*Drumroll* – this post contains a giveaway for TWO copies of SpeechBox for Speech Therapy (an iPhone and an iPad edition) AND a video of the app in action starring the talented and wonderful Oliver!
Summary – is the app worth buying?
Yes, for parents who want the ability to practice speech sound production and articulation at home, this app is definitely worth the $19.99 purchase price. For SLPs, the main advantage currently to buying this app is that you can easily prepare and share customized homework for your clients, so if you can afford it, buy it. If not, then wait for the next update.
How the app works
SpeechBox is extremely easy and intuitive to use. Open it and you’ll see a number of boxes which each contain a speech sound, together with some boxes organized by theme, like body parts or food. If your child’s SLP has asked you to practice /r/ sounds then simply tap on the /r/ sounds box and a boatload of pictures of objects that use the /r/ sound will drop onto the screen. When you or your child tap on a picture it will fill the screen, your child then hears an audio prompt and also sees a visual prompt which is the word describing the picture shown. Swipe the picture to move onto the next one. There’s no need to read any user guides, manuals or watch a video in order to utilize this app.
However, even though it is simple to use, it also has lots of helpful features and customization options:
Main menu features
- Tap on the information button on the right hand corner of the screen to read a guide to all the app’s features. You can also find the developer’s contact details here if you’re having trouble with any aspect of the app.
- Press and hold on the lock button in order to prevent any accidental editing.
- The ‘+’ feature lets you add a new box. You can your existing pictures to the box or your own images organized by, for example, theme (St. Patrick’s Day, Easter) or something your child would find especially engaging (trains, Skylanders, My Little Ponies).
- The megaphone lets you share your love for SpeechBox via email and social media channels (this is disabled if you have the parental lock on).
- Tap on the cog to access settings. These are:
- Choice of voice prompts. The current options are – U.S. English (Male or Female), UK and AUS English (Female).
- Turn off custom prompts (if you’ve recorded your own audio).
- Turn off all audio prompts.
Features applicable to all boxes
- Open a box and you’ll see three buttons at the bottom labelled ‘Initial’, ‘Medial’ and ‘Final’. You can select one, two or all three. For example, if you want to work on just words that begin with the /r/ sound, like red or roof, then choose Initial. Medial will add words that use the /r/ sound within them, like dress or bread, and final adds words that end in the /r/ sound like pepper and and door.
- On the top left of each box is an arrow which will take you back to the main screen and an edit button. Tap on edit and you’ll see a list of all the pictures included in the box. If there are words that you think are currently too complex for your child, simply deselect them and the pictures will no longer show up.
- On the top right, the same lock feature allows you to disable all the customization options at the box level. The flag lets you send an email to the developer directly from the app if you find a bug or other problem. You can access box-level settings for voice prompts using the cog button and the ‘+’ button lets you add pictures to the box.
- Adding your own pictures is super-easy – you can take a photo with your device, add a picture directly from either your camera roll or Dropbox account or use Bing to search from within the app for the image you need. Putting internet image search within an app is a feature I am always asking developers to add so I was very happy to see this option.
Sharing a customized box
This is the main reason why SLPs may want to buy this app now rather than later. Setting up a customized box is very quick and easy and once you’re happy with it, simply press on the paper airplane icon at the top right to send an email and share this box with a parent, colleague, educator – basically any other SpeechBox user. Here’s a customized box I created for Oliver that has images of trains in it. It took me less than 5 minutes to do:
What I like about this app
- It’s designed by a parent for use by parents. You don’t need any special training to use this app and it’s ready to go right out of the box (hehe). The over-riding reason why I like this app very much is because it gives parents the gift of time – there’s no set up time needed but to the extent you want or need to customize that’s achieved quickly and easily. Obviously it’s not going to replace an SLP and in fact I recommend that it only be used in consultation with a speech therapy professional, but it’s great for at home (or in the case of teachers, in-class) practice.
- High quality – the images are gorgeous and the app works smoothly. I encountered only one bug (an image which I’d deselected remained in the box) and I’ve notified the developer of that.
- There’s a free app called Bitsboard (I encourage everyone to download this anyway as it has tons of uses and was recently updated) which you can use in a similar way – create categorized sets of flashcards with voice prompts, and the sets can be shared with other users. The reason I think SpeechBox is still a worthwhile investment however is due to the following:
- the user interface is much cleaner, easier to use for parents, and more engaging for kids
- the number of images that you have instant access to is huge (over 700) and they are already categorized for you
- there is a choice of accents and the option of either male or female voices for voice prompts
- sharing customized boxes is a breeze
- the ease with which you can add new images from either Dropbox or via in-app internet search is wonderful.
- For those of you looking for apps you can use with older children, teens and adults – you’ll love this app. So many special needs apps are geared towards engaging preschool children that it’s wonderful to see something that doesn’t leave out the rest of the special needs population.
- It has a lot of “off-label” potential. For example, by providing a visual label as well as an audio prompt, the app not only works on speech sound production but reinforces early reading skills.
Recommendations for the developer to consider for future updates
- I’d love to see some data collection and tracking capacity in this app. This feature alone would make it much more attractive to SLPs.
- More voice prompt options including other languages.
- The ability to edit labels on existing pictures. You’ll see this in the video – a picture is labelled ‘cab’ but Oliver and I initially refer to it as a taxi. Another example, British users may want to rename the sweater picture using the word jumper instead.
- I’d like a setting so I can choose the case that the labels are shown in – upper, lower or initial letter capitalized.
- A feature allowing parents to select the difficulty of the words they want their child to practice without having to deselect all the more complex words in a box. For example, having the option to choose only single syllable words would be great.
- Apps like Bitsboard and also TalkTablet and Abilipad let users share custom boards via a centralized library. Having the option to share customized boxes with other users in this manner would be a terrific feature.
- Adding a couple of games or activities to the boxes would increase their replay value. For example, the child could put together a puzzle of a picture or match words to pictures.
- Giving kids the option of recording themselves saying a word and comparing it to the voice prompt. Kids love the sound of their own voice!
See the app in action!
Here’s the part you’re all really interested in – I hope you enjoy listening to Oliver as much as I did:
Enter here to win either an iPhone or iPad edition of SpeechBox:
**disclaimer** I received a promotional code from the developer in order to write this review. Please be assured that regardless, I only recommend products that I believe will be good for my readers.