If you make it to the end of this post there's a special prize – a rafflecopter with a giveaway for THREE copies of Scene Speak!
I'm not going to call this post about Scene Speak ($9.99 iPad only) a review. It's neither an overview of the app's features nor a rundown of how to use it. There's lots of information on the Good Karma website to help you understand how the app works and the app itself even has a 30-page user manual built-in!
A review also typically includes an assessment of an app's strengths and weaknesses and I'm not really doing that here either. So, what is this post if it's not a review? I'm calling it an 'App Guide' because I really want to highlight for you the features in this app that I find useful and suggest some different ways it could be used.
One thing that has become apparent to me as I have used this app in an in-depth way, is that to pigeon-hole it as a 'special needs app' is to do it an injustice. It is undoubtedly an app that has lots of different uses for those involved with the special needs community. However, all parents and teachers could find multiple ways to use this app with children. The potential uses for it are limitless, constrained only by your imagination.
Here are just some examples of things you can use this app to do:
- Parents: create interactive photo albums for and with your children. Recreate your children's favourite hard copy books so your kids can read, listen to and interact with them anywhere.
- Educational uses: create your own books of flashcards. Give a child some pictures and ask them to create their own storybook. Files can be saved to the cloud and are also easily shared, so use the app to prepare interactive lesson plans or scan a student's homework into the app so you can add written or recorded voice feedback to it.
- Speech therapists: use the app to create choice boards and other AAC options. Put together a personalized book of pictures of oral motor or articulation exercises, together with recorded instructions, that a client can then use for practice.
- Special needs (and general organization): create books of interactive visual schedules and supports, task analyses, social stories and more.
Some basic information about the interface
'My Books' will be the heart of the app for children. The books you put together can be thought of in any number of ways – books (obviously), categories, albums, lessons – whatever works best for you.
The pages that go into the books are referred to in the app as Visual Scene Displays (or VSDs for short). The VSDs are either created to put into books or they can be used on a standalone basis.
They can all be found in the VSD Library, which is the second major screen you will spend most of your time in.
The app comes pre-populated with a number of VSDs that you can use or delete if not needed.
'What Hurts?' is a VSD that comes with the app and looks really useful for people who spend time with toddlers or others who are either non-verbal or their verbal communication is not always functional. A child can use it to point to the area on the figure where they feel pain and there's also a thermometer for them to indicate the level of pain they are in.
What's unique about this app?
There are lots of apps out there that allow you to import images which you can then supplement with a written label and an audio recording. You can do that with Scene Speak, but also an awful lot more:
- Anything you can save to your device's camera roll can be used to create a VSD – pdfs, photos and scanned images.
- You can also search for images from within the app using Google or Bing.
- Add text and either record yourself speaking (text will highlight as read) or use one of 5 text to speech voices within the app.
- The best feature in my opinion is the 'hotspot' – once set a child can tap anywhere on the picture to see pop up text and hear either a recorded voice or text to speech audio.
Here are some books I put together to illustrate the kinds of things you can use Scene Speak for:
Interactive storybook – The Gruffalo
If you're familiar with my son Owen then you will know he loves books. On some trips out of the house I used to be weighed down with a bag full of board books. There are book apps on the iPad that he loves but not all of the books he loves are apps.
The Gruffalo is one of those much-loved books that don't exist in app form. So, I took pictures of each of the pages using my iPad's camera, created a VSD for each page and then put all those VSDs into a book. As Owen looks at each page, the hotspots show up as white rectangles or squares. Once he taps on them they turn red. He can tap on the text hotspots to hear a recording of me reading the book. Touching on a picture hotspot will show him the word for that object (see 'tree' on the left of the picture above for an example of the pop up text) and he will hear my recording of the word. It took me about 20 minutes to put this together but the next one will be quicker.
Now he can carry around all his beloved books on his iPad.
Flashcards for learning and testing
To create this 3×2 grid I used the Custom Boards app from Smarty Ears and saved it to my camera roll. In Scene Speak I then added a hotspot to each cell. I can use this to teach Owen colours and also test him to see what he knows (“Show me yellow”). When he taps on the cell he will hear me say yellow and see the pop up text.
Note that you can choose the colour of the pop up text so it shows up against any background.
Owen loves songs that use finger play and its a great way for him to work on refining his motor skills. He has a book of favourite songs together with the actions he can do, that was put together by one of his therapists. It's a reference guide for me more than a book for him as its just the lyrics to songs together with notes outlining what actions Owen does and when.
So for him to use – either to request that we sing a song together or to play a song on his own if I'm busy – I put together a song book for him in Scene Speak. When he touches on each cell he will hear me singing a bit of the song.
Note that when you're in a book in play mode, each page has arrows so that you can easily go back or forward in the book. In settings you can change this so that pages can be navigated using swipes, if that's your preference.
Again, I used Custom Boards to create the grids shown here. There are free or cheaper ways to create your own individual cards for Picture Exchange Communication (PECs). You can read about how I create PECs on my iPad in two of my previous blog posts – part 1 and part 2. You can also read my review of Custom Boards if you want some more info on that app.
Interactive photo album
One of the things we did in August (which I am still hoping to blog about) was a Surfer's Healing camp on Lake Ontario, the first of its kind in Canada.
I put together an interactive photo album for both boys so they can re-live an experience that was enormous fun for them but also explore the pictures and possibly learn new words to add to their vocabulary. For Owen, who is non-verbal, it also enables him to go through the pictures with someone and tell them about the event using the hotspots I've recorded.
My Choice Board, also by Good Karma Apps, is one that Owen has on his iPod Touch. It's a nice app and particularly useful for creating choice boards on the fly. But there are some of Owen's choice boards that remain relatively static in terms of the choices on them – favourite dvds, books, snack foods, etc. I still switch them around now and then so I know that Owen has selected an item, rather than simply learned its place on the board.
Now I can create a whole bunch of choice boards and put them in a book in Scene Speak. The one on the left is some of his favourite books. He can touch the image of the book and hears its title. You can see how this app could be used for AAC purposes!
Task Analyses and Social Stories
Here you can see a book I put together called 'Going to the toilet'. What you can see in the pictures on the left is the book in edit mode to show all the pages (or VSDs) that make up the entire thing. It's easy to re-arrange the order of pages or edit VSDs once they are in the book, everything is straightforward in terms of modification.
What I tried to do here was put together some generic symbols for the steps in the process, together with some pictures of those same steps from our downstairs bathroom. As Owen has a tough time generalizing skills from one location to another, I thought this might help him build an association between a specific example of something he is used to doing at home and a generic symbol I can use to represent that activity when we're elsewhere.
That way, when he sees the PCS or other symbols prompting him to follow certain steps he can hopefully complete them even if he is outside the home or school environment.
I started off with a picture of the bathroom downstairs and put hotspots on each area so he can be clear on the names and function of every one.
This is the generic PEC card I used for the washing hands step. I made the PEC itself using So Much 2 Say, by Close 2 Home Apps.
Next to that step I added a picture of Owen washing his hands – I'm hoping that pairing a picture that's personal and meaningful for him together with the generic symbol for that activity will help him understand exactly what that symbol means.
Hopefully I've inspired you to think over all the different ways you could utilize this app. There are lots of apps out there that have many of the same features but the hotspot one is unique and I love that you can pull so many things together into just one app. I understand that the developer has plans to add more features in the next update so I think the potential uses for Scene Speak will continue to expand.
I have three copies of the app to giveaway and you can enter via rafflecopter:
**Disclosure** – I bought this app a while ago and I did not receive any remuneration for this review. However, I do assist the app's developer with her social media channels and am reimbursed for that service. Notwithstanding that relationship I would only recommend an app I use personally and believe would be good for my readers.