Special Needs

Kidz Talk app tracks your child’s progress

Learning to understand and accurately respond to language is a fundamental skill for children. If a child has a speech delay, impediment, or is diagnosed with autism, it is helpful to have recorded audio of the child’s verbal language to aid with speech development. However, it is hard for parents to consistently record a child’s language and growth. Now, “there’s an app for that” to address this issue.

Kidz Talk is an app that can serve as an aid for tracking a child’s progress in speech development. Sound bites can be shared through text messages or e-mail. I had an opportunity to speak with the creator of Kidz Talk, Susan French, who has been in the field of education for more than 25 years. Here’s what the seasoned teacher and app creator had to say:

Shnieka Johnson: How did you get the idea for the Kidz Talk app?

Susan French: Over the years, I’ve worked with many children with special needs. I’ve also noticed that in a given classroom there would be a small group of children that could read (and speak) full sentences with no understanding of the words and their meanings without a pictorial aid. I knew that if these kids were having trouble so were many other kids. To address this concern, I created the app to reach more than the children in the classroom. The app utilizes pictorial aids and can be used with English-as-a-Second-Language students as well.

SJ: So, you saw that was there a need?

SF: Yes, speech is one of the most important areas of communication. I want people to use this app with children who have delayed speech and other issues. It [the app] is meant to be fun, interactive.

SJ: How was the app tested and reviewed?

SF: I tested the concept with a small group of children before the app was developed. After the reactions and hearing feedback from parents, the technician applied changes to the app. The share option to Kidz Talk — the desire — had been expressed by the parents.

SJ: With so many studies and articles about kids and “screen time,” how is Kidz Talk different from other apps?

SF: Kidz Talk is not a game, even though it is fun and interactive like a game. I use question words (who, what when, where, why) and keep Blooms Taxonomy (creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, remembering) in mind. The app asks elementary-level children open-ended sentences and encourages the children to use higher-order thinking. There is no right answer.

SJ: So, is this an app or is this a tool?

SF: For children with special needs or diagnosed with autism, this is a tool that serves as an aid in keeping track of progress in their verbal language skills. There are levels suitable for all kids (including ESL students) grades pre-K through fifth grade.

SJ: How can schools and speech therapists use this app?

SF: Teachers can use this as a tool or educational resource to track a child. Parents can utilize this by interacting together with the child and by listening to the speech.

SJ: So, walk me through it. What will happen when my child opens the app?

SF: Well, first the child will see the icons on the view page, familiar images. They’ll click an icon and hear a short story. Then the child will answer questions about the story — who, what, when, where, why — questions. After answering questions (which will be recorded), the child (with parent help) can share the audio via e-mail or text.

SJ: So, this has the capability not just for the child to share with a parent, but for a parent to share audio with a speech therapist? Or teacher with speech therapist?

SF: Yes. They (the parent) can then share the recording via e-mail or text with the child’s teacher or speech therapist.

SJ: Is there any other information that you’d like for parents to know?

SF: I want to have parents know about this app and encourage them to have a better understanding of English language arts speech standards in the Common Core (noted in the Common Core State Standards as speaking and listening). I also want them to know that the app is an affordable tool, and I want to make sure that it remains affordable and accessible to those who need it.

Kidz Talk is a great resource for parents, teachers, and speech therapists and is available for download from the App Store’s Education category at itunes.apple.com/us/app/kidz-talk/id817679677?mt=8, and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

For more, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kidzrtalking.

Shnieka L. Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan, where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.

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