Speech Sounds For Kids - Australian Edition
An app to help improve a young person’s phonemic awareness
This app is aimed at helping young people to learn and practise specific sounds that are required for clear speech. It is an Australian app, although there is an American version too so it is specific in the accent to those countries. However the approach that the app uses means anyone could realistically use this app outside of those countries education settings but those countries would definitely benefit the most.
The app uses what it describes as a multi-sensory approach to help young people access the 22 consonant sounds of the English Language. This includes allowing the user to record their own version of the sounds which can then be assessed. The app, on first look seems though it is set up for a speech and language therapist to use with their students as there is a specific log in that requires the user to type in the name of the young person they are working and then the name of the therapist and their email, although the main purpose of this is to save the sounds to allow for a quick start when a user reuses the app. This is mainly so that the therapist can be emailed with the young person’s results so a continual assessment can take place on their progress. However a teacher may well also use this screen for their purposes and once the information has been typed in the screen does not appear again. Alternatively a user does not need to type anything in to access the app.
Within the app there is a lot going on and this makes it sometimes difficult to manoeuvre through all the features. There is a guide available and the website that links to the app from the developer also have videos that will help any user get the best from the app. I would suggest that any user reads the guide and/or utilises the videos before they use the app so that they are aware of the full potential of the app but also to aid in them being able to move around the app successfully. I’m sure that over time someone would become extremely proficient at using the app however it’s not always self-explanatory how to move through the pages and what all the icons mean.
The graphics are OK although where the background is quite stylised the pictures within the app are aimed at a much younger audience and this doesn’t entirely work and is a little distracting from the actual app. The sounds though do link in perfectly well with the approach/aim of the app and the targeted audience.
The features within the app though are where the strengths really lie. In suggesting that they use a multi-sensory approach they are certainly not lying. Every trick in the book is used to help young people improve their abilities in reading and phonemic awareness but it is also done in such a way that the teacher/therapist can continually assess the young person’s progress. When the user is learning a new sound they can do so in a number of different ways, whichever way suits them the best, or even utilising all of the methods to help further compound their knowledge of the sound. Users can listen to the word being pronounced; see a video of a young child pronouncing the word, a hand cue linking to the word to help them remember, as well as the ability for the user to record the sound too. The gamification element within the app also encourages the user to stay engaged and continue to progress through each of the sounds.
I would suggest that this were the type of app that would be used solely within an education setting. Due to the approach and also the set-up of the app I would suggest that it would probably be difficult for a young person to easily access the app and navigate it on their own without support and supervision.
From the Developer
Speech Sound for Kids is an app for promoting phonemic awareness, auditory discrimination and speech sound production using a multi-sensory approach.
This app can provide many hours of speech therapy and early literacy programming.
It is recommended for children aged approximately 4 years – 7 years, however younger and older children may find it useful depending on their individual needs. The app helps children produce and explore the 22 consonant sounds of English using a multi-sensory approach. It also allows for the users’ results to be recorded and sent to their therapist or teacher. It’s perfect for home practice!
Each of the sounds is represented by a friendly little character called a Sound Buddy. With the help of the Sound Buddies, children learn to identify, discriminate and produce each sound – and they start to learn letter-links too! The program has a strong emphasis on developing phonemic awareness and articulatory awareness too.
Animated stories, videos of a child’s mouth saying the sound and Hand sound cues are all provided to help the child learn each sound. The child can record the sound or word and listen to how they went, and these recordings can be saved to monitor progress.
Children can play games like colouring the Sound Buddy (Touch when you hear the sound), Who said that sound? Who said that word? and matching games of varying degrees of difficulty.
In time, children become familiar with more and more Sound Buddies, thus increasing in their phonemic awareness (speech sound awareness) and understanding of correct speech sound production. Listening and production tasks are provided for both single sounds and also for each of the sounds in words. There are over 300 fun pictures to help with word practice!
Several sounds can be combined in tasks after they have been “studied” individually, allowing children to develop a strong awareness of the similarities and differences between sounds.
Phonemic awareness (speech sound awareness) has a causal relationship to reading and spelling development. When children become aware of individual sounds in words, they can begin to “map” them on to letters. Articulatory awareness is the knowledge of the articulation required for each sound. Studies show that individuals with dyslexia have weak articulatory awareness and training in this domain can increase performance on literacy tasks.
The Goals of the App
1) To help children learn about and practise specific sounds required for clear speech.
2) To heighten children’s awareness of sounds (phonemic awareness) which is vital for speech therapy tasks and which is a strong predictor for success in literacy-learning
3) To heighten children’s articulatory awareness and auditory awareness of sounds (phonemes) which has been shown to assist children who have reading difficulties.
Scope of the App
There are five main parts to the app which work towards achieving the goals listed above. They are:-
1) learn to identify and make a specific sound (as represented by a Sound Buddy)
2) learn to identify and make specific sounds in the first position of words
3) learn to distinguish and produce different sounds (from the current set of sounds being studied) .
4) learn to distinguish and produce different sounds in the initial position of words (from the current set of sounds being studied)
5) build a bank of familiar sounds that can be identified and produced as single sounds and also in the initial position of words
This is the Australian voice version. A US voice version is also available in the App Store.