Jun 222012
 

I’m reading a new book by Milton J. Dehn, called Helping Students Remember.  He has other books that address short-term memory, long-term memory, and working memory in more detail.  This book is a workbook for individual use, with a lower level for grades 3-6, and an upper level for older students. It consists of detailed strategies and practice exercises to improve memory.  I’m planning to implement this with tutoring students who would benefit. It looks like something I’m going to be able to highly recommend.

Aug 122011
 

Dyslexia Quest is a collection of games that can help you discern your strengths and weaknesses, in areas that frequently cause difficulty for people with dyslexia.  The games focus on working memory, auditory memory, phonological awareness, processing speed, visual memory, and sequencing skills.

There are short videos of several of the games on the Dyslexia Quest website.

Once you’ve completed the quest, you can see an analysis of your results, and whether they show any of the typical signs of dyslexia. The results are categorized as very low, low, average,  high, or very high.  You also receive a score ranging from 0% to 100%. After you’ve played all the games and received your results, you can return to the quest to work on improving weak areas. Your original scores and your improvement will be on the results page.  A useful feature is the ability to email results to yourself or to other interested parties.

In addition to seeing your scores, you can read a brief description of the skill.  For example, the app explains that a weakness in Working Memory can affect reading and spelling, as well as cause difficulties with attention to verbally presented material.   There are also tips to make use of any learning strengths that are detected. As the developer of the app says, however, you would need to be professionally tested to confirm a diagnosis of dyslexia.

There is also a short quiz about skills such as remembering the sequence of phone numbers, losing your place when you read, spelling, and forgetting what you’ve just read. The quiz is also a feature of a free app called What Is Dyslexia? In addition to the quiz, What is Dyslexia features tips for parents and schools, as well as a narrated comic strip about what it’s like to have dyslexia.  This ends on a positive note, with brief mentions of successful people with dyslexia.

Currently, Dyslexia Quest can be used by only one person at a time.  Once that person has completed the quest and/or continued practicing the games, a new user can be created.  The developers hope to address this in a future version.

Dyslexia Quest and What is Dyslexia are from the company Nessy, which is based in the UK. They have developed many educational software titles.  They collaborate with the Bristol Learning Centre to ensure that their products are helpful for dyslexics.  Dyslexia Quest, as well as other Nessy apps, are available  in the iTunes store 

Aug 102011
 

Grasshopper Apps

Let me count the ways!

1. Simplicity

2. Consistency

3. Variety

4. Value

5. Quality

6. Creativity

7. Quantity

Grasshopper Apps are deceptively simple.  Why do I say that? They appear very basic, but they weave learning so deftly into the game play that it’s very natural.

Little Matchups ~ ABC

The consistency of playing style from app to app keeps that learning curve low.

Little Matchups ~ Tell Time

Grasshopper’s wide variety of apps address reading, speaking, writing, math, coordination, problem solving, confidence, creativity, imagination, brain stimulation, and motor skills.

Little Matchups ~ Fruits

What better value is there than FREE? Join their ‘Free the Apps’ email list and you can try the apps for free.  The catch? Grasshopper just asks for feedback so they can continue to improve their already outstanding field of apps.  If you don’t choose to do that, most of their apps retail for just $0.99!

Little Puzzles ~ African Plain

Grasshopper apps are high quality. Just because the price is low, it doesn’t mean they are putting out schlock! The images they use are colorful, striking, and fun.

Little Puzzles ~ Under the Sea

There is creativity galore in their apps–for you!  You can customize nearly everything in the apps to the needs of your child.  This includes using your own pictures, making up a story line using your voice and ideas, using highlights for words and pictures, and more.

I Like Reading

The sheer quantity of apps offered by Grasshopper is astounding.  They have dozens of apps that your child can use to “open up a world of possibilities.”

Felix & Lucy - Go To Bed

Check out the website for Grasshopper Apps, and then get on over to the iTunes app store and find out how many ways YOU love them!

Aug 082011
 

iPhone Screenshot 1

Sosh was developed by two practicing psychologists, Dr. Mark Bowers and Dr. Kelly Bowers, to assist children and adults with social skills strategies they can have access to “in the moment.”

Sosh addresses these key areas: Relate, Relax, Recognize, Reason, and Regulate.

Now for the nitty-gritty:

Click on one of the five areas on the home screen.  This will take you to a screen for that skill, with four or five more options on each screen.

Relate:

What Did That Mean?–Idioms can be particularly confusing for people with Autism or Asperger’s.  This option allows you to search for an expression you have heard or read, to get a definition of it.

First Impressions–This section allows you to add people to your contacts, indicating how you know the person, what their interests are, things you’ve talked about, and even add their pictures.

Common Ground–With this option, you can enter your interests, topics you hear others discussing, and even tap on the entries to access the web for more information.

Out and About–It can be hard to get out and socialize. Get Out provides a template for working out your feelings about going out. With the Explore feature, you can find nearby locations, a map of the area, and categorize the places.

Talking Strategies–Here you can find a list of strategies to use in conversations, with explanations for what they are.  They include eye contact, body language, vocal tone, speech rate, speech volume, physical space, turn taking, questions vs. comments, open questions, closed questions, paraphrasing, conversation starters, and places to add specific strategies for the user.  Options within this feature include audio and video recording, importing photos, videos, and audio clips.

Relax:

What helps?–There are suggestions such as going for a walk, reading a book, drawing, going swimming, talking to someone, and options to add your own relaxation strategies and to add photos.

The Shredder–Along with the Stress Balloon, this is one of my favorite features.  All you have to do is type in negative thoughts, feelings, or situations.  Then drag the words to the shredder on the screen.  The shredding sound is very satisfying as your words are gobbled up!

Block Out–If you want to block out sounds that are bothering you, you can choose from ocean waves, instrumental guitar or piano music, rain sounds, or even music from your iPod.

Imagine–With this feature, you can take a photo of a favorite scene or image, or import one from the camera, and listen to a guided relaxation recording.

Deep Breathing–You can listen to a guided breathing recording, or simply watch the words, “breathe in, breathe out” on the screen and follow along.

Reason

Transition Timer–Transitions can be difficult for anyone!  This timer can be set to give a 5 minute/1 minute warning, or no warning.  The warning can be a beep or a voice.  Once the timer is set, the screen shows a countdown.

Perspective–It can be extremely difficult to keep stressful situations in perspective.  With sample ratings on a scale from 0-100, you can define what “stress” means in situations ranging from breaking a fingernail to running out of power on your iPad, to having your house burn down. After setting your perspective scale, you can enter a situation such as losing your library book, and rate its significance on the perspective scale using the examples as a guide.

Problem Solver–I like this feature because it allows you to enter a problem and 3 possible solutions.  After trying a solution, you can rate its usefulness with 1 to 5 stars.  You can also archive the results for future reference (a feature available throughout the app).

Mental Strategies–Various concepts are defined and strategies are recommended. i.e. Working Memory is defined, and suggestions for improving it are listed and described (self-talk, written checklist, mnemonics, rehearsal, etc). These can also be emailed to yourself, your parents, or your teachers.  The strategies addressed also include mental flexibility, getting started, controlling your behavior, managing your feelings, and improving your processing speed.  Suggestions for how to accomplish this using other features of Sosh are included.

Regulate

Voice Meter–This allows you to practice volume control.

Monitor–This is similar to the timer, and can help you make sure if you are doing what you should be doing when the timer goes off. (i.e. not tapping your pencil on your desk during class).

Tracking–This allows you to  track one or two behaviors, to help you increase or decrease their use. Results can be archived.

Interest Log–Here you can enter your interests and monitor how much time you spend on them.

Recognize

Triggers–With this you can create a chart of what upsets you, what response is not helpful, and what response helps. i.e. an unexpected schedule change is upsetting. Yelling about it doesn’t help. Taking ten deep breaths does. You can add this to the archive for future reference.

Facial Expressions–Reading facial expressions can be tricky.  This feature allows you to look at faces and identify feelings such as happy, angry, frustrated, sad. It’s possible to add your own images.

Shades of Gray–Several moods are listed, and as you slide an arrow across the scale, gradations of mood are indicated.  i.e. delight-happy-overjoyed-elated; apprehension-fear-panic-terror.  It is also possible to add emotions.

Feelings–With this option, you can examine a situation.  A template is provided to help with this. (Person)  is feeling (Emotion) because (Situation).  I knew(Person) was (Emotion) because (Behavior and/or  Expression).

There is also the Sosh screen which contains many useful features.

Journal–This is for recording what happened today, how you felt about it, and what you did/how your responded.  You can rate your feelings on a 1-5 star scale.

Goals–You can record up to 3 goals.  These can be your own ideas, or you can choose from a list such as giving someone a compliment, joining in a conversation, spending 10 minutes relaxing, etc. The prompts are stated in a positive way.  This could be used  for tracking IEP goals, too.  Results can be archived.

To Do–This is the typical ‘to-do’ list, with a place to add a picture/icon, and a place to check off completed tasks.  You can remove items from the list and also save it in the archive.

Rate–You can relate anything you want to.  Just type it in and give it from 1 to 5 stars.  You can use it to rate your performance, a movie, a situation, even your emotional level.

Feedback–Others can record feedback.  You can identify the person doing the rating (friend, family, teacher, boss). The rater can identify the setting, describe what went well, what needs improvement, and make general comments.  This can be recorded via the in-app microphone, or by typing in the information. The results can also be emailed and archived. I think this could also be adapted to record progress on IEP goals.

Questionnaire–This is an important section to check out early.  By answering the questions, you can identify which features of the app will be most helpful to you.

Favorites–You can use this option to get to the pages you use the most within the app.

Media Library–You can search for your photos, audio files, and videos.  It is a backup for your media files, and you can also email items in your library.

In addition to all of these features, the user can access forums, use email, create a personal blog, and watch youtube videos through the MySosh Screen.

Last, but certainly not least, is my personal favorite from the main menu– the Stress balloon.  Pump it up to indicate your level of stress. Beware if you pump too much, the balloon will explode!  Sometimes, though, that is JUST what you need to relieve yourself from stress!!

If you go to Technology in Education’s Facebook page, you can enter to receive a promo code for Sosh, which retails for $39.99 on iTunes. Compared with many apps, $39.99 is high; however, I think the value per penny is outstanding and well worth it!! The developer occasionally offers Sosh at special prices, so check the app store often.

Sosh is an outstanding, well-thought-out app with oodles of potential.

disclaimer–I received a promo code for this app in order to write my review.

Jul 152011
 

I just downloaded a review copy of this great-looking app for improving social skills.  I’ll be posting an in-depth review after I’ve had the opportunity to explore all its facets.  In the meantime, here’s a press release from the company to whet your appetite!

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release Media Contact: Kelly Bowers, Ph.D.
June, 2011 
Email: drkelly@mysosh.com
NEW MOBILE APP TO HELP CHILDREN AND TEENS WITH SOCIAL SKILLS
Sosh™ is the new word in social skills development. It is also a new mobile app that helps
children, teens, and young adults improve their social skills “in the moment.” Dr. Mark
Bowers, a pediatric psychologist and app co-creator released the Sosh app this month –
moving social skills training into the high tech, mobile app world. In addition to real-time,
portable tips and tools for individuals looking to improve their social skills, the mobile app
also provides activities and feedback to parents, teachers, and therapists for guidance and
review. For individuals ages 9 to 22 years old, difficulty with social interactions is a
leading cause of stress and one of the most common calls for help. With over 60 screens of
exercises, strategies, and practical information regarding social skills, the Sosh app will
assist the user every step of the way. Examples include tools to relieve stress, guidance for
appropriate social behaviors, and self-monitoring capabilities. The app is available in the
iTunes app store. This app is especially suited for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome,
PDD-NOS, and ADHD diagnoses. 
Visit http://www.mysosh.com for a full review of the app’s potential to improve social skills.
About Mark Bowers, Ph.D., PLLC
Dr. Mark Bowers is a Pediatric Psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has provided psychological
services to children, adolescents, and families for over a decade. He specializes in
neurodevelopmental diagnoses (i.e., Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, and Learning Difficulties) and he is
an expert in social skills. Dr. Bowers has contributed to articles in WebMD magazine, Scholastic, and
Parenting: The Early Years. In addition to developing the Sosh mobile app, he is the author of the
book Sosh: Improving Social Skills with Children and Adolescents.
Jul 012011
 

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Third Edition

Thank you to Kathy Penn of 3DLiteracy for the heads-up on this weighty book. I just received my copy of the brand new, 786 page, 3rd edition of Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills by Judith R. Birsh.  Chapter 18 on “Learning Strategies and Study Skills” by Claire Nissenbaum and Anthony Henley is worth the price of the book all by itself!!

The book is jam-packed with references, including links to many websites.  This is just one that looks like it holds oodles of useful information for parents, teachers, and students: The Learning Strategies Database from Muskigum University.

If you work with students who have learning disabilities, in particular ones that are language-based, you gotta have this book!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 022011
 

Cover Art

This terrific app is great for any student, but could be particularly helpful for students who have ADHD, dyslexia, or other issues that complicate organizing classes.

  • Take lecture notes.
  • Record lectures at the same time.  Double tap on a word in your notes to hear what was being said at that time.
  • Record notes to yourself.
  • Add drawings.
  • Import photos.
  • Track homework assignments and due dates, including adding them to the iPad calendar.
  • View your weekly schedule.
  • Check Google, Wikipedia, and the Dictionary.
  • Import PDF, PPT, and text documents from Dropbox, Google Docs, or the Web.
  • Print your drawings and notes.
  • Export drawings and notes  to Dropbox.
  • Email them to yourself or someone else.
  • Export your recordings.
  • Store your grades and automatically calculate your class grade.
  • And do it all for every class you are taking!!
  • Just be sure to hold onto that iPad!!
Version 2.0 will include fonts, colors, and underlining, a document manager, full calendar view, and more.
The developer is very responsive to feedback.
It’s enough to make me want to go back to school!
All this for only $4.99, available on iTunes.
Apr 272011
 

Here’s a new blog I just heard about, Apps for Children with Special Needs.   They do video reviews of apps, which allows you to see them in action before you buy.

Apps for Children with Special Needs (a4cwsn) is committed to helping the families and carers of children with special needs and the wider community of educators and therapists who support them, by producing videos that demonstrate how products designed to educate children and build their life skills really work from a user perspective.

I’m going to get busy exploring their site!

Apr 182011
 

Communication module

QuickCues, from Fraser, provides social scripts for teens and adults on the autism spectrum on a variety of topics, including life skills, socialization, communication, and coping skills (This one looks particularly interesting).   The user needs to be able to read, or to have a coach who can read the apps to them.

Communication is the first app. It is available on iTunes for $4.99.  The other modules can be purchased from within the Communication app for $4.99 each. This is very easy to do.

At first glance, the app is fairly simple and plain.  Each topic has several slides with a written script to help the reader know what to do in specific situations.  Some of the topics included are answering the phone, conversation tips,  voice control, and talking with co-workers.

Each script has 2-5 bullet points per slide.

From Talking With Co-Workers:

  • I should remember my conversational boundaries when I am on the job.
  • I should not talk about things that are private or topics that people might not agree with me about like religion or politics.
The slides can be advanced with a swipe on the iPad, or they can be set to advance automatically.  There is a pause button if the reader needs to take more time reading the slide.
When the user is finished reading the script, there are options to repeat the QuickCue, return to Home, or add the script to a Favorites file.
I’m so used to apps that have images or video, I emailed the developer to ask why their app was created without them.  I got a quick response that makes a lot of sense, and that shows the sensitivity of the developer to the population they are targeting.
The target group in the initial creation of the app wanted and were able to read the scripts – they did not want the audio because they would need to wear the ear buds.  We did discuss the lack of audio, knowing it would be a needed future feature for others, but initiated with lowest cost possible to start  [with and to make it available quickly].
As for pictures – again the initial group wanted and needed the look to be simple and the addition of pictures felt too juvenile to them – but we are hearing a need for the picture option so are looking into that option as well.  Videos have also been discussed.   
I am excited to hear about these potential variations. Another welcome feature would be the ability to make scripts particular to the individual. I’m looking forward to seeing updates that will make this simple but powerful app available to adults with reading challenges.
Apr 052011
 

Liz Nutt, of MatchACollege.com, sent me a link to their site’s listing of 40 Amazing Apps for the Learning Disabled.  Apps for speech improvement, visual schedules, social stories, communication, mind-mapping, behavior (including one for professionals doing behavior assessments), and visual timers, as well as apps that improve the iPad experience for those with vision impairments.

As time permits, I plan to review some of these apps in more detail.  In the meantime, see what you can find that will work for you, your child, or your students!

Feb 162011
 

Social, Organization, Attention, and Processing Stuff

A recent article in Business Week cited research that showed the act of writing by hand has advantages for learning over using a keyboard.  Writing by hand appears to cause a “motor imprint” in the sensory-motor area of the brain. This is linked to the visual recognition of letters and words. Brain scans showed that learning through handwriting activated a region of the brain called Broca’s area, but this was not the case for learning through keyboarding.

Feb 112011
 

I love to read! I’ll share my thoughts (book bytes instead of sound bites) on old favorites and new books for children and adults here.

Everybody fidgets, right?  I doodle when I’m listening to lectures. I like background noise (music, tv) when I’m on the computer or reading a book.

The subtitle of Fidget to Focus is “Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD.”   Really, though, we can all benefit from the useful information in this book.

I especially like Appendix 3, the Fidget Strategies Workbook.  Here, you can figure out fidget strategies by modality (sight, sound, movement, touch, mouth, taste, smell, time) or activity (reading, writing, doing chores, even falling asleep!).

Check out the blog and this PowerPoint presentation to get a taste of this gem.

Feb 062011
 

I’ve written about Ann Dolin’s book, Homework Made Simple, here and here.

She discusses how to help the disorganized child in this article, found on her website.

Key Points:

  • Establish a homework area
  • Create a dedicated homework folder
  • Post a checklist
  • Give a bonus for staying organized
  • Have a weekly ‘clean sweep’ session.