Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Feeding Animal Fun!

Easily, my new favorite app is FeedingAnimalFun! by concappt media. This simple app allows for a multitude of language expansion opportunities.  Besides that, 11 out of 10 kids LOVE using this app.

This app allows kids to pick a food (from 3 choices) and drag it up to feed the animal. The animal either acts happy and eats the food he likes or he refuses to eat the food and makes a fun and silly rejection. 

On the most basic level it is easily used to work on sentence building: "The cow eats the grass."  (In most cases, it is best to have the student say the sentence before feeding the animal). 

In addition, it is a rewarding way to work on commenting "He likes it," or "He doesn't like it, gross." I'm always trying to empower my students to use language based rejections such as: "I don't like it," over negative or physical behaviors.  But, it is hard to find motivating ways to work on learning the phrase in a setting that is contextually appropriate AND that allows for the student to be in a calm, ready-to-learn state. This app allows for that opportunity!

I also like to use FeedingAnimalFun! to work on past tense verbs (e.g. "The bunny ate the bug") or even asking questions (e.g. "Can I feed the rock to the horse?" "What does the squirrel eat?")

Although the app is clearly aimed at younger children, I have used the app with moderately/severely impacted adults with autism and it has been a great way to work on creating new subject + verb+ object sentence combinations rather than the usual "carrier phrases."

Since many of my students have difficulty accessing vocabulary and using it in novel ways, I made visual supports (this one can be found on  to help my students so that they might be more independent with communication. Even for my most verbal of students, the visual support allows for more complex sentences without verbal or gestural prompting. 

Oh... did I mention it's free!?! (in app purchases available).

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

iPad cases

The only thing almost as exciting as getting an new iPad is selecting its case. Personally, I always like something minimal. But when working with kids with autism, the case needs to be functional first AND durable. 

When I first started looking for a case, I went straight to Speck.  I've long loved Speck's sleek design but I was worried their cases wouldn't hold up against my toughest kids.  I've seen iPads shattered even with the strongest of cases. In my opinion,  the best bet is to make sure the adult has control of the iPad. Anyway, let's be honest: the iPad needs to always be in the adult's control in order to facilitate learning.   So here is the bottom line: the case that easily allows adults to retain control will always come out on top. 

I work with the Speck* HandyShell case and here is why I love it:
  1. It is sleek. It doesn't add much space. I like that. 
  2. The handle. It frees up my other hand to help teach or prompt the student while allowing me to retain control of the iPad.
  3. It can be hung from a hook.  That's perfect for giving lessons to groups!
  4. I can slide the handle in my pocket so the student and I can use dedicated AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) devices to help us interact with the iPad. 
  5. It stands itself in portrait or landscape. The hinge it tough too, so it stays in place.
  6. The handle: you just can't beat it! It's got a cozy thumb hole that makes it natural to hold. 
When working with a student, I always establish the rule before I even bring out the iPad: "Only Beth hold's Beth's iPad."  The HandyShell case allows me to continuously have a hand naturally on the iPad while allowing my other hand to help the student learn.  I love it!

Please note: I haven't tested the durability of this product if I leave a student alone with an iPad in this case.  This reccomendation is based on the assumption that the adult will be holding the iPad. So, it's for teaching purposes only, really.

It's a little pricey for a case (around $50), but well worth it. If you get one, let me know what you think! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

syncing technology with autism

Hi! My name is Beth! I am a Speech-Language Pathologist working in the bay area. Currently, I work mostly with kids with autism.  Most of my students are non-verbal or partially verbal, so I use a lot of AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication). For my other students, I know they have used the words before, but they can't seem to access them at the times that they really need them the most.   Across all my students, connecting with others is a consistent struggle.

For many of my kids, technology is a physical voice. For others it is a powerful motivator to use speech in new ways.   But it is not as simple as sitting an iPad (or other technology) in front of a student with autism.  

This blog is about creative and fun ways to use technology and iPad apps when working with kids with autism. I hope it serves as a tool to sync technology and kids with autism in order to help them connect with language and with the community. 

A legal minute: The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission. Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

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