Monday, May 4, 2015

New and Notables: Special Apps



TalkItt (NOT YET AVAILABLE)

Still in development, but scheduled to be ready for release some time this year, this app literally brought tears to my eyes imagining the possibilities... TalkItt is an app that translates a user's impaired speech.  Imagine what this will mean for individuals with motor and speech impairments, who up until this development have had to rely on text to speech apps or picture communication systems to convey thoughts. For people with unclear but consistent patterns of speech, TakItt will learn each individual's unique vocal patterns. Once the app is familiar with the user's voice, the user can speak and the app will take that language that others struggle to understand, and speak the words aloud with clear speech. Follow them on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Voice_Itt and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/VoiceItt

I Can Have Conversations with You (On sale for $29.99, limited time, iPad only)

I Can Have Conversations With You"' is a customizable social language system developed by a certified speech language pathologist created to meet the unique communication needs of users on the Autism Spectrum.

It is home-based self-paced program that focuses on all aspects of communication- from eye contact; non-verbal language, facial expressions and gestures; emotions and feelings; relationships among conversational partners; intentions and motivations, perspectives and points of view; use of interjections like ''Oh Really" "Uh huh" "Cool''; different uses of language (to warn, to congratulate etc.), summarizing of topics,  understanding social rules and appropriate conduct; and logic/problem solving, figures of speech, grammar and vocabulary.

The user progresses through the app independently, except for when asked to complete "Role Plays" with a partner.  It utilizes a lot of repetition to help the user understand a concept.  The parent/caregiver assists with Role playing, as well as monitoring the user's communication abilities via a parentally gated section with easy-to-understand assessment rubrics in different areas of communication.

Message from the developer:  Unlike ordinary apps in the market, "'I Can Have Conversations With You!"' is a sequence of learning that takes each user approx 4-6 hours to complete. It's principally designed for at-home use independently by a single child vs. a therapy/school/group setting; therefore, to utilize with more than one student, the app must be re-installed and started from the beginning each time (which is free, of course).  

Additional details on how the app works can be found throughout the website  http://www.icanforautism.com/ and within the Video Tour there. Follow on Twitter at @ICanForAutism

Octoplus

Octoplus is a switch-accessible app designed for young children and kids with motor or cognitive delays.  It is a fun game-style math app where math skills are employed to battle turtles in an underwater world. There are drill and challenge modes, and options for different difficulty levels, as well as reports on progress that can be viewed in a parent section. For kids who benefit from a little extra encouragement, there is even a pretend store within the app where kids can buy characters after earning enough points.  This app also reinforces fine motor skills.  The app is common core aligned for the following standards:

*Curriculum Coverage**
OctoPlus covers the following Operations & Algebraic Thinking Math Topics: Add numbers to 10; Add in any order; Make a number
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.3 - Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.4 - For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.5 - Fluently add and subtract within 5.


You can visit the app's developer, Zyrobotics, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zyrobotics/402223876544935

Ghotit Real Writer ($99, iPad- see below for information on this product for other platforms)

is an iPad app designed to support users with dyslexia, dysgraphia or other learning disabilities. The first thing I noticed about Ghotit Real Writer was the voiceover feature guiding me the instant I opened the app.  Its features include a grammar checker, a context-aware spell checker and word prediction capabilities.  The program will read aloud text as well, making this an excellent support for those who benefit from auditory feedback. There is also an iPhone version (Ghotit Buzz Writer, $99) as well as versions for (Windows, Mac or Linux, ($199 ea)  and Android platforms ($99).
The code is a one time purchase, per device, according to the developer, but I did not encounter this issue when loading it to my other personal device under the same icloud account.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

New and Notables: CSUN 2015 Exhibit Hall


APPS, SOFTWARE & ACCESSORIES

CSUN is a treasure-trove of information and each year there are lots of goodies to be discovered.

Here are some products and resources sighted at this year's CSUN Exhibit Hall:

The hands down favorite find this year was:

Microsoft Sprout by HP
This software was on display for everyone to play with and I was floored at all the possibilities it could open up in an educational or special needs setting, not to mention it being coveted for home use i.e. for scrap booking, for organizing your tax receipts... oh my, I have a really hard time thinking of someone who would NOT think this would be a helpful tool.
The demonstration included an amazing 3D prototype not to mention existing capability to literally place any object down on the mat and have it pretty much instantaneously imported into the software program as an image, using dual (above/below)
document cameras.

Ah, the price tag... At $1,899 it's not cheap, but it is certainly comparable to other programs and devices many school districts are using, with many advantageous features. {Crossing fingers my school district will feel the same}

Microsoft is actively seeking educational and special needs-focused developers for this platform, so if that is you, seek them out.

More info on Microsoft Sprout HP here: http://www.cnet.com/products/hp-sprout/

iYoMube is an app for visually impaired users that reads aloud signs and written print in the environment using Apple's existing VoiceOver technology and camera feature.

I was sold after a demo- the app read aloud several signs more than 10 feet away, but have had trouble with the app on my iPhone 4 sadly.
(FYI this was demonstrated on a newer iPhone, with the latest iOS, and I think that is key- my old iPhone 4 did not perform well)

**I recommend waiting for a lite version of this app to be available in the App Store so potential users can try it out with their device and operating system first.** 
Developer Response: The App works best on iPhone 6 or 6+ for now because of its better camera focusing function.
                   
Here is the premise for how it should work- to use the app you must have VoiceOver feature enabled. You can use the app to "read" photos in your photo album, but even more impressive was live reading of whatever is in your viewfinder. To activate this feature open the app and swipe to the left until you get to the settings page, then choose ''navigation mode" to turn on the "Real Time Speech" (it is off by default).  There are also two modes you can switch in and out of by swiping left or right on the screen- Text mode, where all recognizable words are read at once, or Blocks mode, where each individual part of an image can be read by touching it. You can also choose to save images captured via the app to your photo album, or change the language to be recognized from one of five choices: English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (simplified) or Chinese (traditional).

I can't vouch whether this app will work for your device or not.  But we have come a long way, technology-wise, a long way indeed!



Also spied, were the tactile Parcheesi and checker sets from Altix Vision
seen at last year's CSUN event...the current sets available are upgraded models with high quality wood and even cooler! They were just being launched last year and basically were in prototype stage, but now they are definitely ready for purchase.

The sets have easy to grasp pieces that are easier to differentiate from one another, so those with visual impairments, as well as any other players, can enjoy!
The games are about $30 each, but do not include shipping.  They are currently seeking distributors in the U.S. so if that is you, you can contact them.

The sets can be ordered by sending a request to: adam.kalbarczyk@altix.pl




While doing further research on the above products, I also came across this web resource on how to offer assistance to people who have low vision or are blind:

http://valenciacollege.edu/osd/documents/BlindnessDraft.pdf

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Chat Wrap

This iPad case is clearly the object of my desire but at $499 out of reach for some of us. (There may be some confusion on the pricing I was quoted as SilverKite has the ChatWrap case listed at $395 here: https://store.silver-kite.com/product_info.php/products_id/552 ). The sound is very clear and loud, and the case is very sturdy while not adding an extreme amount of weight- it is lighter weight than a popular leading industry competitor that comes to mind. I would like to see a screen protector of some sort included as standard. There is a feature to easily add a lanyard too.  If you are successful with insurance reimbursement, or if more mainstream cases have failed to meet your needs, this would be a worthwhile investment indeed!

There were  also some companies from last year spied again:

 GoTalk Now and a suite of special needs apps and products from Attainment Company, speech and language therapy apps from Virtual Speech Center, Sono Flex and Tobii's eye tracking software (A previous favorite last year was eye tracking software from Sensory Software); Proloquo2Go (and newer 'sister' products Keedogo and Proloquo4Text) from Assistive Ware; L.A.M.P. Words for Life from PRC and Boardmaker from Mayer Johnson


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Giveaways & FREE / Sale Lists: Autism Awareness Month 2015



Many apps are deeply discounted on April 2, 2015, for World Autism Awareness Day, click below for 100s of dollars in savings:


>>>>>>>>>>SASK FREE &SALE Apps List Autism Awareness Month<<<<<<<<<<<<


https://www.facebook.com/SpecialAppsSpecialKids/posts/1093970933953510


*Giveaway for three ChooseIt! Curriculum apps from Inclusive Technology is ongoing at the SASK facebook page via the link above*
More Savings:



More places to check for other FREE/SALE apps and GIVEAWAYS during Autism Awareness Month:




Smart Apps for Kids has many goodies listed here: http://www.smartappsforkids.com/2015/04/autism-acceptance-month-april-2nd-featured-free-and-discounted-apps.html#more






The iMums have some free apps AND several giveaways listed, including a giveaway for a suite of Otterbox products and a year's subscription to a sensory processing therapy tool from Sensory TreatsAND a $100 iTunes giveaway from Old Macdonald Sing & Play by ChocChip http://theimum.com/2015/04/fast-freediscounted-apps-and-free-books-apr-2/








The blog Parenting Healthy has a giveaway of autism related books spanning from a book on sensory processing to Dr. Temple Grandin's The Way I See It, enter here: http://www.parentinghealthy.com/2015/03/book-giveaways-for-national-autism.html


Products:

Gripcase has a discount code for you!

Sue Larkey is offering a FREE E-book with excellent tips on understanding Autism- perfect for enlightening your child's teachers!

 To have the E-book sent to you click this linkhttp://suelarkey.com.au/Free_Downloads.php





Posts on Special Needs Apps & Products:


AAC Apps:
http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-innovative-aac-apps.html


Always FREE Apps:
http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2014/05/50-totally-free-apps-for-special-needs.html


Handy iPad/Mini cases post: http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2013/04/handy-ios-cases-for-kids-with-or-wo.html


Top 10 Special Needs Developers: http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-tried-and-true-special-needs-app.html


Android Apps List:
http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2012/01/android-apps-for-special-needs.html?showComment=1391766342990#c8444413872457559518


Posts on Special Needs Topics:








Monday, March 16, 2015

New and Notables: Speech and Language Therapy Apps




 
Junganew: A Herd of Sounds "S" by Junganew, LLC

Junganew: A Herd of Sounds "S" is a speech therapy app that introduces the /s/ and /z/ sound while also touching on oral motor, auditory comprehension and language skills.  For young children just getting acquainted with the /s/ and /z/, lovable characters help explain the sounds in an easy to understand way by referring to the /s/ sound as "Ms. Snake's sound'', sssss.  The z sound is taught as an s but with the throat making a buzz (Yes, the character is a bee!)  There are opportunities to hear and/or practice the sounds in isolation and in initial, medial and final positions.  S blends are also introduced. There are several fun activities and even a video recording feature using your built in iPad camera- the child can take turns with the characters practicing their sounds, to play back and watch as a video.  For kids that need the extra practice, this "Mirror Models" area can be accessed separately.  An extra bonus-  a "What Am I"? style guessing game where kids guess the s word being described and a "What's Missing?"game where the child is invited to search for a missing prop to compliment the persona shown on the screen.  There is also a balloon popping rhyming game , a cupcake decorating game, an /s/ vs. /sh/ auditory discrimination game, and our personal favorite, the S blend cookie maker where kids can combine the s sound with a second sound (sk, sp, sw, sn, sm) to create a cookie to munch on- all of course focusing on the s sound.



Counting Songs 1 and Counting Songs 2 by Inclusive Technology Ltd ($26.99 for the Counting Song app sets (10 songs each) or $2.99 each song app)





For students with complex needs, these sets of simple animated counting song apps with printable lyrics  offered by Inclusive Technology Ltd. are engaging, switch-accessible, and have a consistent pattern- perfect for those learning cause and effect, those working on beginning counting (count from 1 to 5 or in a select few songs count down from 5 to 1), or those working on switch activation skills. There are different play options as well-you can choose to have the song play through, one verse at a time, or have counting occur before each verse, or the child can count the number before each verse.  Counting activities for each song can be set to count to 5, or to count to only 3.

There are also adjustable switch/ scan settings as well.  If you are working in a school setting and want access to a variety of songs, Counting Songs 1 and Counting Songs 2 bundle up all of their counting song apps available into two sets, with 10 songs included in each set.  You can also purchase the individual song apps for $2.99 each but from what I gather of the two single song apps I own, they do not include the printable lyrics as the sets do.  With 20 different "themes" to pick from, it certainly is fun to occasionally match up a song to go with the theme of the month in my students' classrooms.

When a student is so motivated by these apps that he demonstrates a new skill of navigating through 4 layers of an AAC app to say "I want + to play + iPad + Five Little Aliens app'' that is what I call determination! I hope one of the many song apps available strikes a similar chord in your household or classroom!











iSequences by Fundaciรณn Planeta Imaginario ($3.99)   UPDATE!  Read the full review HERE

Created with high functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome individuals in mind, iSequences can be used to work on sequencing skills, predicting what happens next, and recognition of emotions. It can also be used to practice using the past tense, or working on concepts like he/she. There is a lot you can do with it, and it comes with a large number of card sets. I like how you can choose exactly which ones you want to work on.  The fact that the app is multilingual is another added bonus too.  iSequences just got even better with the added ability to include custom sequences using your own photos- currently you can add 3 or 4 part custom sequences, and specify a "what happens next" image as well. I am hoping a future update will allow us to record voice over for the title of each sequence to match the function of the original sets included in the app. (There is also an iSequences app on Google Play for $3.75, but it does not yet have this newest addition of customized sequences.)




Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top Ten Apps of 2014





Top 10 Apps of the Year

AAC apps have purposely been excluded from this Top 10 Apps of the Year post, because that would require a whole new post by itself! In fact, Special Apps, Special Kids did just that in the past- take a look here: http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-innovative-aac-apps.html

You might also enjoy: http://specialappsspecialkids.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-tried-and-true-special-needs-app.html


Finger Paint with Sounds  by Inclusive Technology Ltd FREE
Finger Paint with Sounds is a perfect beginning cause and effect app for special needs, using both color and sound to captivate the interest of the user.  Simply touch the screen and the magic will begin!  You can change the settings so any touch on the screen the will work, or use it to work on more control using just one finger at a time. Settings also allow you to choose music or sound effects to play as you draw. This app is designed with special needs in mind- to exit the screen you have to double tap in the upper corner to prevent accidental exits.  Doing so will also allow access to settings, clearing the drawing, or saving the drawing to your Photos.
For some out of the box ideas on how to repurpose this app for use in speech and language therapy, visit this app's profile on yappguru.com: http://www.yappguru.com/experts/review_item/318



Sharing with Duckie Deck by Duckie Deck Development

It is hit or miss with some of the other apps from this developer, but Sharing with Duckie Deck has a couple of activities perfectly aligned with social thinking skills. In one activity, the player must be thinking about what all of the characters in a particular scene want, in order to successfully hand out the objects and move on to the next scene. In another activity the player is given food items to hand out to four characters- if a character is missed, he/she will express his disappointment with a frown and "aw!" The kids LOVE it.   You can also decorate a cake, play a memory game, or play with toys, but we keep coming back to the above activities.



iMommy by K & N Ventures
(there is also a FREE ad supported version  w/ in-apps)
iMommy is an app I get a lot of use out of with my special education early childhood preschoolers. Several of my students are beginning communicators, and this app has fun, meaningful content that encourages language use.  It is a great way to focus on simple verbs and common nouns in a young child's environment, as well as basic sentence structures.  There are five environments for the child to explore: kitchen, bedroom, playroom, bath, changing room, picnic and closet.  I tend to focus on the kitchen, bedroom and bath areas.  I have my students use their language to request what the baby will do, or model it for them and have them repeat if they are unable to do so on their own.  Some of my students are using ASL, so we do the signs for simple vocabulary in the app such as eat, drink, play, sleep, wash, apple, milk, teddy bear, ball, blanket etc.











First Phrases HD by Hamaguchi Apps for Speech, Language and Auditory Development
(there is a lite version available for 99 cents, as well as a version for iPhone)

First Phrases HD is one of many quality speech therapy apps from this developer.  This is a perfect app for young students who are just learning to combine 2 or 3 words together to communicate. The app provides  Verb +  Noun phrases such as cut + the cake, or eat + the + banana. The app also includes phrasal verbs (verb + preposition) like put away or turn on.    First Phrases HD is my favorite app in this series and also the biggest hit among my young students with speech and language delays. They love the cause and effect aspect of this app- tap a phrase and the character will animate it. Even more enticing, is the record feature.  After the child records the phrase, they can listen to their recording, causing the animation to repeat.  This is really delightful for my students who understand the character is doing what they requested through their own verbal language!


Happy Geese by Appically (FREE version reviewed, full version also avail.)
There are very few board games in the app store suited for special needs, but Happy Geese fits the bill.  It was created specifically with special needs users in mind, although it is perfect for my typical preschoolers as well. Players can choose from one of two board layouts, as well as several different dice/game play options. .  (There are also small in-app purchases to access more layouts and options, or you can purchase the full version of Happy Geese: Happy Geese Full)  For the basic free version you can choose whether players use number dice or simply colors, whether a spinner is used, and whether more challenges are added to the game. For example you can choose to add snakes for a player to slide down, ladders for a player to climb up, and also set whether a single color needs to be chosen to win, or whether any color rolled at the end of the game will win.  A favorite feature, however is the winner's crown- select it to ensure a player will win- when first introducing the concept of turn taking/ game playing with a young student who hasn't quite established strong emotional regulation skills, I appreciate taking away the possibility of a mega meltdown that may ensue from losing the game. Another fun and very functional feature is the ability to add pictures of each child to the game markers to make them personalized/more meaningful.

Pogg - kids game to learn spelling, language and vocabulary such as verbs, especially in slp and special education like autism and speech therapy by Ricky Vuckovic

Pogg is a lovable odd creature that acts out a variety of simple, everyday actions (and a few nouns) when a word is selected from the menu of pictures OR when one of the words is spelled out via the keyboard.  The latter option makes this perfect for spelling practice- if a word is misspelled, Pogg will appear, scratching his head in confusion. 



Niki Story by Alessandro LaRocca

Niki Story makes it really easy to create picture symbol sentences to support whatever literacy or language activity you are doing at the time. This app also allows you to embed videos, record sound, or draw directly on a scene as well- every step is simple to do.  This app is super versatile, affordable, and perfect for creating lessons for just about anything.  We've been using it lately to target language development goals such as AVOs (agent + verb+ object). You can organize your lessons into different folders, and easily edit. (There is a lock feature you must unlock to do this- you must enter a mathematical equation to unlock it)



WordToob: Language Learning with Video Modeling by John Halloran

WordToob is essentially a living dictionary, although it has many other uses (see link at the end of this paragraph).  It comes programmed with some basic core vocabulary acted out in videos, and it is easy to program your own mulitple short videos per vocabulary word- this way a person can learn multiple examples of a word across different setting. By doing so they learn to generalize the word's meaning. For example, to combat someone thinking "eat"' is something you do only at your blue kitchen table with an ABC place mat.- you can take videos of someone eating pizza in the cafeteria, or eating a snack at a bench during recess, or eating a peanut butter sandwich on a field trip, and so on. The app allows you to easily make copies of existing boards, and hide words on the board as well.  Other people have had success using WordToob for different purposes too- as a visual schedule, for teaching social skills and so on.  One clever use listed on the app's webpage is using it is a communication book to go back and forth from school/home- the teachers take snippets of videos throughout the day to share what they did.  For a video outlining other ways to use WordToob visit here:



IWash My Cats by Portegno Apps
(this is an iPhone app, but fills the iPad screen too- the graphics won't knock your socks off, but my students don't care)

IWash My Cats is a simple and fun pretend play game for preschool or young elementary school students.  Each time you play a new, muddy messy cat appears on the screen for the child to wash. The steps are always the same= scrub with soap, rinse, dry, and brush.  Audio instructions will announce each step "Let's brush!" There are different sound effects for each step as well as stars that sparkle on the screen after completing each step.  This is perfect for introducing the concept of sequencing.  If you have a stuffed animal cat and some props, you can act out each of the steps practiced in the app too for further understanding and fun. I use this app for younger kids working on /sh/ sounds frequently as a reward after practicing their sounds.  They don't care that they are still working on their sounds, because they are busy having so much fun- we can use "'wash" (or 'scrub'if working on s blends), "brush" and then ''shhhh" to mimic the sound of the hair dryer and "shiny" to talk about their fur after washing.  we also refer to each cat as ''she" or give them /sh/ names like Sharlee, Shad, Sheila etc...

 Toca kitchen 2 by Toca Boca
I've been using the original Toca Kitchen as a staple with my young students, but with Toca Kitchen 2 just out, this is now the bee's knees. The characters have a whole new look that I find strange but that is highly appealing to my little ones, so kudos to the developers for catching on to this. There are new, more realistic looking foods and features. There is even a whole new set of condiments, including lemon you can squeeze, and hot sauce. Try to give something too hot to someone to see the character react and blow on the food. Another new feature is the ability to make smoothies. Have you ever had a shrimp-corn-tabasco smoothie? I do not recommend it for consumption but do try serving it to a character in Toca Kitchen 2- the reaction is priceless!


The Zones of Regulation by Selosoft

Zones of Regulation is a great tool for adult and child to use together.  It is actually a game a child can navigate through to learn concepts from the Zones of Regulation book/ program. I don't have the program, but others have noted in reviews it is not as complete- for someone with general knowledge of the program, the app should be perfect as it is a great way to introduce and learn techniques to help someone identify and understand his/her feelings, as well as cope with those feelings using the strategies in the app.  There are two main sections- a game area where you navigate a character to one of the four zones to answer questions about them, and a "More Content" button with four new activities (Picture Studio, Match the Face, Lazy 8 breathing, and Six Sides of Breathing). The new tools that have been added to the app for breathing to calm down, and identification of emotions and their "zones" - blue, green, yellow or red, are great. Game play is not overly punitive either- if you get an answer incorrect, you get one coin instead of 3, and are simply told to try again.  During play there are icons for each zone that you can refer to at any time, or you can go back to the main menu to access additional activities under the More Content button. There is one caveat- there is a bug that makes the camera feature crash, at least on my (older) iPad mini with iOS 7.1.2 installed.  To get around this you will have to take pictures of your different feelings beforehand and then select "Choose existing photo".
Just counted and that's 11. Ah, top 11 Apps of the Year to you!