SoundingBoard

App review by
Erin Wilkey Oh, Common Sense Media
SoundingBoard App Poster Image
Speech tool has custom options but several limitations.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to communicate their needs, emotions, and more with this accessibility app designed for kids and adults who cannot speak or who have limited verbal skills. Educators, parents, and therapists can create custom sets of cards for a user's individual needs. Preloaded card sets ("boards") offer the ability to communicate social expressions, emergency information, workplace phrases, clarification questions, and more. With its collection of preloaded picture card sets and the option to create custom cards, SoundingBoard is a useful tool that can help kids with limited speech develop communication skills.

Ease of Play

SoundingBoard is somewhat easy to use and navigate. Adults and educators can customize the app for specific users. Creating a custom board is easy, but it takes time. Whether the preloaded boards are relevant or accessible to kids depends on each kid's particular skills and needs. Kids might be confused by the navigation, which opens at a text-only menu screen. The list of boards is also heavily text-based, so adults will need to carefully choose images and key words to represent each board. One challenge with the app's design is that the text beneath each picture is limited depending on the size of the board. Many of the sentences are not visible in their entirety, so kids must rely on the images to determine what the card communicates.

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SoundingBoard comes with 14 boards preloaded and the ability to create an unlimited number of custom boards. Ten additional boards are available from the developer for in-app purchase of $.99 each.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that SoundingBoard is an accessibility tool that helps kids and adults who are unable to speak (or who have limited speech) to communicate. The design isn't as polished as the very similar app, TapToTalk, but the fact that SoundingBoard is free and offers the ability to create custom picture card sets makes it a good value. Customization is key with this app, so adults and educators should be prepared to put in some time creating picture card sets (called "boards") for kids.

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What's it about?

Users with limited speech or communication skills tap on various picture cards in order to express themselves. Each board has from one to nine picture cards, and each card includes image, text, and audio. Parents, educators, and therapists can create custom boards and cards to meet users' particular needs. Individual cards can connect to another board; for example, on one board, kids tap on a picture of a boy eating to express hunger, which then opens to a board showing a selection of food cards.

Is it any good?

Accessibility tools are rarely cheap, so the fact that SOUNDINGBOARD is free makes it very appealing. However, the app's slightly clunky design creates several limitations. SoundingBoard opens to a text-only menu, which would be confusing for younger kids or kids with limited literacy skills trying to use the app independently. The existing boards list is also heavily text-based with the exception of a small icon for each board, which again, could make navigation tricky for some kids. In addition, when kids see a board of cards, they are often unable to see the entire text that goes with a card if it's longer than a few words. This means kids have to rely on the images to know what the card will say when tapped.

Educators and parents can alleviate some of these issues when creating custom boards. Carefully selecting the images to represent the various boards can help kids navigate to a relevant set of picture cards. And limiting the text for each card can help kids find the phrase they want to express more easily.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Take the time to set up boards for your kids' specific learning needs or routines. Use your own photos instead of the app's gallery to help your kids connect the app to their real-life needs.

  • Show the app to your kid's speech-language pathologist or teacher and ask for ideas on ways to customize it for use at home or school.

App details

For kids who love to learn with apps

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