We are very pleased to introduce Amy Taylor as our guest reviewer. Amy is a SLPA from the US.
($12.99 at time of review for iPad/iPhone/iPod touch version)
VASTtx - Key Words, by SpeakInMotion., is a speech and language therapy app that can be used to work on a sample of speech sounds at the syllable, word and phrase level. It is one of a handful of speech and language therapy apps offered by SpeakInMotion. (VAST Autism 1- Core, VAST Songs 1- Intro, VAST Autism 1 -Core (Spanish), and VASTtx - Therapy Samples). VASTtx - Key Words was created with aphasic or apraxic adults in mind, but I believe it is useful for my younger speech and language therapy students in an educational setting as well.
Videos of 21 sounds and a sample word and phrase for each:
(m, b, p, w, l, n, d, t, th, h, f, v, r, y, sh, ch, s, z, j, k, g)
Playlists grouped by placement (sound families), contrasts, randomized
Customized Playlists-select videos to target for a particular user
Custom Recording Service- send in your own word list to be set to video* (additional fee*)
Mirror mode- watch yourself making the sounds through your built-in camera (devices with no camera: utilize different colored background screens to simulate a mirror)
Having used VAST Autism 1 - Core successfully with my young students, I was eager to try this out and see how VASTtx - Key Words would compare. (It should be noted that with the VAST Autism 1 -Core app I made printouts for my children with coordinating images for the words, using familar SymbolStix icons (in this case I made boards with an app called iCommunicate but certainly there are a variety of picture symbol programs you could use to create similar visual supports; I will at least be creating a set of flashcards for this set of words as well. Of course you could choose to use real pictures instead- it really depends on the user- for a student using a communication device with a particular symbol set, I would try to use what the child is comfortable with already.)
Using VAST Key Words
VASTtx - Key Words is set up in a similar format to VAST Autism 1 - Core. The splash screen displays the main choices to choose from in the middle of the screen and includes buttons for the following features: Keyword Videos, Playlists, Build Playlists, More Tools, and User Guide (in the top upper right hand corner). If you click on the Information icon in the lower right corner, you can learn more about VAST as well.
There is a Mirror feature accessible through the More Tools button. This is a significant difference, as the mirror feature is accessible via each individual video in the VAST Autism series. Also under the More Tools button is a link to a User Tutorial video and Custom Recording Service. The Custom Recording Service is fairly new and is currently offering promotional pricing. See here for more pricing details- hopefully the pricing won't stray drastically from what is posted now, as it is currently fairly affordable to send in your own words; standard pricing will be $4.99 for a base fee of the first 10 words, plus $1.99 for each additional 10 words.
I really like the option to add Custom Recordings for a fee, and despite the fees currently listed being reasonable, I do worry about the price being beyond many educators who pay out of pocket themselves. However as a parent of a special needs child who will bend over backwards for my child, I could see myself finding a way to fund more sets of words that were relevant to my child's world. I am sure both educators and parents will be glad to at least have this option available to them!
I really like the new mouth model in this version. I know it's a silly thing- a mouth is a mouth right? But I find this mouth much more visually pleasing to stare at and imitate, so I am assuming it is the same for my students. Who knows?
As this was not geared specifically towards children, it's not unreasonable that some of the examples are not the first words I would target i.e. "back off" for /b/ or "vote for me" for /v/. However there is nothing inappropriate, and you could certainly use the videos for the sound, then piggyback on them with your own sample words to practice. I really like how the phrases chosen are commonly joined phrases that we use in everyday speech. Examples of sample phrases include "mom and dad" for /m/, "pen and pencil" for /p/, " go away" for /g/ "read a book" for /r/... these are highly functional phrases.
(I always have one!)
More words! I think these video demos of words are so important for my kiddos and I want more, more, more! As it stands, there is a video model of one word and associated phrase per sound, and there are 21 sounds included in this app. At this price point, I would like to add quite a few sample words/phrases added for each sound, and perhaps there could be additional in-app purchases for extra sets of words for each sound. (Or perhaps some initial credit to add your own personalized content through the Custom Recording Service could be given). I also would love to see subtitles for not just the words, but the phrases following each word. For example, for /m/, first the sound /m/ is made, then "Mom" is spoken, with the label "Mom" displayed across the bottom of the screen. Then the model progresses to "Mom and Dad", but there is no accompanying label at the phrase level.
Price & Availability:
VASTtx - Key Words is available at the iTunes Store for iPhone , iPod touch and iPad for $12.99