Tech Tuesday

Candra Grether shares:

How fun is Tech Tuesday?! I love getting new ideas for my iPad and hope you find something useful in this post as well.

First, I love my iPad for AAC purposes. I have downloaded the free (lighter) versions of costly AAC apps (Sono Flex Lite, Avaz, and Snap + Core First) to trial for short periods of time with a couple of students prior to requesting Cindy come out for an AT Consult. Of course, this short trial period is only when the student is with me since the iPad stays with me but these free versions of the apps can still be useful for this purpose. I haven’t done this for all AT Consults, only when it makes sense to me depending on the student.

A ton of great speech-language specific iPad apps have already been mentioned in previous Tech Tuesday posts. Others that fall in this category that I have used with positive reactions from students include:

Silly Sentence Articulation (sentence level for S, Z, R, L, SH, CH, and TH)

Speech Tutor (great visual for articulator placement with side and front views as well as in-app video recording for comparison purposes)

Social Quest. With consideration to the concept of role release, I have used this app myself less and less as my caseload changes but I’m including it in this post because it is still a good one to suggest to teachers in Social Communication Programs or Autism units. In the past, I have found it more appropriate for students who have a good foundation of language skills with primarily just pragmatic weaknesses as some of the questions/answers are wordy and/or target higher-level language skills including figurative language. Students can practice skills, receptively or expressively, in the context of scenarios for a variety of settings: neighborhood, doctor, supermarket, mall, movies, restaurant, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, garage/yard, and living room. Each student can practice in a different setting during the same game (see picture below).

Splingo’s Language Universe (great for following directions (you select 1, 2, 3, or 4-step)). A professor introduced this app to me in grad school for a young student I worked with. Younger students love Splingo the orange alien and watching him blast off into space with their help. I do wish the black arrows (see picture below) were optional for some students but still like the app. After a few rounds of trials and helping Splingo with his rocket ship, he blasts off to another planet for more trials. Cute! I like cute!

And finally, my FAVORITE apps! Because I work with middle and high schoolers right now, my most used apps are honestly the ones not specific to speech-language skills at all as many of those often look/feel “young”, you know? I know we all have varying opinions on using games in therapy but I have found that easy to play games like Dots and Boxes, Tic Tac Toe, and Four In A Row (all made by OutOfTheBit Ltd) can be highly motivating for my older students, sometimes even more than their original versions since everything is neater on an iPad. Ha!

Other highly motivating apps include the My PlayHome series (there is also My PlayHome School, Store, and Hospital). Originally intended for me for younger students, I have had students in middle school MSD classrooms discover these on my iPad and who will practice their very best speech and language skills with the first/then promise of a minute of free time with these apps. Screen shots below of a backyard in My PlayHome and a grocery store in My PlayHome Store do not do these apps justice – great movements and sounds within the apps and you can interact with the characters in SO MANY WAYS that even I think these apps are enjoyable. While I can’t remember how many of the apps in this post I’ve mentioned were free or not, I do know that these were roughly $2-4/each. Well worth the price in my opinion, especially if you have younger students (basic concepts, following directions, and more, oh my!). I used these apps as a much needed motivator during an assessment for an elementary-aged student recently and I’m pretty sure I’m the coolest SLP (human?) on the planet because of it. J If you buy more than one of these apps, they all link to work within each other.

The girls are jumping, swinging, turning, and watering. Verbs! You can also pick some of the flowers as well as the carrots in this scene plus touch the sun/moon for daytime or nighttime effects.



Chapters 19, 20, and 21

Chapter 19

In this chapter Melody discusses the time that she spends thinking of new things to say with her device. This certainly made me think of how often we speak without thinking and how Melody does not have this ability – or is THAT a disability that WE have? Melody does mention not appreciating when people talk “about” her. This is so important that we include our students  in conversations about their abilities and progress – who knows what they might like to contribute. Melody spends much of this chapter focusing on the love and support of Mrs. V and her family. She knows her family loves her and believes in her, it’s the rest of the world she is worried about. This statement at the end of the chapter made me think of all the ways our students feel they must “prove” themselves to others when at school, this includes proving themselves to us as teachers. May we give them opportunities to show us what they know rather than challenging what they don’t.

Chapter 20

The interactions with Mr. D really stuck out in my mind from this chapter. These highlighted the ways in which so many people make assumptions about Melody’s abilities, as well as the way people who don’t believe in her abilities make her feel. I certainly hope that my students feel that I have confidence in their ability to learn and communicate. At the end of the Quiz Team tryouts I felt like Mr. D tried to be nice to Melody and maybe even redeem himself for initially suggesting she didn’t belong. Unfortunately, his comment about “you might want to wipe your mouth” showed a lack of compassion. I can think of so many ways that this situation could have been approached to preserve her dignity – would I have approached it that way? Do I encourage? Do I believe in the abilities of my students instead of the disabilities?

Chapter 21

Yay! Melody Made the Quiz Team – and… that is the only happy thing about this chapter. The kids are mean and say “what will people think of us?” and they mock Melody. A time when Melody should be so proud of her accomplishment becomes so sad. She does discuss some dignity issues in this chapter and the dependence on others to use the bathroom throughout the day. These care needs are described as if they are at the front of her mind throughout the day and trips to the bathroom at school are dreaded experiences for Melody.  At the end of the chapter when the other students in the inclusion classroom are being unkind, she simply says “go” to communicate that she wants to leave. As much as I want Melody to “have the last word” per say – sometimes words are just not enough. This does leave me thinking about how I make others feel. Do my actions suggest I think less of someone’s abilities because of the way they look or a physical disability?

–Dala Sparks

Chapters 22, 23 and 24

Chapter 22

Poor Melody. All she wants to do is be “normal.” Even after making the team, she still feels like-and gets treated like-an outsider. The medi-talker does help her communicate, but when her peers engage in conversation, she’s not able to produce utterances quickly enough to keep up with their pace. I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating that must be. As an SLP, I have experienced this when I am having some of my AAC users participate in groups with their devices. The delays can seem excruciating sometimes. My hope is, that as the children age, they become quicker and more proficient at participating in conversation, but we all know there are limitations for many students, whether they be physical, cognitive or otherwise. I do love how Melody pre-programs comebacks for Claire’s snarky comments. As an educator, I can’t say that I would directly encourage a child to do this, however, I probably wouldn’t discourage a student from using them either, if I saw an interaction where it was justified. What do you all think?

Chapter 23

This Chapter opens on the day of the local competition and Melody is experiencing all the emotions that any student would in this situation…nerves, excitement and fear. When Paul, the stage manager, goes out of his way to accommodate Melody’s special needs, I had to think that as great as it made Melody feel, it was probably just as wonderful an experience for him to see a child similar to his own achieving such great things. Maybe it’ll impact him past that initial interaction to push his own child a little bit more than he has in the past. Just before the context starts, Melody hears another interaction between Claire and Molly that is disparaging toward her. These mean girls are a prime example of how I want my students and own children NOT to act, but I must applaud Melody for her ability to tune them out and not let their words and actions affect her performance or attitude.

Chapter 24

During this Chapter, the competition starts and the moderator makes a point of mentioning that Melody is a “special participant.” I have conflicted feelings about this. While I understand that she is perceived as “different,” I don’t think calling attention to this is at all necessary. Obviously, she felt embarrassed for being singled out, but again, being a rock star, she didn’t let it throw her off her game. Melody performs just as well-if not better-than her peers, and their team wins this round of the competition. I was happy to see glimpses of Mr. Dimming, Rose and Connor having positive and encouraging interactions with Melody as they waited for their next round of competition. She’s so witty and bright and I’m sure that if any of them got the time to truly know her, she’d be loved and cherished the same way that she is by Mrs. V and her family. It seems like Rose and Melody want to be friends, but each one has different factors that prevent them from fully engaging with one another-Rose is worried about what her typical peers may think, and Melody is afraid that Rose will judge her for her physical limitations and differences. I can only hope that as Melody matures, she will worry less about this and let her personality shine through. I love the lessons this book teaches and think it should be required reading in upper elementary and middle school grades. We have taught for years about cultural inclusivity, and have begun to embrace LGBT inclusivity in recent years. I think it’s time we start being more intentional about inclusion for people with disabilities. What are your thoughts?

–Lindsey Ludwig

Tech Tuesday

Dana Shanton shares:

Articulation Station:

I really like this app. I only purchased the most widely targeted sounds for my current caseload.  The /s/ sound, for example costs $5.99 and it includes /s/ blends. 

When you tap the sound card you  want to target, it will flip the card over to give you options for ways to practice production the sound (words/phrases/sentences/stories).

The app uses a wide range of vocabulary so that a therapist could target categorical naming, object functions, and much more if working with language/articulation combined groups.  

There are even comprehension questions at the end of each story.

If the student is still working on producing the sound in isolation, there is a light bulb icon in the top right corner of the card. When you tap the icon it will list the age of mastery for that sound as well as give tips on how to teach the sound.     

 There is also a voice recording feature that allows the student to record their response and play it back. This helps teach self monitoring, which aids in carryover.



Pre-teaching Vocabulary

I love using books in therapy!  Vocabulary is great to target with children’s books. I highly recommend the texts by Linguisystems: Speech & Language Activities for Young Learners by Janet R. Lanza and Lynn K. Flahive and Speech & Language Activities for Grades 1-3 by Kristin Becker.  These books are stock full of activities to use along with children’s books to target phonology, vocabulary (expressive/receptive), grammar, WH questions, basic concepts, following directions, and many other skills. Each book includes vocabulary cards that go along with 10 must-read children books (books not included). The “young learners” book has preprinted picture vocabulary cards and the “grades 1-3” book is equipped with picture cards and matching definition cards.  The first thing I did was laminate all the cards.  They are nice, color printed cards on cardstock.  The authors did a great job at selecting the best target words from each book.  Funny story, a 4th grade articulation student working on all sounds in oral reading, decided to practice using one of the books.  Nevertheless, she got stuck on the exact words that were selected as target vocabulary words in the Linguisystem text. I like to pre-teach the vocabulary.  This way students can be prepared to comprehend the text as it is read, therefore not to get stuck on new words. I also use the vocabulary to incentivize students to pay extra attention during the oral reading by making it a competition.  One idea I use has the students push a buzzer every time they hear a vocabulary word, if they can define it they get a sticker.

The method I use to pre-teach target vocabulary goes like this: 1. Auditory bombardment. Read aloud the list of vocabulary and show the picture vocabulary cards. If a student group has a difficult time listening and staying engaged, I have them “raise your hand if you have heard the word before”.  This also helps me to gauge how many words are brand new. 2. Using PowerPoint, I make 1 slide per word.  Do a google image search and add 3-5 pictures that are relevant to my students. I use the “snipping tool” on my laptop to easily cut and paste the images without saving them individually. I input a definition using Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary  I find this site to have more kid friendly definitions.  I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it!  The kids love to comment on the pictures and answer questions to make
connections to life.  i.e., for the term “supper” I put several images of different meals.  Each student shared which meal he/she would rather eat for supper.  The pictures are good to spark conversation, especially if you know your kids well, then you can easily select the pictures that will get them talking. PowerPoint is also nice because we can swipe back to compare words and make further connections.  At Roosevelt Perry, which is a technology magnet school, I have a really nice TV Smartboard in my room to show the PowerPoint and allow the kiddos to interact with the technology.  At Maupin, I use the Crusade IPad. Both work great and have their advantages. 3. Depending on the group of students, immediately following the PowerPoint I will either do a receptive vocabulary task i.e., verbally give a definition to the student with field of 4 vocabulary picture card choices, or make the task more challenging with the entire field of cards.  Sometimes, I will do a sentence production task for students who need to increase MLU.  You could also do a card sort activity with identifying nouns vs. verbs vs. adjectives.  4. The next session, I will typically review the vocabulary cards at the beginning of the session – students like acting out the verb cards – and then begin orally reading the book.

Post-test: I have used to create vocabulary quizzes with the same target words.  I like this site because it is easy to use and free.  Also, you can choose the level of difficulty you wish to use; anything from picture cues, multiple choice, matching, all the way up to student typing in the definition.

– Katie Cohen (

Chapters 16, 17, 18

Chapter 16 opens with Melody’s first day at school with her communication device, “Elvira.”  The text describes her attempts, failures and successes with the device, noting that she “kept messing up, but Ms. V wouldn’t let (her) quit.”  She mainstreams into a generation education classroom, to put her new words to the test. She was able to introduce herself, make appropriate comments, and share a joke with her peers.  She stated “for the first time in (her) life,” she felt like part of the group.  As the week progresses; however, she comes frustrated with the limitations of the device in regard to conversational use. Most of her utterances were social mediated, targeting basic comments to engage her peers.  Despite her access to communication, Melody still ultimately feels separated from the group. Her ability to  share her thoughts has improved, but she still feels relationally disconnected from meaningful interactions with kids her own age.

As an SLP, Melody’s story resonates with our work with special populations in schools.  We often program and plan to integrate greetings and to answer simple questions, to request and to affirm.  Melody’s story challenged me to consider communication’s role in human connection, and how I can use that goal to shape my therapy. As I move forward as a provider, I will consider how to incorporate meaningful connection between students through small group work. Communication with typical peers would often be best targeted in a small group settings at first, with adult facilitation and support. Communication is a tool that opens the door to joining a community, and the speech session is a great place to build that community.

–Laura Woodring

Chapters 13, 14, and 15

In chapter 13 Melody reflects on some of the things that her little sister can do. She talks about how she wishes she could do things like show attitude through movement and draw whatever she wants. Mrs. V wins tickets to an aquarium. Melody immediately thinks about all the animals she can see and how badly she wants to go. When Mrs. V states there is an extra ticket, she immediately begs for Rose to join them. Mrs. V quickly understands the request and the day is set up. I personally loved that one of Mrs. V’s first thoughts was “Just think of all the new words we’ll gather.” She is always thinking about how to make experiences the best for Melody. Melody loves every moment of the trip until they come across the two most dreaded people. Claire and Molly make the group feel a variety of emotions (embarrassment, anger). Claire and Molly are quickly shot down when Mrs. V points out that Claire isn’t perfect either, she has braces. Isn’t this true…. we all have things to make us more ‘perfect’…. some things are just easier to identify.


Chapter 14 focuses on Melody’s desires for a more dynamic and expressive communication device. She wants it to be more like a computer and generate speech for her so she can truly be heard. I think about how communication devices can be limiting, especially as we are building students up for more dynamic devices. Melody compares the words “pasted on my dumb plastic board” to all the words she could use if she had a device more like a computer. She tells her aide that she wants to do her report about Stephen Hawkings. She ponders questions like: does his wife put him on the toilet? and how does he manage to be a dad? In this chapter I really saw Melody open her mind to all the possibilities a more complex communication device offers.


In chapter 15 Melody gets her communication device! She searched the internet with her aide to find the perfect one for her. Which brings up the question AGAIN…… where is the SLP in their life!?!? The rich vocabulary this device brings into her life is unmeasurable. When she says “I love you” for the first time (out loud) to her mom and dad…… wow!!


Amanda Piekarski