Could this be the speech therapy app I've always needed for homework? Or is it not worth the money?
When I first became aware of the TikTalk app for speech therapy, I was immediately intrigued.
I had kids with speech sound disorders (SSDs) on my caseload who I worried could be progressing much faster if I could get them to practice their speech sounds on the days I didn't see them.
Research (see references below), and logic, suggest the dosage of our therapy, i.e., frequency (how many times per week?) and intensity (how many correct productions per session?) impacts how quickly our students can meet their speech therapy goals.
Knowing this, I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to get my students to practice their speech sounds for homework with word lists, many of which I try to snazz up with pictures of their favorite sports figures or cartoon characters, promises of rewards, etc.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF HOMEWORK FOR CARRYOVER OF ARTICULATION SKILLS
As we all know, homework doesn't always get done. And I get it: families are busy and have a lot of moving parts. Speech therapy homework sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
When I would ask my kiddos (and their caregivers!) if they'd done their homework, I'd get a range of responses, from, "Yes!", to "I did it one day!", to "Oooh no I forgot..."
Thus my keen interest when I came across an ad for the TikTalk app for speech therapy in my email inbox one day. I decided to go for the free trial.
TikTalk, according to their site, is a "digital platform used to support therapy for speech sound disorders. It consists of two interconnected parts: an SLP portal, which SLPs log in to from their browsers and use to set up speech-practice programs for each of the children they work with, and a games-based app, which kids log in to from their tablets and use to practice the goals their SLP has set for them.
"Those practice sessions are recorded by the app; back in the portal, SLPs can watch and assess them, and adjust a child’s goals to make them easier or harder as needed—closing the loop and creating a virtuous circle for continued practice and improvement."
It sounded pretty good to me.
THE COST OF TIKTALK
After the free trial, which lasts a month, the fee is $25 per month per student (as of April, 2023). This fee (which is paid monthly but can add up to $600 per year) is going to be prohibitive for some families right from the get-go. TikTalk's site says they have price plans for schools, school boards, and clinics. Fortunately, I had three students I've been seeing privately whose families agreed to the cost.
It seemed the only way to set this up was to pay the cost myself upfront, then bill the family. This will be a detail to keep in mind during tax season!
USING THE TIKTALK APP FOR SPEECH THERAPY
The system is relatively easy to set up, though I did need one phone call with a rep who was super helpful. There are a lot of customizable details, including (this is not a complete list, but I've listed the ones that have been most salient for me):
You can program specific articulation or phonological errors for each child who has a profile.
You can choose how many seconds will elapse while the student plays their game of choice before they have to pause and record their productions, as well as how many productions they have to do each time they pause.
You can choose word position and generate targets from the word level up to the sentence level, with nice details like choosing one or multiple targets per stimulus, choosing one or multiple sounds in individual words, choosing how many syllables target words can have, and excluding any sounds.
You can choose the level of support your student will need based on their decoding ability, e.g., reading targets or imitating a model, etc.
HOW DID IT GO?
I tried TikTalk with 3 of my students whose ages range from 7-9. They are all working on speech sounds they can produce at the sentence level, but haven't started consistently generalizing them to the conversational level.
When I introduced the app to my students, they were immediately receptive to combining their speech sound homework with games on a tablet (shocker)! All of my students easily found multiple games they enjoyed playing. There are tons of games available for kiddos to choose from, and I think the rep I spoke to said they're in the process of adding even more.
From my end, I was able to tell when my students had done their homework, and I could watch their productions by viewing recordings of each attempt in my portal. There is technology to blur everything except their mouth in the recording that I get to see, which is a nice privacy feature, but doesn't always work, especially for the squirmy ones!
There are also options to take data on the recordings and view progress reports, which I don't do; I am simply using this to get a sense of how often, and how well, my students are doing their speech therapy homework, and to see if this format will increase their participation in homework activities. I take more specific data when I see my students in-person.
Sounds pretty good so far, right?
I'm about three months into using this technology with my students. A few issues I've come across are:
Students have to wait for a green light before they can produce their targets. None of my students can consistently remember to do this (they just produce their target as soon as they can), despite the fact that I have modeled it several times during in-person sessions. This results in recordings that are cut off, frequently causing me to miss their attempts at the target entirely. On average, I'd say it captures less than 25% of my students' full responses. This is a pretty big issue. At this point, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that their productions are accurate (and extrapolating from the productions I can see), supporting the intensity portion of their dosage.
Because of this, I'm inclined to only use this app with students whose target speech sounds are pretty established at whatever level they're working on, since there's a chance I won't catch incorrect productions, which will reinforce their error patterns. At least with old-fashioned homework, I could rely on caregivers for some level of quality control.
Kids who had a hard time remembering to do homework the old-fashioned way, still have a hard time remembering to do their speech sound practice on TikTalk. This was a disappointment, but it makes sense.
SO WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE TIKTALK APP FOR SPEECH THERAPY OVERALL?
Despite the drawbacks I've described, I'm going to keep using TikTalk for now. It's a pretty cool bit of tech, for sure. One of my students has definitely started using his target sounds in spontaneous speech more often, which I'm inclined to think isn't unrelated to more frequent practice.
Have you tried TikTalk? I'd love to hear about your experience with it in the comments below!
LEVEL UP YOUR SPEECH THERAPY ACTIVITIES WITH STORYWHYS
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Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hrs when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.
Did you know book companions can be among the best speech therapy materials for elementary students? Explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks.
And get your FREE, 71-page book companion for speech therapy on the Special Offers page.
Allen MM. Intervention efficacy and intensity for children with speech sound disorder. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2013 Jun;56(3):865-77.
Pullins, Vicki & Grogan-Johnson, Sue. (2017). A Clinical Decision Making Example: Implementing Intensive Speech Sound Intervention for School-Age Students Through Telepractice. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups. 2. 15. 10.1044/persp2.SIG18.15.