Are Your Apps Research Based?

Are Your Apps Research Based? image
Today I was speaking with a colleague at work who was interested in hearing about my application lists. In addition, she was observing me work with a student with my iPad. After the session was complete, she asked me if the apps I used were research based. This is an excellent question as all speech-language pathologists need to make sure that they are using evidence based practice to ensure appropriate speech-language therapy for their students/clients.

This led me on a quest to determine which applications could be considered appropriate under the evidence based practices model. In the iTunes app store, many applications claim to be research/evidence-based, but how does one determine whether they are or not? Anyone can say an app or program has been researched and proven to work with students, so we must protect ourselves and our clients accordingly by researching each individual application prior to use.

One application that states that it is based on best practices is The Social Express.

The Social Express app icon

The Social Express, also available as software for the PC and MAC, was developed to assist children and young adults in problem solving as well as social skills. It is geared towards children and young adults who have autism, asperger's, ADHD, nonverbal learning disabilities, and pragmatic language deficits. Not only does it include reinforcement through verbal, audio, and animated modeling, it also provides printable worksheets to go along with the app as well as teaching tips throughout lessons. Developed by a team of speech-language pathologists, doctors, psychologists, behavioral analysts, professors, educators, graphic artists, and people with autism, The Social Express was made with research-based treatment programs in mind.

On The Social Express' website, references to research articles are included. These research journal articles are familiar to many of us - The Incredible 5 Point Scale, Social Thinking, Social Stories, Comic Strip Conversations, etc. These are the treatments that were thought of when creating this software/application. The Social Express uses strategies from these research-based journal articles throughout its lessons. To view a list of The Social Express' references used to create the application, visit their References page on their website.

What do you do if an application does not spell it out for you like The Social Express has? You need to do your own research. Here is what you should keep in mind when thinking about applications to use in speech-language therapy:

  1. Is this application educating students on the concepts it states that it is teaching?
  2. How much detail on a subject does the application give?
  3. How does the application teach the concept?
  4. Do I need to use additional resources/worksheets/lessons with this application?
  5. What background information does the student need before using the application?
  6. What age-group is this application appropriate for?
  7. How does the application scaffold for different educational levels?
  8. What types of cues does the application give?
  9. Is the application appropriate for the age group/communication disorder in which it is geared towards?
  10. Are there any animations/visuals/ads in the application that will distract from learning?
  11. Is this application a game that should not be used in therapy and only for reward-time or can the game be adapted for speech-language therapy?
  12. For AAC apps: How did the application choose all of its settings and vocabulary sets? What age-group/level of communication is the application appropriate for and can it be modified/edited/added onto?
  13. When an application updates, what has changed? Is the application still appropriate to use in regards to evidenced based practice?
  14. Most importantly: Can I find research to back up the use of this application in therapy?
The Social Express has done well in proving that it uses research-based strategies in its application and I would love to see other applications follow suit! Personally, I feel that this application is definitely worth the money for keeping research in mind, the animated modeling of social and problem solving situations, additional worksheets, and the social lessons that it teaches.


Disclaimer: Consonantly Speaking was not paid by The Social Express or any other company to write this post. The author of Consonantly Speaking has purchased the application on her own and used it with her students.


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