My under-18 caseload has been significantly limited the past few months, so I haven’t been reviewing many children’s apps. However, I did use this app to assess several kids, and I wanted to share my thoughts!
What It Is: An app for assessing articulation and phonological abilities by Smarty Ears.
How It Works: The test is set up like a highly-interactive Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation 2 (GFTA 2). First (as with any test!), be sure to read the manual. Enter the child’s basic information, then choose whether you’re doing a screen or a full evaluation. (Check the manual to see an explanation of the differences between the screen and the full.) As you can see in the screenshot, the basic layout includes a large, central image; a record button; IPA transcription of the target word (with target phonemes highlighted in green/red); a button to flip the IPA transcription toward/away from the child; a notepad; and next/previous buttons.
So, for example, one of the children I evaluated frequently fronts his velars. When we got to the image of the ladybug, he substituted d/g on the final phoneme. I recorded it for later use, entered a brief note in the notepad, and touched the /g/ to change it from being highlighted green to being highlighted red. (That last part is how the app analyzes the quantitative data.) As I became more accustomed to the app, I began using these features a little more efficiently (e.g. sometimes only writing a note or recording, instead of doing both).
At the end, the test asks you to rate the child’s overall intelligibility. Then, clicking on the user will show you all tests that have been administered to that child. Selecting a specific testing event will show you percentage breakdowns of position (initial, medial, final), manner (fricative, liquids, etc.), voicing, and place (alveolar, glottal, etc.). In addition, it will give you a list of the words with their target sounds (highlighted green or red).
Therapy Applications: As Well, assessing articulation and phonological processes, of course. Use it for baseline assessment, showing progress, creating goals/plans, and educating related professionals and parents. The ability to switch between full evaluation and a quicker screen is great for any of these purposes.
Pros: 1. Price. If you’re looking to buy similar paper versions, such as the Golman-Fristoe, you’ll be spending at least a few hundred dollars. Considering the additional features and interactive layout you get with the app, the price is incredibly reasonable. Of course, you just need to weigh this with the fact that the GFTA is standardized, and this isn’t.
2. Intuitive use.
3. Good settings options. There are only a few, but they make it easy to adjust for child needs (e.g. turning on/off encouraging transition sounds in between pictures).
4. Being able to flip the IPA word to face you if you’re sitting across from the kid. This accommodates for various positioning and also, to an extent, client distractibility.
5. Large, “real life” pictures. One of the main complaints with tests like the GFTA is the outdated pictures. The nice thing about this app is that they are all current, and if they became outdated, it seems like it would be incredibly easy to update them much fast than a traditional printed test.
6. Manual. So necessary in an assessment app!
7. Color-coded percentages within the results. This is great for quickly glancing to see strength/problem areas and severity.
Cons: 1. Confidentiality. Yeah, I 100% understand the dilemma here, and the developer’s hands are kind of tied. (See my explanation in the cons section of my review of another Smarty Ears assessment app, Pro-Pa.) However, this is a really tricky situation, since my understanding is this type of information needs to be double-locked to be HIPAA compliant. (Particularly since it includes a birth date. Perhaps Smarty Ears would consider changing the birth date to having the person type in chronological age. I know this means more work on our parts, but it might be safer.) My advice, as always: come up with some sort of system so you don’t include any identifying information to be stored within the app. For example, I have been using first initials only. Since I am no longer seeing those children, I have saved the data appropriately but deleted the assessments from my iPad. The one you see in my pictures is an example.
2. Again, similar to Pro-Pa, this app is new and unrecognized in most educational settings. Not being standardized, it will likely not be given as much credibility (right or wrong). If these are barriers for you, I would still suggest that this can be an excellent supplemental tool to give you even more information about the child’s artic/phono skills. The fact that it isn’t standardized certainly comes with it’s advantages, including a more efficient format, increase interactive abilities, and the ability to quickly update the images and features to acknowledge inevitable cultural shifts.
3. It would be REALLY cool to have an IPA keyboard (maybe like this?) in the notes section. I have no clue if this is possible with iOS–Apple is pretty picky about using their standard keyboard. But it would be super helpful.
The Take-Away: The app is an excellent way to get a broader picture of a child’s articulation skills and phonological processes. It is great for a variety of ages, includes a fantastic manual, and generates lovely reports. I would highly recommend it, so long as you follow HIPAA requirements!
My Questions for You: Do you assess and treat articulation and phonological processes? What assessment tools do you currently use? Would you be comfortable using an app for evaluation or screening purposes?
Disclosure: Smarty Ears provided me with a free copy of this app to review. I was not compensated in any way for the review, and they were aware that I would be discussing the app’s strengths and weaknesses.