Friday, October 7, 2011

Minimal Pairs App

Minimal Pairs by SLP Tech Tools has a number of features I like. It allows for the tracking of up to 75 clients. Once you input the client's name and grade, the date, time, process targeted and the total correct/ incorrect, scores are tracked for each client for each session. All of this information is inputted automatically by the app, relieving the speech path of doing this tedious work. On the screen where one finds the child's scores, there is also a section for writing notes. For speech paths working in the schools with huge caseloads, this is a time saver. Adding and deleting clients is easy. The app offers clearly identifiable picture(s) on a solid blue background. There are session setting buttons that one can set to on/off to show or not the word with pictures, allow or not allow a spoken voice for pictures, enable VGA output and randomly shuffle or not shuffle minimal pairs. 

Navigating the app can be challenging until one gets accustomed to the layout. There are eight process targeted: final consonant deletion, cluster reduction for /s/ and /l/ clusters, stopping (/t/ for /s/, /d/ for /z/, /p/ for /f/ and /b/ for /v/,  deaffrication (/t/ for "ch" and "sh" for "ch" , fronting, prevocalic voicing (/b/ for /p/, /d/ for /t/, /g/ for /k/, /v/ for /f/, and /z/ for /s/, depalatization (/t/ for "sh" and /s/ for "sh"), and gliding (/w/ or /j/ for /l/, and /w/ for /r/). For each process, one selects a session format: auditory training, contrast drill or target drill (an auditory bombardment type drill). Within each format are lists of words to select. All are checked. Tapping on a word removes the check mark. Pictures will not appear for those words not checked. Some targeted sounds have a number of word choices while others can present as few as three.

There are a few icons at the top of the session screens. Right and left arrows, when tapped, move to the previous screen or the next screen, respectively. Between the arrows is a red box with an X to be tapped when the child's response is incorrect, a green box with an upside down check mark to be tapped when the child's response is correct, and blue box with the word END written upside down to be tapped to terminate the task. I was confused as to why the check mark and word END were upside down. Elizabeth Strata, the app developer clarified, "The “upside down” control panel was deliberate.  In working with other apps we noticed how easy it is for kids to change pictures and have the word repeat, uncontrollably. So, we designed SLP Minimal Pairs (SLPMP) with the control panel at the top, facing the therapist and away from the child. That way it takes only a little effort to keep busy fingers away from taking over the session." The blue rectangular box is designed to allow the user to change session type. Let's say one is working on auditory training and wishes to switch to contrast or target drill, one taps on a specific part of the rectangle. This takes some getting used to, but it does allow one to change to a different training session rapidly. In contrast drill there is also a yellow button that when tapped rotates between contrasting words/pictures pairs. A word of caution: a child left unsupervised will be able to  tap and move between drills just for the fun of tapping and changing screens, with little to no learning taking place. This possibility might have been avoided by offering a session option button that would allow the user to turn on/off the ability to switch between sessions.

As one might expect with taped presentations, the risk for sound distortions/omissions is high. In a minimal pairs task, it is essential that all sounds be clearly produced. Sometimes that requires exaggerating sounds. This is not the case in a number of instances. The clarity of the /p/ is particularly problematic. It frequently is omitted or sounds like a click. Other sounds for which production is not always clear are /k/, /b/, /v/, /n/, /m/, /z/, "ng," and "j." When I mentioned this to Ms. Strata, she noted, "We expect the therapist will interact with the child, using the app is [sic] an aid for interaction and not a substitute for the therapist."

The cost of this app at $29.99 is high. However, in all fairness, the price of this app is the same as comparable apps and $10.00 cheaper than another articulation app on the market. At this price, on a device with the abilities of the iPad, I would expect a more fun and interactive app. But this is a criticism I have of the latest spate of speech and language apps  that do nothing more than put pictures to iPad and call it a day. I would be more likely to consider an app of this kind if it were priced below $10.00, and that would be primarily for the scoring/tracking feature if I were using it with multiple children at once, or if I could purchase the processes separately for less than $3.00 each.

Ages: 3 years and up
Cost: $29.99
Rating: +++

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