Friday, April 29, 2011

The 'Moms with Apps' App

Moms with Apps is a nice site that features both new and old apps that apply to children. My FAVORITE feature is "App Friday"...every Friday, they feature 2 or 3 FREE or reduced in price apps.  Today, Friday April 29th, LanguageBuilder is free.  I was shocked!  I really wanted this app, I was hoping that it might be free for May, since May is Better Speech and Hearing Month.  I was really stoked to see it listed today as their free app promotion.  Moms with Apps is available in 3 ways:  online website, Facebook page, and the itunes app.  All three seem to show similar or the same information; however, I perfer the Facebook page because it sends me the newsfeeds.
Here is the website.
Here is the app.
Here is the Facebook page.

I have been able to get quite a few free apps through their notifications/features each Friday!  The site and app also have good information.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dusty D. Dawg Has Feelings Too!

Believe it or not, this app is FREE!  I am loving it. You can have the book read by the narrator (girl's voice), or supposedly you can record your own voice (haven't yet tried).  You can also personalize it with someone's name and picture on the first page.  The first page talks about how dogs go through feelings just like people...which is a great intro.  I can talk about: How are dogs and people the same? How are we different? What feelings do you think a dog might have?  The story is very comprehension in that it talks about how feelings are a big part of our day and can affect us. For each feeling (and the book goes through all of the major feelings), there is a cute picture reflecting the emotion.  I usually ask questions like: What did Dusty do? How does Dusty look? How do you know he is feeling ____?  When would you feel like this? How do you look when you feel like that?  The dog in the book is really cute and portrays the emotions well.  There are also pages that portray good eye contact and whole body listening.

Losing a friend
Excited (new friend)
Not winning
Angry (when things don't go right)
Feeling sorry (even says, "it shows in my eyes")

Shop your way to Language!

Yes...I know that my titles are a bit cheesy. =)  Lil' Kitten Shopping Cart is a fantastic game, and it's FREE!  The music makes you feel like you are really on a game show!  The app features a kitten who receives lists of food from his/her mom.  Once in the store (beautiful/cute graphics), you must look at your list.  I ask the students, "How can we group these items together?" or "What group does ____ belong to?"  I also talk about that this is 'Mom's list' and not ours...we can't pick what we want, we need to think about others. You then need to select the right aisle based on the group. Then you push an arrow and your kitty/cart go sailing down the aisle until you see your item.  This is great for visual scanning.  Sometimes, I have one person be the 'eyes' and scan for the item.  Once you find your item, you need to pick one that is appropriately priced.  A great chance to talk about, "How much more is the big lobster?"  "How much less is the muffin on the bottom?" "How much will you save if you pick ___?"  You can refer back to your list and check items off.  Depending on the child's ability, you can have them refer back for each item...or if I am working with an older student, I may say, "You need to remember all five items...form a picture in your head or make associations" (This is great for word retrieval skills).  There is even a 'sale' aisle...which some might forget to think about!  Eventually, you can go to the checkout.  Prior to the cashier, I ask the students to make predictions about the price.  You are also given a I can additionally ask them, "How much do you think you will have leftover?".  The cashier then totals the items and you see your savings.  Each turn, if you save money, you can bank it and go to a 'prize store' to earn toys.

Goals that can be targeted:
  • Vocabulary: aisle, shelf, cashier, and of course the food...they have a HUGE selection (lobster, eggplant, cabbage, etc). 
  • Predictions: Many opportunities to ask "What do you think?" types of questions
  • Basic Concepts: Since there are many shelves, I can also give the students directions, such as: "Pick the eggplant that is on the bottom shelf on the right" (receptive) or "Where was the muffin that you picked?" (expressive)
  • Math/Reasoning: Plenty of chances to ask Math-based questions, "How much is____?" "How much more or less?" "What is the total?" "How much did you save?" 
  • Higher Level questions: I ask questions like, "Why do you think mom needs a steak?" "Why might she need flour?" "What could we make with sugar?" 
  • Social: We talk about taking someone's perspective, "How will it make mom feel if we save her money?" "...if we bring home what we want and NOT what she wants?" "How will you feel if you get everything on the list?"  Additionally, we work on role play and turn-taking.  If there are several students, each student is responsible for different items (through group discussion/voting/etc).  One person can push the cart, while the others scan for the items.  We also incorporate whole body listening and eye contact between turns when passing the iPad from person to person and when we are discussing our strategy.  If we earn enough money as a group, we can make a group decision to save our money or pick a toy. 
This game is just really great!  I would have paid a few dollars, but with it being FREE, how cool!

Helicopter Taxi and Toca Tea Party

I would mostly use these apps by Toca Boca for role play. I got Helicopter Taxi when it was free one day, but now it is $.99.  If you have an iPad 2, you can take advantage of the camera.  The helicopter overlays your background (whatever room or location you are in).  It make it look like the helicopter is in the room with you.   To take off, you have to lift your iPad from a flat surface.  To fly, you hold it upright and walk around with it.  To land, you again set it back down (flat) on a surface.  For the missions, a garbled voice (no real words) speaks from a phone booth.  This is where I (or another student) will say, "You need to fly to ______".  I either select a location in the room (that we previously labeled something) or a student.  So they may need to fly to Johnny or fly to the 'hospital' (small table).  We usually decide these parts ahead of time via a group discussion...we meet in a huddle and come up with scenarios, plots, characters, etc.  Obviously, some students are going to have potential issues, like not wanting their turn to end (the route is a fixed keeps saying you need to land) or veering off course/going where they want to go instead.  These are all great teachable moments. Sometimes, I am the one who forces the issue and flies off course or ignores my commanders directions.  My son (almost 4) and I play this at home quite a bit, he enjoys thinking of silly scenarios.  I also tell him he has to give me directions like, "fly low" or "fly high"..."fly past the window" or "fly inside the closet". We do the full role play, "Pilot to Mommy, Pilot to Mommy, come in!  You have a pick up!" We took it outside for a 'nature tour by helicopter' extravaganza as well.
**Some careful adult supervision is needed as kids will be carrying the iPad and walking while looking at the screen.  Just a note of caution!  (Although, as my husband said, the caution should really be directed at me...I am clumsy!)
**This app was made for an iPhone/iPod, but it works well on the iPad.  Not superior graphics, but still good and the camera/backdrop ability makes it well worth it. Also, when I first got this app, the camera feature would not run on my iPad2...I contacted the company and it was working 1 business day later...not sure if they fixed it or if my iPad had a glitch.

Toca Tea Party
I bought this app for $2.99, I chose not to buy it on sale for $.99 and was sorry!  For just under $3, it seems to be worth it, although $.99 would have been better!  You build a tea pick your blanket/cloth, pick/set the plates, pick/set the cups, pick the beverages, and pick the desserts.  Each person can pick their own plate/drink/food. If your child/student is dining alone, they can bring animals to serve as friends. 
Fun things you can do:
  • Drink your beverage by tapping it
  • Blow out candles (tapping), you can also relight them
  • Eat your food
  • Play the radio or turn it off
  • Get more food or pour more beverages
  • Spill your beverage and wipe it up with a kleenex (although it seems random when it spills)
How I would use this:
  • Role play
  • Turn taking
  • Asking questions ("May I have...")
  • Non-verbal communication (using eyes, head nods to convey what you want)
  • Following and giving directions
**I wish that the kids could actually 'wash' the dishes, that would be a fun added step vs. all of the dishes going into the water/the app ending. 

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Cut the Rope...for Higher Level Language!

    Several 'game' style apps can be excellent for higher level language, verbal reasoning, and answering how/why questions when used selectively (short amounts at the end of a session) and appropriately.  Games that involve logic, such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, can have great therapeutic value...not in the gaming sense, but in the use of critical thinking skills.
    For the majority of the session, I target other higher level language goals, such as identifying main ideas in stories and making predictions/inferences, etc.  We might listen to a story, which is followed by comprehension questions.  The students often do not realize that therapy isn't ending with that activity!

    Cut the Rope:  ($1.99)
    I begin by starting the app, which starts with a door bell ringing and a mysterious package arriving.  I ask, "What do you think is inside?" The students make their predictions. Of course, it's a cute little alien, but I say, "look at that frog!"  Most students will tell me it is NOT a frog.  "Why isn't it a frog? Why do you think it's an alien?" The alien of course wants to eat candy, which we also discuss..."Why would an alien want candy?"  We also talk about the directions and strategy behind the game.  Essentially, you need to cut a variety of ropes to allow the candy to fall in his mouth. I use this game with a partner (either another student or myself).  We take turns cutting it takes teamwork to finish a level. Prior to starting, we discuss our strategy and plan. As you progress through the levels, there are additional tricks...the candy can shoot out of a stocking or fly upwards in a bubble.  These are great opportunities to discuss cause/effect...the bubble causes the candy to float upward, the stocking causes the candy to 'teleport'.  I alway make sure to make some mistakes...which can lead to great discussions about positive comments to team members!
    What about social skills?
    I have also used this game as a follow-up to a social skills activity.  The student must use 'whole body listening'.  I point to a rope and the student will indicate with head nods yes/no (if that is the rope that I should cut).  We then switch roles and the student points while I nod my head yes/no. We also use this game for coordinating can cut 2 ropes at one time, so we practice trying both ropes.

    There is a wide array of games similar to Cut the Rope.  Angry Birds, priced at $4.99, is one of the most popular games in the app market and can be used in the same manner as Cut the Rope.  Each bird has a different function and appearance, which can be used to target comparing/contrasting, identifying functions, and explaining how each bird should be used and why. The other great value in using these games as a supplement is that the students are often very eager to explain how to play these games to peers and family.
    **Again, these games are used for a very minimal amount of time and as a conclusion to a more structured therapy lesson.  I always explain their value, what goals we were targeting, and the extent of their use.

    P.S. Angry Birds is also available in Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio!  Angry Birds Rio ($2.99) has some fun differences:  monkeys instead of pigs (as the enemies), different settings/scenes, and a different plot (trying to free their Rio friends).  I like the scenes in all of the Angry Birds...great opportunity for talking about 'setting', vocabulary (dessert, warehouse, etc), and comparing/contrasting.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    More on SoundTouch

    I previously described how to use SoundTouch for students who enjoy auditory stimulation; however, this app has so many other uses! You can do a trial of Sound Touch Lite to see if you like it. My son and daughter (ages 3 and 1) also love this.  They just love listening to the different sounds.
    • Vocabulary: This app is great for building can do this receptively or expressively.  "Find the goat" or "Tell me what this animal is".
    • Comparing/contrasting items: students can pick 2 icons/items and explain how they are different and how they are the same.
    • Social referencing and nonverbal communication:  This app could also be used for a "follow my eye to the prize" task.  The student would visually select an item (no talking)...the partner then points to items until the student confirms with a yes/no head nod.  The partner can then press the icon to hear the sound.   I have also used this with acting/role play...the student is required to act out one of the items (ex: playing guitar, or a flamingo, etc) and his peers must guess what he is doing.  After each turn, we talk about what was helpful and what other actions the student could have done to help lead his team to the answer.
    • Describing: I have also used this app for describing. A student must describe the item, "It's in the animal group, it lives in water, it hops, it croaks" and their partner must guess the item.
    • Following directions: This can be used for simple, multi-step, and complex directions.  "Before you touch the horse, touch the duck" or "Touch the piano, the horn, and then the violin". etc.  For a higher level, have the student create directions for you.
    • Listening skills/Auditory Discrimination: This app can also be great for auditory listening skills...the student closes their eyes, I click an icon, they tell me what they heard.  I can increase the difficulty level...try playing 3 sounds and see if your student can list them back in order!

    Auditory Stimuli Apps

    There are several apps that I use for students who seek or are very responsive to auditory stimuli.  These apps can be used even if the child has a visual deficit. When looking for these types of apps, I needed something that could be easily accessed (just a tap or touch) and no matter where the child touched, there would be auditory feedback.  For therapy, I might be targeting turn taking, initiating a response, or answering yes/no questions. If the student responds with a gesture (knock, hand signal, etc) to "Do you want a turn?", they are given access to the app/iPad. I am always in control of the iPad, and I sometimes need to give hand-over-hand assistance.  This is a great activity that can be team-taught with an Occupational Therapist.  My goal in writing this blog entry is to demonstrate that the iPad can be used with students with ALL levels of skill.  Even if a child's skills are very limited, there are apps and ways to use the ipad through different levels of clinician involvement. 

    Virtuoso Piano 3: (Free) This is a piano keyboard...wherever the student touches, s/he can hear piano notes.  There are the low notes and high notes.  The keys are very big and the black/white contrast is very nice for visual contrast.

    Bongos: (Free) This drum app includes 2 bongo drums that are fun for students to tap/beat/play.  It is very easy to play and students who enjoy auditory stimuli will like this app. 

    iSteelPan: (Free) This app is a steel drum app. Within one session, I often use several drum apps and the student seems to really enjoy the contrast. This is not the best steel drum app that I found; however, it was the only free one and it suited my functional need.

    Classical Guitar:  This app is a guitar that the student can tap/strum to elicit sound.  Very fun. Again, within one session, I often switch between these musical apps.  It's great for a basic level auditory scanning technique, "Let's play music. Do you want guitar? or steel drums?"  I repeat the options until the student signals a selection.

    HOP on Drums:  Yes, like the movie!  This is such a fun app, both for the students I am including in this type of therapy, but for anyone!  You can play different modes:  listen to the theme song (I want candy), add your own drum beats to the theme song, or play in freestyle. It's an entire drum kit.  A nice feature is that no matter how the student accesses the drums, they produce sound.  S/he can tap, swipe, push, slap, etc.  A great activity if you are targeting different 'touches'..."let's tap!" "let's swipe our hand!"

    SoundTouch: This app is really great for many kids/students, it can be used in so many ways; however, I'll include it here. In this type of therapy, I again use it to elicit some form of a response from a student.  Again, it's great because no matter where the student touches, something will happen.  I can pick from the following groups: animals, wild animals, birds, vehicles, instruments. For each of those groups, there are 12 icons that can be touched/accessed.  Each icon has many different real life pictures that will pop up and play the sound associated with it.  Students who enjoy auditory stimuli will enjoy this! 

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    DropBox...Take your documents with you!

    My husband knew that I would want to be able to view and take documents with me on my iPad.  I would need access to therapy schedules, school/class schedules, some of my therapy books that I own, and worksheets.  He installed DropBox for me.  DropBox is an app that allows you to upload pdf's to a secure storage site.  You can then access those items through the DropBox app on your iPad.  You need a wi-fi connection though to bring up new items; however, if I have wi-fi (let's say at home) and bring up a schedule or therapy book, even if I do not have wi-fi later in the day, I can bring up that document as long as I don't close it.  I can NOT bring up new documents unless I have wi-fi though.  DropBox has been very useful when I am en route to retrieve students...I can easily bring up schedules.  DropBox is also a great tool for "5 Minute" articulation sessions that occur outside of the therapy room as you can upload articulation drills to the iPad.
    You will need to get DropBox as an app on your iPad (FREE).
    Go to and create an account and install DropBox on your computer.
    When you want to upload a document, simply go to DropBox on your computer and get started!

    These are some screen shots of pdf's that I have on my iPad through DropBox.

    Tips and Tricks

    Here are some easy tips and tricks:
    • Take a picture of a screen shot: Push the top (power) and home buttons at the same time (but don't hold for long). The photo will be stored in your photo library.   
    • Opening More Apps: To open other apps while another app is running, simply double push the home button. 
    • Quit Apps: Many people don't realize that every time you open an app, it remains running.  This can slow down your iPad.  Once a day (or more), I close/quit the apps I have been using.  To do this:
      • Tap the Home button twice: a row of apps will appear on the bottom of the screen...these are all of the apps that are running.
      • Touch and hold down on one app in the bottom row. A minus sign will appear.  Tap the minus signs to close the apps.  This will also restore apps to their home/start status...not all apps have a home button.
    • Save an image on a webpage: Tap and hold on an image on any web page.  You will see a prompt to save the image. 
    • No time to add a period to a sentence? Hit the spacebar twice (double space) and a period will be added for you.
    • Connecting your iPad to a SMART Board: I do not have a SMART Board, so I can not say if this works. Click on the link above (It explains the process).  Note: It looks like you need wi-fi.   
    • Lock the orientation of your screen: There are 2 ways:  
      • Use the Side Switch (near the volume button along the length-side)....NOTE:  recent iOS updates defaulted this button to 'Mute' mode...if you would rather have this button lock the orientation, simply go into settings,  and touch/check the "LOCK ROTATION" option under "Use Side Switch to:" category.
      • Double push the Home button. Scroll all of the way to the left. Select the circle/lock button (when it is unlocked mode there is no lock, just a circle).
        • From this mode you can also:
          • change screen brightness
          • adjust volume
          • access your music/iPod/itunes
          • quit/close apps: hold down on an app, push minus sign (described above as well)

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Yummy Burger!

    The new app that I bought that I just LOVE is called YummyBurgers!  The goal in this game is to build a burger that matches the picture.  You operate either a hamburger stand or a restaurant.  Of course, there are demanding customers!  If you don't build the burger in the correct sequence or you take too much time, the customers grow increasingly angry and eventually leave!  So how did I use this app?  For sequencing, visual discrimination, comparing/contrasting, and social skills!!!  I lead into the activity by asking the student:
    --What is important when owning a business?
    --How can we keep customers happy?
    --What are some problems that may occur?
    --How will you know that your customer is pleased? if they are angry?
    --How can you tell if a customer is getting upset? How can you tell if they are pleased? 

    Once we begin the game, I provide various levels of cuing to help the student complete the activity.  Some students require some verbal cuing ("patty, lettuce, ketchup, bun" etc) while others may need cuing to keep pace.  At the end of the round, you are told how many customers you served, how much money you make, and how many customers you lost.  We then discuss why we might have lost a customer and how we can keep our customers!  Also, I ask the student if I can play one round...but that I need their help...they are 'my boss' and need to make sure I am doing my job.  Of course, I always make sure I miss a few or slow down...the students love telling me "You didn't make that customer happy! You were too slow!  You missed the ketchup!  Hurry, remember the drink!"  I even had a student tell me, "Boy, good thing you work here! You sure couldn't work in a restaurant!"

    For social skills, I really focus on teamwork (working in person is boss, one person is the cook, and one person is the customer).  The boss watches and helps the cook (giving cues), s/he also watch the customer's (on screen) face and must give clues, "he is getting mad!"  The customer-student must watch the customers and give feedback, "I am getting mad! Where is my burger!"  This game is really great for social referencing and matching your actions to others.  I plan to get my play food out of storage...we will then do some 'role play' and skits...of course we will video record it with the iPad 2!!!

    Note: I still only use this app/the iPad as a supplement to another goal in's never the main task that we are working on, it's just a nice reinforcement for the student. 

    There is a 'Lite' version that is free...the full version is $2.99 for the iPad.

    Update: Here are some additional ways that I incorporated this app into therapy.  Our unit was identifying and stating facts/opinions.  We spent several sessions identifying and stating facts/opinions for various topics, such as soccer, spring, animals, movies, tv shows, etc.  We also talked about facts and opinions for burgers, which led to use of the app.
     I also made Fact and Opinion stick holder signs...I read fact/opinions on the back of hamburgers (generated from the kids lists) and the students held up their signs.

     I found pictures of hamburger items on google and cut them out.  I used this as a following directions activity.  I would give students directions: "I want a hamburger with cheese, tomato, pickles, and ketchup.  I also want fries and a drink." The students then needed to follow the exact sequence.

     This was the original worksheet I made for the students to write their fact and opinion sentences on...I later compiled everyone's onto the picture burgers and read them aloud. 

     Just another shot of some facts/opinions and my stick signs.  The students love those signs!

    We made a score sheet for my groups...each group decided on a name for their restaurant.  We kept score based on dollars earned and customers lost.  The kids had a blast competing.