Recently we spoke to Janet Eales and Sue Park about their new App – Key Word Kids. This new language app is aimed to help children improve their language skills and have fun at the same time.

Briefly tell us about the Key Word Kids language app?
The Key Word Kids Language App teaches children to improve their language comprehension skills by following carefully graded instructions. The Key Words are actually the information carrying words in a sentence, such that the child must understand these in order to follow the instruction. It is based on the most popular language intervention program used by Speech Language Pathologists in the UK with children up to 7 years of age. (Derbyshire Language Scheme, Masidlover, 1983). It also has an expressive recordable free play mode and a level check to indicate a starting level.

Where did the idea for the app come from?
We (Janet and Sue) have used the Derbyshire Language Scheme with children for many years, having worked together for 30 years. We are the Australian trainers for the Derbyshire Scheme, training many speech language pathologists, teachers, support workers and parents to use the program with children. Many parents find that it is prohibitive to attend weekly therapy sessions, so it was designed to support these children and parents. The  app costs $29.99 and a 30 minute session may cost up to 3 times as much.  Many parents do not have easy access to professional support, either in country areas or overseas in less developed countries.

Which disorders is the app aimed at helping?
It is useful for all language learners and children learning English as a second language but was specifically designed for those with speech, language and communication difficulties, for example many children with disordered (unevenly developed) or delayed language development, autism, speech apraxia, difficulties with auditory processing and working memory/sequencing difficulties. The app settings can be changed to text only rather than voiced instructions, enabling children with reading comprehension weaknesses to practice following the instructions.

What elements of the app make it fun for children?
The Derbyshire Scheme is a structured play-based intervention program with toys that can be used in both a structured and flexible/unstructured way. In the app the children enjoy moving the Key Word Characters, Steffy and James through the various scenes such as the Australian Outback, Beach, Farm and Safari, interacting with  other characters and objects to demonstrate that they are following the directions. There are 5 fun mini-games that give the children a short break.

What advice would you give to parents with children struggling with language?
It is important for children to have their language assessed by a speech pathologist if there is any concern. Although children can use the app on their own, it was designed to be used in conjunction with adults for promoting language interaction and to enjoy shared experiences.

Tell us about your experience with Ilab?
This experience was amazing. We have enjoyed working together on many projects, and are always looking for a new challenge. From the start of our journey, we met some amazing mentors and pitching judges there who guided us in the world of lean tech start-ups. We also met a great team of game developers, Jamie Warden and Ben Cooper of Broken Specs who worked closely and tirelessly with us on the project.

 Do you know what your next project will be?  
We have already started the development of our first upgrade, and are planning more language and literacy apps as well as running training workshops and consulting. Our professional backgrounds –Janet as a Special Education teacher/Guidance Counsellor and Play Therapist and Sue as a Speech Language Pathologist combine well on the many projects that we work on or become involved.

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