If you have a child who is deaf or has hearing loss, there are some great ways to harness the wonders of technology and disguise learning games in tablet or phone apps. Here are some of our favorite apps for children with hearing loss:
The Baobab is a beautifully narrated original story about a daring little girl who searches for rare fruit from the ancient Baobab tree and has many adventures and meetings with animals along the way. It's a very cute story that is illustrated in bright, whimsical watercolors. It's an interactive, bilingual app with both English and American Sign Language storytelling as well as an ASL glossary with 170 words translated from English to ASL. The Baobab is also a great storytelling app for kids without hearing loss who would like to learn some ASL.
It's worth noting that because the app has a stunning collection of images and video files, it takes up quite a large amount of space and takes extra time to download. It was created by Gallaudet University's Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning with funding from the National Science Foundation. Gallaudet's app is known as VL2 and it is available for download on an iPad for $4.99 from the iTunes app store.
Splingo's Language Universe
This app by Talking Wizard LLP helps children use listening and language skills and was designed by Speech and Language Therapists and Pathologists. Splingo is a bright, bouncy orange alien who has other alien friends in this highly interactive game. Splingo gives spoken instructions, which are also visible on the screen. As children complete little tasks, they are given a new piece to help build Splingo's spaceship so he can fly home. His responses are filled with a lot of humor - he's quite the loveable little alien.
The app has four different levels to accommodate children between 18 months and four years of age. The first level has very basic instructions, like "Find the green apple," while level four progresses to "Give the small green apple to the girl." However, Splingo's Language Universe is also customizable so you can combine levels and select word types for your child's needs. In fact, there are tens of thousands of sentence and word possibilities, so it never gets boring. Splingo's Language Universe is available on both iTunes and Google play.
This app by Starkey Laboratories challenges both one's auditory acuity and cognitive astuteness through a suite of listening games. For people with hearing loss, trying to hear in noisy environments is one of the most difficult challenges to face. Hear Coach has tasks by level that challenge your ability to select sounds from various noisy environments. It also allows you to track your progress over time. Hearing Coach is most suitable for older children and teens with hearing loss or who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. You can download it for free from iTunes or Google play for Android.
This app by Mobiler was designed by parents for tiny tots. Little Ears is so wonderful because it is simple. There are no distractions or unnecessary elements, which can cause over stimulation. It also features very large touch areas so little, uncoordinated fingers have no problem using the app.
The app features 20 sets of illustrations with three images each. Children tap the objects to hear the names and sounds of them, and there are simple quizzes, all of which facilitate speech and language development and provide greater audio awareness and the ability to determine slight differences in audio sensory input. Additionally, the app was designed to be seriously safe. The screen has controlled illumination, soft, ambient background noises and gentle sound levels to protect children from damaging their ears and eyes.
Voice Toddler Cards
These so-called "talking flashcards" by Sai Services, LLC, make a great learning and listening game for children with hearing loss. Voice Toddler Cards is best suited for children between the ages of 1 and 5. It has a collection of more than 400 real photo flashcards that speak in English or Spanish, or you can record your own voice. This cool app with fun photos can help children learn common words and practice listening. It's very user-friendly, simple and you can customize the settings to your child's needs and preferences. Voice Toddler Cards is available for both iOS and Windows, where it is free.
Danny the Dragon is an award-winning children's book by Tina Turbin. It tells the story of a polite and sweet dragon and his sidekick lizard friend, Skipper. Danny meets Jimmy and his family in an unusual way, and he travels by shrinking into a tiny green seashell. This endearing story is the first in Turbin's Danny series. The iStoryTime book is the first ever to be equipped with ASL. It's for children between the age 2 and 7, and it can be used with adult narration, sign language or in silent mode for self-reading. There is also ever-present on-screen text. Children are sure to love this app by zuuka, Inc., which is available for iOS for $2.99 from the iTunes store.
My Smart Hands Baby Sign Language Dictionary
Many parents of infants and children use ASL to help them speak and communicate their needs before they can speak English. The My Smart Hands Baby Sign Language Dictionary is great for parents of both hearing and non-hearing infants and toddlers. It's best on the My Smart Hands curriculum designed by Laura Berg. The app was first introduced for iOS in 2010 and was most recently updated in December 2013.
It's an excellent app that teaches you more than 300 ASL signs to teach your child in order to communicate clearly with him or her. There are detailed instructions and tips and tricks for remembering. It's great to have this app on your phone or tablet for easy access. There are more than 45 minutes of instructional videos and, a quiz portion as well as search and category functions. Teaching your baby ASL is a great way to bond!
This iPad app by Susan Apgar and Speech Hardware is for children between the ages of 3 and 9. It helps them learn sound and speech awareness, and differentiate between consonant sounds, making it especially great for children with hearing loss. IMouf is a funky character - a mix between a mouse and a human - who loves to make people laugh. His overgrown ears make it easier to hear sound differences, but his overgrown teeth make pronunciation a challenge. Twinkle Star is his teacher and sidekick, and iMouf does funny things like go to the "speech gym" to improve his "tongue strength and mouth awareness." This cute guy lives in Colorado Springs and loves to mountain bike, ride horses, dance and rap. Your children will have so much fun with iMouf and Twinkle Star they won't even know they're doing some hard work on their consonants!
These are some of our favorites, but there are many other great apps out there to give kids with hearing loss or who are deaf a boost with their sound recognition, pronunciation and other elements of aural rehabilitation!