAppy with a number of our adult and kid clients. Using either a Belkin Flipblade iPad Stand (which is compact enough to be packed in a Pacsafe Metrosafe 200, Citysafe 100 or a full Slingsafe 300 when we went to our home-visit adult clients) or a basic wooden bookstand when we were with our kids, it gave us a delicious feeling that we did a lot of good just by NOT carrying 500+ actual picture cards and instead showed them in big, bright colors using an iPad 2.
We did not exaggerate when we said Naming TherAppy raised word retrieval apps to a whole new level. It did. It also raised our expectations after we’ve experienced using its older brother at therapy.
What makes this app awesome:
- twice the memory bulk but no performance lag: this app packed 27.2 mb worth of data, which is reasonable given that it had many more voice cues built in. Never did that extra data layer slow it down. Every button responded in a timely fashion, every voice cue played the moment it was called for. All these without us not needing to shut down the other apps that ran in our iPad 2’s background.
- a clean user interface: which is becoming to be what Tactus Therapy Solutions are known for, in our opinion. Present are the Home button, Correct and Incorrect Responses indicators, and Progress Bar
- appropriate sounds, sufficiently loud easy-on-the-ear male voice: a small ding signals a correct answer, a discreet thunk for an incorrect one. A male North American English accented voice was used to deliver cues and questions, and it was loud enough to be heard via the iPad 2’s built-in speakers and within a relatively quiet room.
- beautifully-sized pictures: since this is after all an app for picture naming, pictures were presented one at a time. Each picture made good use of all that screen real estate, with sharp colors and well-defined lines
- adequately-sized letter fonts for letter and written cues: these were not so big that it grabbed too much of our clients’ visual attention, nor too small that it made them squint
- 500+ pictures makes a powerhouse app: pretty much guarantees any user at least 500 Likes in Go Green Heaven… imagine: no more time wasted going through and selecting pictures, no more unwieldy stacks, bye-bye frayed edges and broken rubber bands.
- you can choose your category stacks in Categories: this option is available for Naming Practice, Describe and Flashcards. There are 10 categories to choose from. Check the box to choose your desired categories and the app will mix them for you and present these pictures randomly:
- Naming Practice lets one use a cueing hierarchy for all 400+ pictures: I have yet to see an app that actually USES a cueing hierarchy, backed by evidence on treatment techniques to boot. One can opt to score the responses as correct or incorrect, or just proceed to the next picture using an arrow button.
- Description: plays a short definition and works as a semantic cue
- First Letter: shows the first letter of the target word
- Whole Word/Written Word cue: shows the complete written word above the picture
- Phrase completion: plays a phrase that the client can complete by supplying the target word
- First Sound/Phonemic cue: plays the first sound of the target word
- Repetition: plays the entire spoke word for the client to repeat
- Describe takes this app’s activities up another level and drives concept learning (or re-learning, in fact) home with a mighty thunk of a virtual hammer via semantic feature analysis: This activity boasts 460+ pictures with 4-6 question prompts, with each prompt programmed to be appropriate to the picture currently being shown. For example, a picture of a huge, juicy, chunky sandwich is surrounded by 6 question prompt buttons. Tap on each and the following will play:
- “What does it look like?”
- “What does it taste like?”
- “Where do you find it?”
- “What type of thing is it?”
- “How big is it?”
- “What is it made of?”
In other words, the sandwich picture definitely won’t have buttons that will ask “What is it used for?” or “What color is it?” The Describe Mode offers questions based on semantic properties such as location, function, smell, color, texture, appearance, shape, size, person, time, sound, taste, sound, category, and association.
- the app comes with a non-standardized Naming Test which presents 30 pictures–a mix of common and uncommon pictures from the app’s categories: Use this with a client and it ends with a score and a report. This may be used as a quick screening tool and a means to measure progress. However, if a client is able to name all 30 pictures in the Test, he/she may not gain much from using the app since their naming skills may be functioning above what the app is designed to target.
- the Flashcards mode can show as many as 500+ pictures. One can tap on the picture to hear its label. This mode does not come with all those buttons that Naming Practice and Describe had, thus no prompts are offered.
- Child-Friendly Mode: since the app can be used with children, flipping this mode to On removes pictures such as a bomb, gun, beer, bra, a bar. Very, very nice.
- Scoring a response as correct or incorrect is not mandatory: tagging a picture as correctly named or not is completely within the clinician’s discretion. One can choose to forward to the next picture without necessarily scoring the present picture as correctly named or not. This flexibility, at least, in our opinion, is very much appreciated.
- the prompt buttons that surrounded each picture may be a bit too big and could be distracting for some individuals: the pictures’ size, color and clarity however appeared to compensate for the buttons’ presence. We surmised that since the app is designed to be used by adult clients on their own, scaling the buttons to a smaller size might compromise their user-friendliness.
- the phrase completion cues were designed for North Americans: the developers admitted that it was hard to create the phrase completion cues, and invariably such situations call for some narrowing down. In this app’s case, since most of Tactus Therapy Solutions’ sales were made in North America, the target audience are North Americans. Nonetheless, the app has lots of room for clinician creativity. One need not use the phrase completion cues and culturally-appropriate ones can be verbally given to the client using the app.
- responsive naming
- confrontation naming
- semantic memory
- semantic feature analysis