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April 14, 2013 / the speech monster

App review: Colourful Semantics

In case you haven’t already heard, there is now a Colourful Semantics App (£27.49) available for download! It is released by London Speech Therapy…yes, the same people that generously put online free Colourful Semantics materials on their website.

For those unfamiliar with Colourful Semantics, it was developed based on research by Alison Bryan (1987), that colour coding different parts of sentences helped with language learning and development. Please visit my old post here that talks more about it in detail.

I have used Colourful Semantics many times with my clients, and was extremely excited when I was asked to give this app a try and review it!

The colourful app is instantly engaging. The clients I tried the app on were immediately drawn to the strong visuals. There is also an option to turn on the background music if you wish.


(Above) In the “setup” mode, you can select the tailor make the program depending on which level your client is at the moment, and then select the scene you wish as the stimulus.

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(Above) You can also add your own scene from a photo or camera.

Each level comprises of four pictures from which the clients can choose to answer the question. Upon tapping “start” the targeted question is asked immediately by app.

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(Above) After the child correctly selects the answer, the voice over reads out the selection (e.g., “the boy”) and then gives a few seconds for the client to provide the answer. Finally, the voice over gives the answer in a complete sentence, and thereafter again leaves a few seconds for the client to provide the answer.

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There are two modes: learning mode and test mode. Data is collected if “test mode” is selected, which is great for tracking progress!


What I love about the app is the bright visuals and the real life scenes, and the ability to automatically collate data. But to me, the winning feature about the app is the ability to add background scenes from photos or a camera, allowing the clinician or parent to customize the activity according to the child’s interests and people/places/things/activities s/he is familiar with. I could see this working extremely well with children with autism who need more concrete, literal examples to learn.

What I’d love to see more:

As I got a “trial” version, the number of scenes I got was limited. I’m not entirely sure how many scenes are in the current sale version. However, I believe the developers are working on adding more built-in scenes. Hurray! I’d also love to have the option of controlling when the app gives the answer, and how long the app waits for the child to say the answer. As I was using it in therapy, I’d love to be able to just give the answer instead of sitting through the voice overs. Also, one of my clients found it challenging to wait for the next scene after he had already given the answer.

Although there are “set” colours in the non-digital, original version of Colourful Semantics, the developers made one tweak to one of the colours, changing the “where” from red to blue. I can see why they did that, as red and orange are both magenta based! However, as I’ve been using the paper version with my clients, where we had worked on red for “where,” there was a wee bit of confusion. If I had used it with clients that I had not introduced the paper version prior, it would not have been a problem.

***Just did a quick peek at the Colourful Semantics’ Facebook page, which mentioned that they will be including the following in their next updates:***

18 changes/additions in our next update including:
1. more pre-installed scenes
2. options to turn off music & 3. background
4. change the colours of each category
5. a ‘quick play’ function
6. save scores to measure progress
7. a much faster way to add a new scene

That’s heaps (totally trying to be Australian here)! AND it also included the things I had said I hoped to see! Do take time to check them out on iTunes (better yet, download the app) and on Facebook

Note: As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the app was provided to the reviewer to review. No other form of compensation was awarded. Comments in this post are entirely the reviewer’s.


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