I Found An App, Now What?

Wordle: apps for special needs There are so many great websites and blogs out there to guide parents and professionals in their quest for the BEST apps to support children with special needs. But finding a great educational app is only the first step! What happens next?

First, allow me to climb onto my best practice soap box for a moment... 

My Opinion (and it is just that)
An iPad in the hands of a child is useless without the guided support of a knowledgable play partner! Don’t get me wrong, all children need free time to “explore”, whether with Mr. Potato Head, everyday objects around the home, or on YouTube. But, if we want to scaffold learning, moving our kids toward their developmental goals, we have to be present in the interaction (at least part of the time, if not most of the time!). Apps are great, but they can’t do all of the work for us. :)

What does this mean, generally speaking?
1) As special needs professionals, we need to assure that in addition to app recommendations, we are supporting our families with appropriate home programming strategies around these apps, just as we would with more traditional home practice materials.

2) As parents, we need to assure that we are involved with our children during iPad play, providing the modeling, support, and interaction learned from our therapeutic and educational teams to promote the development of vital social and academic skills within our kids.

Ok, climbing off of the soap box now...

What next?

I love apps, and I love how eager my families are to use them with their kids at home! To bridge my love of apps with a need for valuable parent coaching resources, I have decided to embark on a journey. Over the next few months, I plan to post several “how to’s” to support parents in using popular special needs apps at home. But I need your help!

How you can help SNEAK’s project:

1) If you are a parent/therapist/educator that would like guidance on a specific app, post in the comments below.
If you are an app developer that would like to find out how your app can be used to target specific skills for children with special needs, post in the comments below.
If you are a blogger/AT professional who has valuable resources to guide the use of specific special needs apps, post in the comments below.

Thank you for contributing and keep checking SNEAK for app “how to’s”! :)


5 Great Summer AT/AAC Online Trainings!

Looking for some continuing education opportunities to learn more about assistive technology and AAC while you are wrapping up your "lazy" summer? :)  Check out some of these great online webinars to stay in the AT loop!

ATIA is offering some great topics over the next month, including "Challenges to Using Apps as Assistive Technology"

PRC always hosts some great AAC trainings to support not only their products, but the AAC evaluation and treatment process as a whole.  They have a few nice online trainings coming up, including one on successful AAC report writing.

Offers a nice, comprehensive listing of CE opportunities in the areas of AT and AAC, including online/webinar trainings.  

Although not a live webinar or a course offering CE credits, this site has some amazing online resources to help new professionals in the field of AT get their bearings.  

Although they have not posted any new, live webinars since May, you can access all of their archived webinars for some really great information.

I will update this as I come across new opportunities.

Have a training, online course, or webinar you'd like to share?


Online Resources for AAC from Say It With Symbols!

I just came across this site (I know, a bit slow since it has been in business for a few years!) and I love it!  Great low tech, AAC products and a wonderful resource list for parent friendly AAC info all over the web!  They also sell adorable shirts and gift items, including greeting cards, that display messages with picture communication symbols.  Love it :)

If you are a parent or professional looking for AAC tips to support your special kids, definitely check this out (Giving Greetings/Say It With Symbols!).

You might also want to check out SNEAK's previous post on SNEAK's Top 5 Web Resources for Teaching Language to Kids who Use AAC

What AAC resources do you find helpful?


Connect: New Switch Interface for iPad

Updated information on Connect (previously called Keynote), set to be released this Fall!
Adapted form a post seen on Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs
Ablenet is set to release Keynote in September of this year.  From what I can tell (and I could be wrong), it seems like Keynote is a switch interface, sound amplification system and protective case in one, very similar to the iAdapter with the added feature of a switch interface.  The switch interface in Keynote will enable users to control functions of the iPad that allow Voice Over controls, such as switching between screens on the iPad, and navigating to and opening apps.  Keynote's switch interface will also enable users to operate apps that support Voice Over controls by using a single switch.  This is a step above where our current switch interface options are (e.g., Blue2, Therapy Box).  Pretty cool, can't wait to try it out for myself!


10+ Essential Speech Therapy Apps for Your iToolbox

image from Polyvore 

I have found so many cool iTools for professionals lately that I decided to start a running post to showcase some of the apps that make my job as a therapist a little bit easier. :). Unlike other posts on SNEAK, which often focus on apps for our kids, this one is for my #slpeeps and other professionals working in the trenches and looking for some great apps to help out. Please comment below if you would like to share professional apps that you find helpful. I will update this list as I find new gems :)

*Note:  All of the app links below are for iPad apps but many of these apps are also available for the iPhone.

Say Hi Translate
SayHi Translate: Use Your Voice to Speak a New Language like a Pro - SayHi
Work with multicultural families and need some communication help in a pinch?  This handy app will translate into many common languages when you speak aloud!

Disfluency Index Counter
Disfluency Index Counter - Smarty Ears
Keep track of stuttered syllables and more with this handy, disfluency data tracking app.

Artik Pix
ArtikPix - Full - Expressive Solutions LLC
A full articulation deck for word and sentence level practice with built-in data tracker, reinforcement, and auditory feedback.  Great pictures and extensive word lists!

Time Timer
Time Timer: iPad Edition - Time Timer LLC
An awesome visual timer to help kids stay on task and transition between activities.

Token Board
Token Board - Zorten
A visual token board app that helps kids work for rewards and achieve their goals.

Custom Boards
Custom Boards- Premium - Smarty Ears
A great, on-the-go app for making visual supports and communication boards on your iPad!  Great symbol library and lots of templates included!

Super Duper Data Tracker
Super Duper Data Tracker - Super Duper Publications
A simple and easy to use app for tracking data during sessions.  Data tracker also includes graphs to help you visualize each student's progress.

3D Human Oral Cavity
3D Human Oral Cavity - Quantum Apps Inc
Great, 3D models of the human oral musculature to help in patient and family education during therapy.  This series has lots of companion apps for different parts of the body.

Pages - Apple
Created by Apple for iPad and iPhone, this word processor is a great way to keep up with your documents on-the-go.  It is a fully functioning word processing app that can be used to write therapy notes, create home programs,  compose letters to colleagues and families, and more!

Metronome!! - Peter Deelstra
Help your students control their speaking rate, motor planning, and fluency with a simple, but handy metronome app.  This one provides visual and auditory feedback and is very customizable.

What apps are in your professional iToolbox?


Awareness! An App for Articulation, Fluency, and more!

I recently downloaded this app for my own use (to keep me safe and aware while running with my headphones in),  but I quickly realized that it had wonderful applications to speech therapy, especially for kids struggling with articulation and fluency difficulties.

Awareness! The Headphone App allows you to hear environmental sounds around you while listening to music or other audio through your headphones (on iPhone or iPad).  Awareness! uses the microphone of your device to bring in the external audio signal and blends the signals so you hear the audio source form within your device (i.e., audio, music) as well as the sounds around you!  It really works well!  Here are a few ways I have explored this app so far in therapy:

  • As feedback to slow down speech rate (much like DAF-delayed Auditory Feedback)
  • As feedback for articulation practice and error discrimination
  • To help my kids with auditory processing difficulties practice listening to what's important within a sea of environmental noise
I love using Awareness!  with the built in iPhone/iPad, front facing camera as well for added feedback!

This app is simple, but awesome, and I can't wait to keep exploring it as a feedback tool in therapy!

What apps are you using for feedback?


Giving Your Toys a Makeover!

I just read a great blog post form Little Stories and it brought to mind something I stress often when working with families of children with special needs:  Don't underestimate the power of an organized play environment!

Don't get me wrong, unstructured play filled with creativity and freedom is crucial to the development of all children.  However, most of us don't work or play our best when we are surrounded by confusing clutter.  Reducing clutter, rotating toys often, and categorizing toys according to their purpose can help children in so many ways.  I have witnessed first-hand the type of magic a well-maintined play area can create!

  • Increased attention
  • Reduced hyperactivity
  • Improved interaction and social skills
  • Expanded language comprehension
  • More speech output
  • Improvements in pretend play

The list goes on!

Check out some details on the how's and why's of establishing a toy routine for your child with special needs at Little Stories.

How do you set up play time magic for your child with special needs?


Switch Adapted Wii Controller

Gimp Gear is bringing video games to kids (and adults) with special needs through their switch adapted, NintendoWii controller.  Check out more here, including demonstration videos!  This controller is mounted to a hat and controls the Wii through head movements.  For users who have some use of their arms, you can also holster this controller to the arm to activate games through large arms movements.  The Gimp Gear Switch adapted Wii controller is available for purchase through EnableMart.


Must Have Books for Parenting Special Needs

Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet. But sometimes, you just need a little more depth when you're trying to find important answers.  Even with this vast web of knowledge, I still look to books to help me in my practice and to give me resources for the families I serve.  I LOVE that many of the resource books that tackle common difficulties in parenting children with special needs come in electronic book format too!  Check out these great books and eBooks on a variety of topics, from dealing with the stress of parenting a special needs child to feeding a picky eater.  

Find Great Books for Special Needs Here

What books are you reading?

Check out SNEAK's Pinboards on Pinterest!

Want to find crafty ideas to make your own assistive technology solutions?  How about ways to adapt play for your child with special needs?  You can find these tips and more, shared by SNEAK, via the colorful, fun, and visually easy interface of Pinterest!  Here's how!

Check out SNEAK's Pinboards

Follow SNEAK on Pinterest
Follow Me on Pinterest

 and Repin your favorites!

Happy Pinning!


Apple iOS6 "guided access" allows parents to lock kids into apps

This was shared by Jordan Sadler slp, of iPad Apps and Info for Special Kids via The Verge

Apple just unveiled a new feature for the next iOS update (iOS6) which will let parents, teachers, and others "lock" kids into certain apps by disabling the home button.    Read more here!  Could be pretty handy for our little ones with special needs!

What do you guys think?

"Flux" & "Flick" Help Visually Impaired Kids Access Their Favorite Tunes

Clipart images by Mealonheadz Illustrating
Read Terms of Use Here
So you all know that I am visually impaired, one fact that makes me LOVE these two apps!  I am also a recreational runner (which you may not have known :), a second reason why I LOVE these two apps!  But the most important reason why I LOVE these apps is that they provide alternative access to music for children with visual impairment and blindness by turning the touchscreen of mobile devices (e.g., iPhone, iPod, iPad) into an "eyes free" control panel.   Originally designed for those who need to control their iTunes playlist while at the gym or pounding the pavement, these two apps are a handy tool for kids who love to enjoy their favorite songs on their iDevices but struggle to access (visually and/or motorically) the touch screen to change tracks and manage other controls.     

FluxTunes - Quokka Studios Pty Ltd
Flux Tunes controls music  playback on all iDevices with customizable gestures executed anywhere on the touchscreen.  For example, a user could set the following functions in Flux Tunes to change how music on the device is accessed:
- Tap to pause/restart
- Slide left and right to change tracks
- Slide up and down to adjust volume
- Slide two fingers left or right to change playlists
- Slide two fingers up to play music from your whole library

Check out FluxTunes in action in this video demo.
Clipart images by Mealonheadz Illustrating
Read Terms of Use Her

FlickTunes Music Player
FlickTunes Music Player — Gesture Controls for Car & Gym - SoGeeky Software
Flick Tunes offers the same, customizable gesture options seen in Flux Tunes, with additional focus on the clarity and contrast of the visual display for those users who have residual sight, but need less clutter and a larger, bolder display. With Flick Tunes, you can choose your own font, orientation, gestures, default playlist and more! Flick Tunes offers 15 gestures, 40+ actions, and more than 25 settings.

Check out FlickTunes in action in this video demo.

Have you tried these apps?  Tell us what you think!


App List for Kids With Hearing Loss

App Advice recently shared a concise app list focused on helping children and adults with hearing loss.  Definitely not a comprehensive list but a good start!  Here are a few that I like to use, specifically targeted to younger kids.  Let's grow this list with your input!  Be sure you suggest your favorite apps in the comments below :)

Old MacDonald  by The Royal Institute for  Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC)

Old MacDonald for iPad - Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind ChildrenThis app is the first in a planned series of apps (Songs for Listening and language) from the RIDBC developed to encourage listening and language skills in children with hearing impairment.  The RIDBC also has a signing app (RIDBC Auslan Tutor-Key Signs for iPad).

Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy (iStorytime)  by zuuka incorporated
Danny The Dragon Meets Jimmy - HD Kids Book - zuuka incorporated
Is the first (and only, to my knowledge) children's eBook app that includes a "sign to me" function that will display the language of the book in ASL next to the pictures.  It is pretty cool and I hope they come up with more just like it soon!

Interactive Touch Books
Interactive Touch Books - for Kids - Interactive Touch, Inc.
A great web resource with a free companion app that allows ANYONE to create and publish interactive children's books that can be read on the iPad.  Included in the Interactive Touch Books Bookstore are stories from Rosemary Sanford with embedded ASL videos that sign along with each story.  Check out her titles on Technology in (Spl) Education (a great blog post outlining her path to developing signing stories and details on her stories)  Note:  The Interactive Touch Books app is free from the App Store,  Once you have the App, you can purchase books form the Interactive Touch Books Bookstore

What apps are you using with your hearing impaired child?


8 ("ate", haha :) Ways to Support Your "Picky Eater" with Technology

I love technology (and I love to eat!) and I am always looking to integrate it into my practice.  I truly believe that much of what we do today, as professionals, parents, and people, is enhanced through technology.  So why should feeding therapy be any different? :)  Here are a few ways to use some awesome websites, blogs, and apps to support children who have difficulty eating in therapy sessions and at home.

#1 Teaching Kids and Families About Food (and Nutrition)

For some kids and parents, part of achieving oral feeding progress is to learn about portion size, balanced diets, and the vital nutrients the body needs to learn and grow.  This is especially true for children who eat a limited range of foods and limited volume of the foods they accept.  I have also found that some families just aren't really sure what and how much when it comes to feeding their kids.  The websites and mobile apps below are great tools to support learning about new foods and nutrition ( not to mention, educational and fun for parents and kids!)

Nourish Interactive
"Nourish Interactive is your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family."  This AMAZING, interactive site is colorful and kid friendly, and even provides printouts on topics related to food groups, portion size, meal planning, and more!   The site has some culturally diverse information as well and can be viewed in English or Spanish.  Think this site is a great way to help families plan out meals for their picky eaters and to help kids learn about new foods.  There are even some blog posts in their blog section that specifically address picky eating.

My Plate is an effort by the USDA to promote healthy and safe eating habits for all American families.  This site is less kid-directed and more for caregivers but it is loaded with helpful information on nutrition guidelines, meal schedules for various ages, and even picky eating tips.    I especially love the online tools this site offers to help parents keep daily food logs and calorie counts.

Kids Food Adventure (App for mobile devices)
"Explore new foods with your family that are delicious, healthy and sometimes exotic! Kids Food Adventure puts the power of discovery in your child’s hands."  This fun and interactive app includes:
  • Colorful photos of each food to help kids identify and recognize new foods
  • Seasonal monthly food suggestions to pinpoint the ideal time to try new foods.
  • Parent/kid-friendly fun facts, health benefits, and other information on cooking, buying and preparing each food 
  • Color-coded stars help kids track their progress and rate the foods they’ve tried.
  • Reward stickers encourage kids to give new foods a try!
The developers of this app are also working on another app that targets picky-eating more directly (Choose my Food).

#2 Having Fun (and games!) With Food

For some kids, simply taking the pressure off can get them more comfortable with new foods and the eating experience.  Many times, we will create cooking and sensory exploration activities around food without any focus on actually eating.  Food theme activities can also be fun, especially for kids who need a less direct exposure to a food before they will interact with it.  Here are some great apps and online games that are simply fun and food themed :)  I like to use these kinds of activities to prep my kids before a cooking or snack activity, and as a learning tool to set the context for trying new foods.

This site is simply fun and games. :)  It has free online games that target a variety of topics, including cooking and food.  Parents, just a bit of a caution here:  Some of the games (not the cooking or food related, but some of the others) are a bit mature, so screen them before you sit down to play.

ZisBoomBam: Where It's Ok to Play With your Food
"ZisBoomBah is an innovative website that challenges conventional wisdom and develops tools to empower children and inspire parents to live a fun, active and healthy life. ZisBoomBah’s free online tool “Pick Chow!” allows children to create meals by dragging and dropping foods onto their virtual plate. The “Add it Up!” meters show the nutritional values in a fun and easy way and rates each meal with one to five stars – a feature that helps children learn quickly how their choices make a difference in creating a well-balanced meal. Children can send their “chow” to their parents, who then receive an email with what their child has chosen to be a healthy choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with the menu, recipe, shopping list and coupons."  Event though the focus is on calorie control (rather than gaining weight, which is what many of our picky eaters need to do:), I still think this site is a really fun way for kids to get involved in planning and cooking meals with their parents. :)

Here are some fun, food themed apps available for advices and Android:

Cookie Doodle
Cookie Doodle - Shoe the Goose
Cake Doodle
Cake Doodle - Shoe the Goose
More Toast
More Toast! - Maverick Software LLC
Faces iMake-Premium
Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity - iMagine machine LLC
More Sundaes
More Sundaes! - Maverick Software LLC
Fruit Ninja
Fruit Ninja HD - Halfbrick Studios
Food Processing
Food Processing HD - Chillingo Ltd
Cupcakes!!! - Halcyon Creations LC
More Pizza
More Pizza! - Maverick Software LLC
Charlie Wonders Milk
Charlie Wonders Milk - LBS Wireless
ABC Food
ABC Food - food words with pictures, sounds and videos for kids. - Peapod Labs LLC
Ice Cream Parlor
Ice Cream Parlor HD - David Tillotson

*There are COUNTLESS food-themed apps in the app store so you should definitely search on your own to find many more not listed above. :)

#3 Teaching Kids and Families About The Eating Process

In feeding therapy, we often use techniques to help children understand the mechanics of chewing and swallowing.  Technology can be a great supplement to teaching the science of eating!

Kids Health: The Digestive System
The Kids Health web series (including Kids health Classroom, a great source for theme materials and printouts on nutrition across childhood) is a great tool for parents and kids to explore a variety of healthy topics, including good eating and nutrition.  The Digestive System section also helps kids understand what happens in their bodies when they chew and swallow foods, and what happens when their tunnies hurt.

The Digestive System (Interactive eBook)

Other Great Web Resources for Learning about the Human Body

#4 Tracking Calories and Food Range

Keeping a food diary of mealtime scheduling, foods eaten, and amounts/calorie  and nutrition counts of foods eaten is a large part of a comprehensive feeding therapy plan.  These tech tools can help therapists and parents with this part of the process.

Calorie Count website and Calorie Counter App Calorie Counter' - About, Inc

My Fitness Pal  website and App Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal HD - MyFitnessPal.com

Mint Nutrition App Mint Nutrition - Mint Apps

SuperTracker  (a free  online tool on MyPlate.gov)

#5 Navigating Special Diets and Food Allergies
Many of our kids with feeding aversions, especially those on the Autism Spectrum, may suffer from extreme food allergies, intolerance, or sensitivities.  This can compound feeding therapy even further.  Here are some tech tools to help support your picky eater on a special diet.

App Advice App List: Cooking for Special Dietary Needs
This is a fantastic app list from App Advice that focuses on Apps related to special diets.  It includes databases of foods containing certain, common allergens, and even offers some apps with recipe builders based on allergy-free food choices.

FAAN App list for Food Allergy Apps
Another great app list, this one is allergy focused from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

Kids with Food Allergies Foundation (App and site)
This site focuses on food allergies related to kids and also has a companion, mobile device app, bringing this info to families who may not have Internet access outside of that on their smart phones.

#6 Mealtime Schedule and Planning

Food On the Table
A website and companion app that helps families plan meals and save money on groceries.

Food Planner App FoodPlanner - Prolog Inc.

Parents Connect App List for Meal and Menu Planning
A great app list that is full of meal planning apps to organize busy parents.

*In addition, many of the websites mentioned above in this post have meal planning and recommended feeding/eating schedules for kids of various ages.

#7 Rewarding and Reinforcing 
Keeping mealtimes positive is an important part of learning to eat new foods.  Verbal praise and rewards are some of the many tools we can use to support kids with feeding difficulties,  These tech tools can help us reward kids for trying their best at mealtime and can also keep mealtime tasks more visual for those who need a little more support to get through the hard stuff.

Working4 App Working4 - Pyramid Educational Consultants, Inc

iReward App iReward - Grembe Inc.

Choose my Food (an App in progress)

First Then Visual Schedule App First Then Visual Schedule - Good Karma Applications, Inc

#8 Getting Specific Questions Answered: Blogs About Feeding Therapy and Related Topics

Food for Tubies
An insightful and informative blog targeted to parents of children who are fed through a G-tube (or another variation thereof), specifically those following a slenderized G-tube program.

Food Chaining
A really great blog on food chaining for children with sensory feeding aversions.

Feeding Therapy Help
A Q & A blog with specific tips and strategies and a forum to ask questions.

Feeding Therapy/Oral Motor on Pinterest 
Using Pinterest to obtain information can be great for visual learners, especially those who aren't sure what they're looking for.  Here is a great pin board related to feeding and oral motor therapy, including tools and ideas for DIY's.

The Tender Foodie
Lots of information here on feeding and allergy related issues for children on the Autism spectrum.

One last note:   One of my favorite, simple tech tools to use for feeding therapy:  a web cam!  Video modeling and feedback is a wonderful tool to help kids conquer their fears and put themselves out their at mealtimes!  Videos are also a great way to track progress!

What technology do you use to support your picky eater?