Featured App: Read with Phonzy by MeowTek

iPad Screenshot 2

Read With PhonzyRead with Phonzy by MeowTek is a free universal app for iOS which features speech recognition to understand how well kids pronounced words using a character named Phonzy who provides prompts on the words.  The app requires that you opt in via email to use it and understand the terms and conditions.  It utilizes speech technology which recognizes and assesses the specific word that you are focusing on in the sentence.  It works best with children and does work well in a noisy environment like a busy home or a place where there is background noise.  As children pronounce words correctly, they can unlock the word which is then put into a gallery.  It also helps kids build confidence in reading (especially sight words) and improves skills of sentence building and thinking quickly.  We tested the app in a variety of environments including with a television on in the background, at a local park and in a classroom with other children.  Each time Phonzy was able to zero in and understand the words being spoken without picking up the ambient noise.

iPad Screenshot 4

One of the great things for me about the app was that I could help my son focus in on specific word types which he would learn and then as he got better with the pronunciation we were able to go back and re-listen to where he might have previously stumbled.  The app helps you correctly pronounce words and encourages children to read out loud – without a lot of corrections “in the moment” which then helps to build self confidence and sounding out skills.  MeowTek collects the audio recordings to improve the speech technology of the app and increase recognition, but no personal information about your child is collected.  Phonzy currently focuses on key words and important phrases, with the end goal of understanding the entire sentence.  The app is PRIVIO certified which means that MeoTek has COPPA compliant privacy practices to protect your child’s information and the verification via email is the method of ensuring that a parent understands that their child is using the app.

To use the app, Phonzy presents the user with a simple sentence similar to the one above with one specific word highlighted.  Your child reads and records the sentence and if the highlighted word is pronounced correctly, you get the object which is then placed in your gallery.  The words presented are appropriate for children from late kindergarten through mid-elementary school or approximately end of grade 3 according to the ones that I saw.  My son gained huge amounts of confidence when reading with Phonzy aloud because I wasn’t always trying to correct him and he didn’t feel “pressured” to perform on the spot.  My son liked that Phonzy would recognize his words most of the time and that he could easily re-record them as needed.

iPhone Screenshot 2

Phonzy is currently working to understand additional speech and speech recognition technology.  Currently, Phonzy is programmed to understand the specific highlighted words, very occasionally he will misunderstand a user however, as my son used the app more we found that Phonzy was correct in 18/20 trials.  The data collected from the app is made anonymous and is used to build and improve on speech recognition technology, it is never shared with any third parties and neither are the actual recordings.  I also loved that I could save the sentences that my son was saying and share them with his speech therapist to show his progress over time.

Overall, this is a great free app that encourages children to increase the number of words that they can read and earn some fun gallery prizes doing so.  It was a great self confidence booster for my son who struggled at times reading out loud and now has built up some confidence as he works through using the app and practicing new words.  We also liked knowing that we were helping Meowtek improve their speech recognition technology and perhaps, learn from some of the challenges that my son was having.



Requirements: Compatible with
Size: 0 MB


Also available on Google Play and Amazon

NOTE:  This post was sponsored by Meowtek but all opinions expressed are mine and are given honestly

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

Article: Adapting your device for kids with special needs



Adapting your device for kids with special needs

Eight ideas to make your device more usable for kids with special needs.
By Caroline Knorr

One-size-fits-all might be fine for some things, but it’s definitely not OK when it comes to devices. Fortunately, you can tweak most tablets, phones, and computers to make them work better for your kid. Whether your kid has vision, hearing, attention, or communication issues, different settings can reduce frustration and improve the experience.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Even when you make changes, you can always go back to the default setting. And remember, although this may be a new world and language to you, kids typically take to tech devices faster than parents, so let them test things out. As you’re learning, check the website for your device or YouTube for tutorials to help you navigate and learn about the variety of options for your device.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Use accessibility settings (all devices, all operating systems). Accessibility settings are specifically designed for people with special needs. There are settings that narrate commands for kids with hearing loss, invert colors for kids with vision issues, provide dictation for kids with dyslexia, and more. Look in the Settings folder on your device for different options. In iOS, you can create an accessibility shortcut to quickly change settings. Learn more about the individual accessibility features available on Android and iOS.

Enable Restrictions (iOS). Find Restrictions by going to Settings/General. You can create a passcode (which is different from the password that unlocks your phone) that blocks access to different features including the Safari browser, the camera, FaceTime, the iTunes Store, the iBooks Store, in-app purchases, Siri, and more.

Set up restricted profiles (Android). On Android devices, you can create individual user profiles, restricting or allowing access to different features for different people. Go to Settings -> Device -> Users to add a new profile.

Lock rotation (most devices). This is a handy setting that reduces frustration, especially when you’re sharing a device with your kid. You can lock the mode you prefer so you can view your device only in portrait or landscape mode. In iOS, portrait orientation is located in the Control Center.

Mute (all devices). If your child is noise-sensitive, you can mute the volume.

Use a key guard (all devices). These clear or colored plastic overlays have openings for each icon on the screen of a communication app such as Proloquo2go. These are helpful for kids who may have difficulty with motor skills. Colored key guards are available for kids with low vision. You can order customized key guards for different devices and apps.

Limit options (all devices). Try not to overload your child’s computer with too many apps. On the Mac, Simple Finder displays only three folders (enable it by going to Parental Controls). On other iOS devices, you can enable Guided Access (find it in Accessibility Settings), which temporarily disables everything but the app your kid is using. In Android’s restricted user profile, you can allow access to a small number of apps.

Organize apps (all devices). To help your child stay organized, both iOS and Android let you add apps into separate folders and label them, for example, as games, books, or math. In iOS, hold your finger over the app you want to put into a folder; when it jiggles, drag it on top of another app you want to put into the same folder and let go. It’s a similar process on Android devices.

Be sure to check out The iMums reviews of apps for kids with special needs to help load your device is all adapted.

Common Sense Media is a proud founding partner of Understood.

About the Author: Caroline Knorr

As Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids’ media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you’re wondering “what’s the right age for…?” Caroline can help you make the decision that works best for your family. She has more than 20 years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do. And she’s the proud mom of a teenage son whose media passions include Star Wars, StarCraft,graphic novels, and the radio program This American Life.


Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.


Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda – Review

Square Panda Phonics Playset

What we love…

ability to use a multisensory approach to learning letters which includes apps and physical letters placed on the playset to form words; included parental dashboard to track your kids progress

What we’d love to see…

ability to customize words in all apps, a mobile friendly version of the Square Panda Playground website


The Square Panda Phonics Playset is a great demonstration of how you can use your iPad and integrated playset to provide learning both on the screen and using tactile letters to complete a goal – I can’t wait to see what else this company will bring.

Our Rating



The Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda which features a bluetooth enabled playset to engage kids in learning a variety of activities from learning letters, spelling, letter sounds, rhymes, learning new vocabulary words and more.  The set consists of 45 Smart Letters, a Playset box which you pair to your iPad and holds your device while in use, access to the Square Panda Playground where you can manage a parent account, see information about your child’s progress and additional learning opportunities as well as 4 AA Batteries.  The Square Panda Playset requires either iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro in order to run and you must be running iOS 8.x and above.  The Square Panda Phonics Playset provides a multisensory tactile learning experience which combines content on your iPad with letters and visuals within the app. It includes 14 levels of phonics play as well as an integrated dashboard to track progress.

Setup is quick and easy.  First, you set up an account on Square Panda with your email and other information.  That gives you access to the parental dashboard.  After that you can unpack the Phonics Playset, install the 4 included AA batteries, download the apps and be using them within 10 or less minutes.  I spent some time in the Square Panda Playground website because I wanted to check out the features there.  There are so many great things!  You can add your own custom words including your child’s name – and for me when I last had my son use the playset I included words from his spelling list that week!  When you enter custom words they are put into your child’s games and you can even upload a picture to go with them!  Words must be between 1-8 characters, so more complex spelling words won’t work here, however, it’s a great way to practice.  The Square Panda Playground also lets you choose words for specific types of situations like bathroom and body anatomy as well as even excluding a specific letter if you misplaced it from the playset.  You can also block specific types of words if you wish which gives you a great level of customization.

iPad Screenshot 1

The playset includes 45 smart letters.  Vowels are yellow and consonants are yellow to make for easier differentiation between the letter types.  These all stored inside the playset case when not in use.  You can have up to three players per playset, and the content dynamically changes depending on which user is selected so with my 2 year old we are simply working on even identifying letters while with my 8 year old he is working on spelling words and earning badges.  The Square Panda Playset includes access to two apps, and one of the two apps Square Panda Lagoon allows you to use the custom words that you have created.   Square Panda Bowling (above) has you bowl with your finger to knock down the pins and spell out words.  It combines a multi-sensory approach where you do an activity, get a letter with your finger on your iPad and then properly place it in the try to spell the word.  Kids are taught to spell words correctly from left to right which is the way that The National Reading Panel recommends as well as the way that reading is taught in school.

iPad Screenshot 4

First of all – this is not the plastic letters that I grew up with!  Many of us may remember growing up and having the magnetized letters that we used to spell things on our refrigerator.  I loved that the app required letters to be correct before allowing you to move on.  Letters are placed individually in a white box at the bottom of the playset.  The must be positioned correctly and placed on the playset in the correct order.  The photo above is from Square Panda Lagoon and includes a photo as well as the word below to reinforce learning.

It isn’t often as a mom that I find a toy that both my 2 year old and 8 year old can use.  One of my favorite things about the Square Panda Playset is the level of customization that is included especially with the Square Panda Lagoon.  I can see it is a great way to practice “trick words” or words my son might be having challenges with at school and having a great way to keep track of what he is learning in terms of letters.  With my 2 year old, we can work on understanding letters and teaching him that my iPad is a learning device.  I also liked that we could store the letters inside the playset which meant that they were not misplaced the next time we went to use it.  I use a Griffin Survivor case on my iPad Mini because even though it’s “mom’s iPad” my kids use it a lot and I loved that we could leave on the protective case even when it was in use with the Square Panda Playset, this isn’t always the case with other products on the market.  I really liked the Square Panda Playground where I could keep track of what my kids were doing with the apps – I knew what my 2 year old was doing because we were playing together but with my older son I usually help him learn how to use something and then let him try and figure it out on his own.  I liked seeing the badges of the items he accomplished as well as the ability to add in the custom words for his spelling list that week!

In terms of enhancements, I wish that both of the apps included the ability to use custom words, my son enjoyed rolling the bowling ball in Square Panda Bowling more than the Square Panda Lagoon game – I’m not sure why he preferred it more other than he enjoys bowling, so having the two app options was great.  Square Panda is planning to add more apps Letter Lab.  I hope that they include the ability to use custom words in this app.  I’d also like to see a mobile friendly version of the Square Panda Playground – I don’t often get time to sit down at my computer so I was trying to look at it on my iPad and it wasn’t as user friendly as I would have liked.

Play with letters and words today...

The Square Panda Phonics Playset is a great demonstration of how you can use your iPad and integrated playset to provide learning both on the screen and using tactile letters to complete a goal – I can’t wait to see what else this company will bring.  The Square Panda Phonics Playset retails for $119 USD and includes a standard one year parts and labor if the letters malfunction or the product itself malfunctions.  It can be purchased from Square Panda for $119 USD.


This is not your mom’s letter playset.  This is a fun and interactive toy which can be used by younger and older children and can customize and provide data about what your child is learning.  It is a true demonstration of what the iPad can do versus other tablets on the market.


Square Panda Lagoon Square Panda Lagoon by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

A goofy chameleon with a love for dancing introduces children to letter sounds and phonics in a fun way as kids learn to spell independently. This game tracks individual spelling progress and adapts the.

Square Panda Bowling Square Panda Bowling by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

STRIKE! Letters meet their match in a bowling alley on a faraway island! With every roll of the coconut ball, your child learns the relationships between letters, sounds, and words. Compatible with the.

Square Panda Farming Square Panda Farming by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

Help Old MilkDonald plant, grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables in Square Panda Farming!

When placing Square Panda smart letters in the Square Panda Playset, children learn the alphabet, explore.

Square Panda Space Cows Square Panda Space Cows by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

It's a bird, it's a plane it's... alien UFOs beaming up cows! Compatible with the Square Panda Phonics Playset, children place smart letters in the tray to learn the alphabet, explore letter sounds, and.

Square Panda Fishing Square Panda Fishing by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

What's the best catch in the icy arctic lake? Learning about letters! In Square Panda Fishing, children reel in their fishing line for a chance to catch letter fish! With each fish that they catch, they.

Video demonstration

NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.



If you would like to win a Square Panda Phonics playset , please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to to those with a valid US mailing address, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

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Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

Total Talk by Panther Technology – Review & Giveaway

iPad Screenshot 5

What we love…

Intuitive, easy to navigate interface
Ease of editing and adding content
Tele-prompt: ability to provide suggestions remotely
Tele-text: ability to send messages to another device like texting
Variety of voices, rates, and pitch

What we’d love to see…

More persona icon options (to be available with new updates)
Expanded pre-programmed options in Quick Chat and EZ phrases
A guided tutorial to help familiarize users with location of key words could be helpful


. The app provides meaningful organization for different language levels as well as multiple communication approaches for increased efficiency across different speaking situations and settings. The format is user-friendly and intuitive and the content is extremely easy to edit and customize.

Our Rating

Total TalkTotal Talk is an excellent AAC app designed for easy and efficient communication by nonverbal users. The app was developed by Ellenson Integration Enterprises, Inc. A quick start guide makes it easy to begin using the app and the complete user manual provides a more thorough overview of the app.
The home page is organized with a message output area at the top, a dock or menu on the left side of the screen and the main grid with word buttons and folders (default is 6×6). The main grid gives access to several commonly used words (yes/no, I, you, want) and folders which are organized by category (i.e. people, verbs, activities, places, things, questions). Any words selected will appear in the message output box and can be verbalized by pressing on the box or the “speak” button in the dock.
The dock is accessible on the side of the screen. This menu has helpful buttons such as “home”, “speak”, “spell”, and “quick chat”. These features allow for more efficient communication and editing. For example, “quick chat” opens 14 commonly used phrases such as greetings, protesting, requesting, and commenting for fast selection. There are also “quick chat topics” which are organized into folders such as people, food, emotions, and questions.
One of the most unique features of the dock is the “magic” button. Selecting “magic” initially changes the menu to allow access to “settings”, “output”, “edit readout” and “quick chat topics”. The “magic” button also unleashes additional functionality to whatever button is pressed next. For example, pressing “magic” prior to a verb will offer a different grid with predicted phrases and conjugations of that verb. For “want”, the new grid options include pronoun buttons, “want”, “wants”, “wanted” and other conjugations such as present progressive, negatives, and past tense.
The “total talk” button allows access to the 10 different communication modes. These include EZ phrases, favorite lists, stories, jokes, and photos. EZ phrases include several folders with common categories or situations that many children encounter daily at school or home such as “homework”, “games” or “bedtime”. Under the “shopping” folder, there are several related phrases such as “I want to pick”, “How much?”, “I want everything!” and “No fair”. The app can be customized with personalized photos for sharing personal experiences. There is a nice step-by-step tutorial for adding photographs in the “make an album” folder.
I particularly like the “jokes” folder which allows the user to tell a pre-programmed joke. After choosing the joke set-up, the user can deliver the punchline complete with rim shot and laugh track. Once a new folder or screen is opened, there is the option to keep it open rather than closing automatically. By clicking on “stay open”, the current page will remain accessible thus eliminating the need to press several buttons to get back to the same screen. Therefore, a joke or story can be told without missing a beat.

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The “spell” button accesses the tablet’s keyboard so words can be typed out manually. Word prediction facilitates the typing process for increased efficiency of communication. This app truly grows with the user. When the user is ready, he can transition over to using the keyboard for output while still having access to the symbols.
As with most AAC apps, there are highly customizable settings for editing page lay-out, buttons, icons, and folders. The main page defaults to a 6×6 grid, but can be changed to a 9×7 or 5×4 grid depending on the user’s communication level or visual limitations. The icons are colorful drawings depicting the vocabulary concept on the button. The buttons are color coded by parts of speech (i.e. verbs are pink, nouns are yellow, etc).
As always, these folders and buttons can be easily edited according to the child’s needs and interests. Under settings, you can adjust the format of the screen (number of buttons per page from 20-63), size of text, color coding, and prediction settings.
Voices and persona icons can be edited. You can choose from male or female and then from child, teen or adult voices. In addition, pitch and rate of the voice can also be customized over 5 levels from very low and slow up to very high pitch and fast. There are currently only two persona icons offered: either a boy or girl in a wheelchair, but other options will be made available in future updates.

iPad Screenshot 1
One of aspects of verbal communication that is often lost when using a speech generating device is prosody or the intonation of speech. This app compensates for this by offering options to change the output such as “whisper”, “excited”, “bored”, or “weird”. So now the user can actually use a bored voice when asking “Are we done yet?” In addition, there is the option to stop the message output by gently hitting the device with an open palm or fist. This gives the user the ability to silence the device if the wrong message was selected in error.
Another unique feature is the ability to have two conversations at once. With the “side talk on”, the user can toggle back and forth between a conversation and a written report they may be working on. This flexibility will allow opportunities for the user to ask questions about an assignment while they are simultaneously working on it. It also lets them converse with two communication partners at once which is more like real life.
Another unique feature is the ability to minimize the grid to allow for writing notes, emails, or longer school papers or reports. These written compositions can then be saved to a button in order to print off later. This component would be a wonderful resource when completing homework or writing reports.
One of the most challenging obstacles of introducing a new AAC device to a child is becoming oriented with the location of all the buttons and teaching them how to use the device to communicate effectively. The innovative Tele-prompt feature makes this task a little less daunting. By downloading the free Orbit app, the teacher or parent can remotely access the user’s screen from their own iPhone or tablet. The teacher can offer suggestions in real-time by drawing on their device which is paired with the student’s. The prompts magically appear on the user’s screen much in the same way a coach would highlight plays for his team. This allows for unobtrusive hands-free prompting by allowing highlighting of buttons to make suggestions for word choice selection. What a great way to promote independence.
The Tele-text is another resourceful feature which allows messages to be sent directly to another phone or device. This is helpful when the environment is too noisy to hear the verbal output or to allow for more privacy for personal messages. Now communication can still occur without the background noise interfering.
The features of this app are very well thought out. The app provides meaningful organization for different language levels as well as multiple communication approaches for increased efficiency across different speaking situations and settings. The format is user-friendly and intuitive and the content is extremely easy to edit and customize. Combined with several unique and groundbreaking features, this AAC app is truly a remarkable way to give a voice to non-verbal users. I would highly recommend it particularly for use in a school setting.

Total Talk - AAC
Total Talk - AAC
by Panther Technology

Category: Education, Lifestyle
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPad75-iPad75, iPad76-iPad76
Size: 1586.28 MB


Screenshots for iPad
(Click to enlarge)

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.


If you would like to win a promo code for this app, please enter via the widget below. This giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!
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Shari is a married mother of four from Illinois. She works as a speech pathologist in a rehab setting and loves to use apps in therapy. She is a self-proclaimed “Appaholic”- always on the look out for great apps!

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