App review 2: Language Therapy 2.0 from Tactus Therapy

  Language Therapy was the first app where I took the plunge and spent more than a couple of pounds on an app for work. It costs £39.99 in the UK, although sometimes it is on offer, and you can buy the different modalities separately (comprehension , reading, naming and writing).  However, I can hands down say it is so worth it, and it is my most used app- cost per use would be getting into fractions of pennies territory! I have been using it almost daily for a few years now.   It was developed by Tactus therapy, a Canadian based speech therapy app company, started by Megan Sutton. She wrote an amazing blog post about the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia which explains why she started to produce apps.  I’m not going to go into detail about how the app works as the link at the beginning of this post explains it more succinctly than I ever could. However, it essentially allows your client to drill language skills over 4 modalities, either in a session with you, or at home (with results being emailed to you).  We know that drilling is required to bring about impairment level change and a case that most stands out in my mind is a young (in his twenties) man who had a stroke. He had only recently come to the UK from Poland and could not speak English. When assessed through an interpreter he was severely globally aphasic. (One of those cases where object recognition goes out of the window too and razors are used as combs- eeek!). I worked with David Brown on this case (featured here) and we often still mention him years later. Between us we saw him daily, with a interpreter. Due to all sorts of issues, sometimes we only had very short sessions, so we focused on drilling the same set of 20 object picture cards. (This was pre iPad days, so they were colour cards from memory). We drilled spoken & written word to picture matching and naming.  Slowly,slowly we saw improvement, and when we re- tested spoken word to picture matching on a different set of pictures he had improved significantly and he was beginning to say a few general conversation words that the interpreter could understand. Somehow the language barrier made the whole experience purer for us as therapists- we were drilling in a different language and bringing about change in that language! Anyway, back to the point!  You can drill with any words. But honestly sometimes a pack of the same pictures you use again and again are more sleep inducing for the therapist than a hot bath and a mug of camomile tea and our patients deserve us to be vibrant & present! Also, the client is going to need someone to help them practice outside of Speech Therapy sessions and that is not always possible.  This app brings a new dimension to the drilling process. My iPad is fast becoming my number 1 tool and I love the fact I am carrying about such a fantastic resource without dragging about a huge bag! (In my first job as a speech therapist I swear my bag was bigger than me and I used to have red strap marks on the shoulder I carried it on by the end of the day!) Here are a few features I love about this app:

  • I love the fact that the app works without needing to be connected to the internet so you can take it into deepest darkest no wifi territory and have a fantastic tool up your sleeve
  • It’s easy to use- one morning I was woken up to the sound of ‘dinging’ which indicates a correct answer when using the app. In my half awake state I wondered if I had perhaps horrifyingly fallen asleep in a therapy session (happened once when pregnant!). But no, my six year old had woken early, grabbed my iPad and was working the app independently!
  • The app has recently been updated to a full UK version (plus also French, German and Spanish). Previously parts of it were UK friendly, but not the whole app- This was my only bugbear with the app – sometimes my clients were thrown by some of the more American/Canadian pictures/phrases, especially  my older clients not so immersed in American culture.

 When I used the new version with my very English, retired, mostly non- verbal client with severe aphasia/apraxia he verbally said ‘that’s better‘,which says it all!

  • The app has clean, uncluttered look, moves smoothly from page to page and does not crash like some other apps I use. 
  • Just an anecdotal observation, but I often use the naming part of the app when working with people with severe aphasia & apraxia.   I often find that the ‘app voice’ as opposed to my voice brings better results when the clients are trying to name from phonemic cue or whole word copying – I think because I can turn up the volume to a more intense level than my voice and it’s a deep male voice, there’s  something a bit more to ‘grab onto’ for the client. 
  • I love the way you can use the app creatively in therapy sessions – once you’ve worked in each modality with an aphasia client you get a feeling of the depth and breadth of the resources on the app and I now feel confident about quickly changing the settings to pull out what I need to work on with a particular client.

A recent study by Stark and Warburton 2015 (to be published later this year) has shown that people with chronic aphasia who used the Language Therapy app on their own for just 20 minute a day over 4 weeks have made and maintained significant improvements on standardized language tests. See here for a handy poster detailing the results.  My first thoughts on hearing this was ‘I’m not surprised’. I have used this app as the primary tool for impairment based therapy for many clients and have found the same when re-assessed formally- I’ve also found a positive knock-on affect on general conversation (as you would expect).  So, if you are dithering over whether to splash out on this app, I wholeheartedly reccommend it.  Last notes! : Check out other Tactus Therapy apps here. I have most of them and you can tell they’ve been developed by someone who knows aphasia therapy inside out.  I’ve recently read a couple of interesting posts about using iPads with older people- here and here.

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