Ellen DeGeneres’ App is Great for Social Skills and Language

Ellen Degeneres makes me happy. I’m pretty sure she makes everyone happy. Usually she entertains me at night after work when I watch her show that I DVR. But lately, I’ve been getting to enjoy her during the work day. She created an app called Heads Up that is a speech pathologist’s dream. It’s a lot like the popular traditional speech and language game Headbanz…but it’s on the iPhone/iPad which gives it lots of awesome features. Basically you place the phone, screen facing out, on your forehead. Whoever you are playing with then must describe the given word that is on the screen. If you guess correctly you quickly move the phone forward and back up to your head and a new word appears. If you need to pass because you don’t have a good guess, you move the phone backwards over your head. This is a great feature for many of my students.

There are various categories you can choose from for description, from animals to food. There is a new “kids” deck as well which is obviously filled with kid friendly words (including characters like Runaway Ralph and Zac Efron). The best part about the game is the video recording feature. While you are describing a word…the phone/ipad is recording you. You can watch the video after which is great for a good laugh, as well as an opportunity for some discussion around the child’s performance. (Ellen, can you provide a “pause” button for the video? That would be great for us therapists to breakdown the performance for some teachable moments!). 

I’ve used it with a number of kids for lots of different goals and objectives.

Here are some ideas:

Use in a social group.

  • Great for working together as a team. How many words can you describe and get your team to guess together?
  • It’s a game you CAN’T play alone (like our Bag Game App). Get kids interacting and laughing.
  • Great for body language. Make it more challenging by requiring no words – just body language to describe. This is awesome to watch back and point out on the recorded video. Can kids change their bodies if their friends aren’t getting it? Can they problem solve and think flexibly?
  • Great opportunity for perspective taking from positioning the iPhone/iPad so others can read it, to thinking about saliency (what’s the most important thing) for others to know about something to help them guess
  • Have kids watch the video and give feedback to their friends. Can they give a compliment for what was helpful and/or creative that helped them guess it correctly? What could they have done differently? Can they provide this feedback with appropriate tone of voice and word choices?

Use for individual therapy.

  • Use for description. Pair with the  EET and encourage thorough description. Discuss the importance of starting with the most important/salient information. Especially since this is a timed game
  • Use for generalization of speech production work. Can students use their targeted speech sounds under pressure? At the sentence and discourse levels?
  • Use as a “reward” for completing challenging work within a session. A great language based game to play for fun!

Thanks Ellen for finding another way to make us all happy, even while at work:) 

By Meghan G Graham, MS, CCC-SLP


Get Kids Formulating with the Bag Game

Looking for a fun way to motivate kids to generate verbal descriptions?  Try pairing the Bag Game app with the EET (Expanding Expression Tool).  This can be fun for kids ages preschool through high school.  One student hides an object. She can choose from the over 100 pictures provided or can import her own picture.  If you want to use the EET Stimulus Cards, you can do that too! The student then has to use the EET frame (with or without the tangible tool) to describe the hidden object. The EET supports the student through the verbal description and reminds them to include such salient information as “What group is it in?”, “What do you do with it?”, “What does it look like?”, “What are it’s parts?”, “Where do you find it?”, etc. The teacher/therapist or other student then has to guess what it is and pinch to reveal.  Working on written language? Have the student write sentences or paragraphs describing what they hid while using the EET frame. Either way, pairing these tools together makes formulating fun :)

Working on auditory comprehension, auditory memory or reading comprehension? These tools are great for that too. When one student uses the EET to generate a description, the other child has an opportunity to practice active listening strategies, such as asking clarification questions or reauditorization. For written language, the reader is able to practice the use of “look backs” for salient cues.

Teachers can use these tools together for a fun way to introduce and practice new vocabulary, such as that associated with social studies or science themes. Once the teacher has uploaded the pictures associated with an astronomy lesson; for example, he can pass the iPad to a student who can hide a picture and describe it for the class using the EET frame. The one who guesses correctly gets to pinch to reveal and then describe the next vocabulary item.

Be sure to stay tuned for our weekly series on ways to use the Bag Game app! 20 Questions is only the beginning…

by Meghan Graham, MS, CCC-SLP


Splingo Facilitates Clarification Questions

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to work on helping kids use clarification questions in 1:1 therapy sessions. It is always too contrived. And yet, I think that this is a CRITICAL skill for our kids with auditory and language processing problems. Enter Splingo’s Language Universe, a great new app developed by SLP’s to “guide your child through a galaxy of language learning.”

Initially I thought this would be a great app for working on processing increasing numbers of critical elements, which it is, but the child can practice those skills pretty well outside of therapy. What I didn’t expect was how helpful it would be in facilitating the use of clarification questions. Because you can set the critical elements just a little beyond the child’s capabilities, this app suddenly takes on a whole new role. Not only can kids recognize when they misunderstood the direction (because the app gives immediate feedback), but they can also use you to clarify which component they got wrong… color, size, possessor, object, etc. Because the developers are not from the US, some of the vocabulary is even unfamiliar and the voice is occasionally a little bit difficult to understand because of the adorable accent… perfect, right?

I just love when I think an app will be great for one of my language goals, and it turns out to address others too! Splingo is welcome in my galaxy anytime.

Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP