Category: Language


This post is hopefully the start of an open dialog among colleagues about Auditory Processing Disorders.  I have had this post in draft mode for some time and it’s almost the start of a larger post but due to the recent discussion on twitter about Auditory Processing Disorders I thought I would post this. ( I am by no means an expert in the matter and this  post is merely to get people thinking.)

I recently became aware of the controversy over Auditory Processing Disorder. Are you aware of this controversy? It’s apparently very similar to the argument against non-speech oral motor exercises. There are basically two camps on this topic- audiologists/slps that believe that this is a true disorder and SLP’s that insist that APDs simply do not exist and it really all involves a weakness in the individual’s language skills.

This past November at the ASHA convention I sat through two very different talks about Auditory Processing Disorders. The first talk was titled A Speech Pathologist’s Guide for Interpreting the Auditory Processing Evaluation and was given by Velvet Buehler who is a  dual certified Audiologist and Speech-Language Pathologist. She who discussed  how to properly interpret an auditory processing evaluation as well as what the course of treatment looked like. After this talk I felt good that what I was currently doing as far  as assessment and treatment was on par with what this speaker was presenting.  However I then walked into a talk titled What Speech-Language Pathologists Need to Know About Auditory Processing Disorders. The presenters for this session were Alan Kamhi and Geraldine Wallach.  Their stance on APD is essentially that it doesn’t exist and cite their research with the following quote:

“Because there is no evidence that auditory interventions provide any unique therapeutic benefit (Fey et al., 2011), clinicians should treat children who have been diagnosed with APD the same way they treat children who have been diagnosed with language and learning disabilities. The theoretical and clinical problems associated with APD should encourage clinicians to consider viewing auditory deficits as a processing deficit that may occur with common developmental language and reading disabilities rather than as a distinct clinical entity.”

They started their talk off with some real life examples that really made sense at the time. One of the examples was about a woman who who was in a German bar. She was learning the German language and could partake in general conversation however in the bar it was very loud and she was having a very difficult time understanding the other people speaking in German to her. She asked if they spoke English which they did and as they spoke to each other in English she found that she was able to now understand everything that she heard. So what was the difference here? Well the difference was that she had a weak foundation in German and had trouble filling in the parts that she had missed due to the loud environment  This makes lots of sense right? If she was weak in the language she was learning then she couldn’t keep up with the conversation as quickly as she would with her native language of English.  This whole example really started to make me question the earlier session that I had sat through. Was APD really based on some shotty research and questionable auditory intervention techniques?

A few weeks later I was at a  pizza place with a group of friends. This was a Friday night so it was busy and very noisy inside. A friend of mine was in line ordering the pizza for us. We ordered Sausage and Meatball pizza however the cashier taking the order was standing in the kitchen and was having difficulty hearing the order. She asked him to repeat himself a few times and finally questioned his order with “You want a sausage and people pizza?”  Yes you read that right, she asked if he had ordered a pizza with both sausage as well as people on it. Last time I checked  Soylent Green was against the law (Insert funny Charleston Heston joke here —>) So what happened here ? You would think a grown women would have at least the language skills to complete the auditory closure task of I’ll have a  sausage and ________ pizza, right? or does she really have some auditory processing deficits and instead heard people.

I’ll end with this blurb from a study that McArthur and Bishop conducted hinting at the fact that there are components of both language and auditory processing deficits in play.

“McArthur and Bishop (2004b) also found that a subgroup of children with specific language disorder showed difficulty on auditory discrimination (consistent with the view of APD as an impaired skill) and poor reading. Another subset of children inMcArthur and Bishop ’ s study had poor sustained auditory attention and/or auditory memory as well as APD.”

What are your thoughts?

Conversation Coach

Conversation Coach by Silver Lining Multimedia, Inc  teaches the user to understand the natural back and forth flow of conversations. Most communication devices typically only allow for one-way conversations, Conversation Coach fixes that.  Conversation Coach comes in a full version for $79.99 and a limited use lite version for $1.99.

Conversation Coach is set up up into three distinct areas:

Talk to a Friend

Make a Statement

Talk to the Computer

Throughout these three user areas the main objectives targeted will be:

Learning to Take Turns

Staying on Topic

Asking Questions

Listening To The Other Player

Expressing Thoughts and Feelings

Organizing Thoughts

Talk to A Friend

This mode is similar to Mobile Education Store’s Conversation builder.  What’s different is you are able to choose from preloaded conversations or create your own.  You can load your own pictures or choose from the picture library that comes with the app.  To “talk to a friend” you will most likely sit across from one another and with the iPad positioned in between.  The app is oriented so players on both side of the device are able to read the messages.  Here is an example of a simple conversation:

“What do you want to do?”

A coaching theme is used to ‘coach’ the conversation. A player selects the appropriate response and then passes the ball to the other player. A quiet symbol, a charter making the ‘shh’, sign prompts the other player to stay quiet while it’s not their turn to talk. These prompts can be turned off in the settings once the players understand the rules or simply do not need prompting any longer.  You can choose what the  background looks like as well as you will see later on in the post.

Conversations can be customized for each student’s needs. You can also select which conversations are available for a particular student.

Here is the main Conversation Topics Menu

This is an example of how you would edit the flow of the conversation.

Talk to the Computer

This mode allows a player to practice 2 way conversations against the computer.  This mode works pretty much the same  as Talking to  Friend does but the computer randomly selects questions to ask, then the player is presented with appropriate response choices. You can also choose the ‘conversation’ for your student/client. This mode is nice for teaching children with autism to script appropriate conversations. You can also use this mode for quizzes. Here is an example of a quiz.

Make a Statement

This mode is similar to using a communication device. Players are able make requests and comments. Statements can be any combination of text and pictures. Submenus can be programmed to appear after a player makes a selection. In this section you have a lot of variety you can choose from. You are able to use it somewhat like a traditional AAC device using category based menus, you can use it to make visual schedules, and participate in scripted conversations with your conversation partner or “coach”!  Here are some examples :

Initial Topics Menu

Preload Basic 2-way convo

Initial screen on basic 2-way conversation

Simple choice board option

Options to make visual schedules

If you are a parent or professional that interacts with someone with Autism on a daily basis I am sure you are very well aware of the fact that most children with Autism are almost completely oblivious to the great variety of emotions that people have. Most of my clients can identify the basic ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ pictures but do they really understand what these emotions mean or have they just been drilled to death with happy and sad faces on their daily school report card, visual schedules, etc…?

So let’s take a look at a few apps that can help children learn to identify and express emotions. The first one is somewhat basic but can be fun it’s called Emotions and Feelings .

With this app you are able to select emotions, draw emotions, and store and label pictures of your own emotions. It comes with six basic stock photo emotions pre loaded that are used as a model for you to base your drawings.

Once you select your emotion you then select if you want to be male or female

The emotions pictures within the app can be somewhat basic and abstract because a few babies are used, so with Custom Boards I created a simple chart of emotions.  I have my clients pick an emotion and then match it by drawing a picture of it.

Emotions Template  <–Here is the pdf  file to download.

Part 2 of this post will feature 4 more apps that  deal with emotions so stay tuned!

Story Lines

Story Lines

Story Lines is the old fashion game of ‘telephone’ that has been appified with a pictionary twist to it.  Someone selects the word or phrase and then passes the iPad to the next player who in turn has to draw the phrase, they then pass it on to the next player who has to label it. The game can be played with 3 to 9 players which makes it a great app for use in language groups. I have been using this app with my older clients and esspecially my social group that has a few teenagers in it.

What can you target with this app?

  • social language- using social scripts and having them draw it out
  • figurative language- discussing what the literal and figurative meaning of the phrases are
  • vocabulary- using targeted vocabulary words in phrases or sentences
  • articulation- creating phrases or sentences with target sounds for them to draw and repeat

I have found that its a great tool for teaching that abstract figurative language.  The student has to interpret what the phrase means by analyzing the literal and figuartive interpretation and then has to represent that by drawing it.

Here is an example video using the figurative term ” It’s raining cats and dogs”

This is a free app that comes in two versions:  Story Lines and Story Lines for Schools.  The Story Lines for Schools has built in Suggestions- pulling ideas from Elementary Words, Intermediate Words, Quotes, and SAT Words.

The coolest thing about this App is that you are even able to use it as an “app” right from your Chrome Browser. So if there are still those of you out there that has yet to take the plunge and get and iPad  well then pull out your laptop because you can use this too!!

Chrome Link:

“I’d rather be pissed off, then pissed on.”

Grammar 911

The title of this Blog post was taken right off someone’s facebook post and got me thinking on grammar in the age of 140 or less character messages. Living in the faced paced texting, tweeting, and facebooking world there is the inevitable #textingdisaster (a great new hashtag and segment on Jimmy Fallon).  That being said there are those acceptable occasional spelling errors and those unacceptable grammatical errors that quickly change the meaning of your message. “I’d rather be pissed off, then pissed on” is an example of an unacceptable error.

For those of you working on these words with your students I think you can appreciate how some of these  than vs then errors occur.  So do these errors continue throughout one’s lifetime or are they just caused by poor proofreading or that damn auto-correct?  

Let’s take some time to review how defines these words.



1.(used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison):She’s taller than I am.
2.(used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choiceor diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere,  or different,  to introduce an alternative or denote a differencein kind, place, style, identity, etc.): I had no choice other than that. You won’t find such freedom anywhere else than in this country.
3.(used to introduce the rejected choice in expressions ofpreference): I’d rather walk than drive there.
4.except; other than: We had no choice than to return home.
5.when: We had barely arrived than we had to leave again.

adverb that time: Prices were lower then.
2.immediately or soon afterward: The rain stopped and then started again. in order of time: We ate, then we started home. the same time: At first the water seemed blue, then gray. in order of place: Standing beside Charlie is my uncle, then my cousin, then my brother.

If anything “I’d rather be pissed off, then pissed on.” could be the perfect teaching tool to help those people confused use the correct word every time! They might start getting that correct and then give you a sentence like this one.“The dog the girl the boy knew saw ran away.”  This technically is a grammatically correct sentence but hurts your head.

Just be sure to take the extra 3 seconds to proof read your posts before posting people! If you don’t,  you could end up being a #textingdisaster  superstar.

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