Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Seuss Prescription

iTune Books
Hey Tek-Ninjas, as a child I was a fan of Dr. Seuss. Today,  I still am a fan.  There have for some time been a number of his books available for iDevices and other platforms. The books are chock full of interactive features that are sure to interest young learners. The books come at many different price points, some with "in-app purchases", and occasionally a few free. 

These books allow for reading along with highlighted narration, read it yourself, or to utilize auto play. You may want to equip your students with headphones if they are using the app during reading time. You may also wish to use Guided Access, to make sure inquisitive explorers from leaving the app for other activities.

Touch a picture, gets names
The "books" encourage users to tap on the various aspects of the pictures, exposing the reader to concepts of rhyming, phonics, and reading comprehension. Eventually, on each page you can find a star which opens a learning component. 

Most recently I revisited the iPad version of Green Eggs. It is an engaging take on the classic. Your students will want to come back to it more than once. 

Take a look at the many offerings and see if Dr. Seuss might help some of your readers in class!

Happy therapy!

Monday, December 7, 2015


Hey Tek-Ninjas! I am shamelessly hocking my artwork for the holidays.

Midnight today ends "shameless pimping my work" day. Y'all go buy a print or two! 

Save 50% off any image. Offer ends December 8th at midnight. Use the code: JINGLE50.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Hero

Tek-Ninjas, take 11 minutes and watch this moving video with my hero Fred Rogers and his one time guest, Jeff Erlanger. Mr. Roger's message at the latter portion of the video is profound, and illustrates why this man was so significant.

"When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."
~Mister Fred Rogers

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Written Output and the Least Restrictive Intervention

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Lately I've been fielding a lot of questions about voice dictation for young children (first through third grade).

Here are my thoughts on the subject...

  • In Occupational Therapy grad school, professors told us that the best opportunity to impact handwriting is up until the end of third grade. With this in mind, I never want to jettison handwriting instruction/therapy too soon. 
  • In special education we discuss the importance of placing children in the "least restrictive environment" to help them be successful. Meaning: too much support is just as bad as not enough support. I feel the same way about technology...if a student can learn to use standard available word processors, that is ideal.  Our hope is that a student could enter any library and access any computer for word processing. If they need special software or hardware, that becomes less likely. 
  • Voice dictation requires a relatively clear voice (though this is getting better all the time) It also requires fairly succinct sentences, or you get a lot of "uhms", "errs", and other filler phrases. Along with these necessities, one needs a fairly thick skin, aka a strong frustration tolerance. Apple's Siri is remarkable, and I've spent no time with the Android version, but hear it too is good. 
All that considered, sometimes a student's handwriting is just simply not functional. So, while their peers have already learned the task of writing, and are now learning with their writing, some students are still learning to write, and missing the next level content. 

In such a situation, if feasible, I like to introduce word prediction, and have the student engage in keyboarding instruction daily (10-15 minutes tops). The only way to become proficient keyboarding is to practice, and use it regularly.  For longer assignments we might ask the educational team to provide a scribe, thus allowing the student to focus on his/her content and not the arduous task of writing.

If the team envisions the child being able to learn and utilize keyboarding, that is my first choice. If not, then we consider voice dictation, knowing that we will ultimately be binding that child's productivity to a specific piece of equipment and software. 

I'd be curious to hear how other's navigate such questions. Thanks, and happy therapy!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Gift of Tech-y Children

Hey Tek-Ninjas! So today, my 14 year old son posted the following message on his Facebook account:
PSA to all friends with iPhones who updated to the latest OS - go into your settings, select "Cellular", scroll to the very bottom of the menu and switch off the "Wifi Assist" feature. Apple has sneakily added this to iOS 9. It automatically uses cellular data when wifi connection is poor, even when connected to your network.
Here is a picture map of what you are looking for
I love that my Apple Fanboy continues to teach me about the products which I so enjoy using! 

Happy Therapy!

Guest Blogger! ArtSee Studio iPad App & ArtSee Studio Case

One advantage of working in a school system is there are often very talented veterans I get to rub elbows with and learn from. Donna Swahlan, is one of those veteran Occupational Therapists. She works with our pre-k students, and is an endless font of wisdom. When asked if she might like to write a post she came back with the following:

Purpose of App:
ArtSee Studio is basically an art app that allows children to draw, stamp, move objects, make
use of various “themes”, and apply sounds to artwork. It also has Activities and Games including Odd One Out (think about the question, Which one does not belong?),  Association (Which items go together?), Coloring, and Connect the Dot activities. It may be best suited for children 2.5-7 depending on what features are being used and the child’s skill level.

The app is free on the app store (with some in app purchases) and can be used independently.  However, additionally, there is a plastic “case” that can be purchased here for between $10 and $20.

Tools (Digital tools in the app and also physical tools in the case):
  • Doodlee: (Green and Black Stylus) A drawing tool that can be used like a traditional crayon, marker etc, but can also be used horizontally on its side to add textures to a picture.
  • Stampee: (Purple Star/Flower shape): Stamp down with this tool to add characters and objects to artwork.
  • Funnee: (Long Orange rectangle shape): Allows user to change the theme. Themes that come with the app include Vehicles, Safari and Underwater.
  • Pointee: (Green Arrow shaped tool): Allows the user to move (run, jump, drive etc) and create a path for the object being moved. This tool draws a dotted/dashed pathway as the tool is moved and once the tool is taken off the screen then the object (like the vehicle or animal) moves and follows the drawn path.
  • Rollee: (Blue smaller rectangle shape) allows user to add background art and patterns to the artwork.
  • Melodee: (Pink Music Notes) Allows user to add sound and animation to the various stamped objects.

Additional Features and Possibilities:
A user can import photos into the app and use these as part of their artwork. An example of using this feature is to take a full body picture of a child, import the photo and then have the child “draw” himself on top of the photo. The children I have done this with have LOVED this! Additional thoughts I have had about possibilities include taking a photo of an object such as a table and have children move objects on, under, next to the table. Take a picture of a toy garage and move the digital vehicles into the garage teaching perceptual, space and directional concepts and supporting the language goals of our speech therapy friends. You get the idea. Really the possibilities are potentially quite endless.

The app has typical features for saving to a library, sharing by email (could be used to possibly send work samples to parents or to therapists data files), printing, and submitting to a gallery.

Additional Fairy Tales Theme is currently .99 (in app purchase)

  • Honestly the reason I bought this case and then downloaded the app is because the stylus (Doodlee) is excellent for preschoolers! I love the shape, size, weight, length, and feel of it for this group and their little hands. A plus is that once you have this stylus you can use it with any other child friendly I-pad app that requires or allows use of a stylus. I think probably kindergarteners or older children with delays who are still working on grasp would benefit from making use of the stylus. I like it so much that if I can, I plan to look into purchasing an additional stylus.
  • If the case is purchased, the physical tools fit and snap into the case.   These tools are very nice for promoting the use of a pincer grasp as the user removes the tools by grasping the handle. For children with weak finger strength, they need to apply/use some finger strength but not an excessive amount. These same handles are very nice for continuing to promote a pincer grasp while the child is actually using the tools.  The tools are moderately secure when they are not in use.
  • The case comes with a stencil that can be used for teaching shapes. It is in the back of the case.
  • The app offers a really nice way to work on prewriting stroke development by drawing vertical, horizontal or circular strokes while having interesting and motivating objects, shapes or visuals on the screen.
  • The case has a fold out panel on the back so that a user can angle the case, much like an Occupational Therapist would use a slant board. This promotes wrist extension in children who are still developing it. I have not actually used this slant feature, so I am not sure how stable it is.
  • If you purchase and use the case, the case covers the home button on the I-pad so that a child does not or can’t leave the app. This can be something to consider during therapy or teaching sessions. Actually one could use the case with different apps when it is advantageous to have the home button covered.
  • I think it is a good value for use with younger children, especially in a supervised or guided session.

  • Some of the Amazon reviews say that the app is not intuitive enough. I did have to play with it a bit to get used to some of the features. It is not really that difficult though and the case does come with written directions (the papers are inside the back of the case).
  • Other Amazon reviewers claim that it is easy to lose the small tools. This is not an issue for me, as I will only be using it in supervised settings.
  • It is a bit bulky to be carrying around as a therapy tool, but I think it is still worth it. Additionally, I can just carry around the stylus, Doodlee, and use the stylus with the app without having to always bring the case for all of the kiddos therapy sessions.

Questions or Comments:
Donna Swahlan, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Writing Equations Without a Pencil!

Hey Tek-Ninjas, lately I've run into a number of older students with some variation of dysgraphia  performing a high level math.

These students have been struggling with writing out complex formulas. Not because the math itself is difficult, but rather the motor output.

One great and free solution I've found is Google Docs. Built right into the word processor is a free Formula editor.

If your student does not have a gmail account, get parent permission ( I like to get that in writing ) or ask them to set up an account for the student.

Then, in google docs follow the easy instructions in the video below.

Happy therapy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Helping your Student Get their Clang-n-Bang Needs Met!

Greetings Tek-Ninjas. It's been a long and glorious summer. Alas, backpacking, mountain biking, and fishing will slow down dramatically with the return of school.

Even so, in order for me to stay productive and focused, I must incorporate movement and a little "bang-and-clang" contact with others. Some would refer to it as my sensory diet.

Recently a friend asked me to recommend something for his rambunctious 4th grader. She also craves movement and crashing into stuff. Her teacher notes that she wiggles non-stop in class.

I am a huge fan and advocate for martial arts. But not all martial arts offer the same experience. It's good to consider what your student (or you) will most benefit from. In our area there are multiple types of martial arts; Ninjutsu, Akido, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Folk-style Wrestling (America's Martial Art!) Jujutsu, and Brazilian Ju-jiutsu just to name a few.

Primary Differences
Some martial arts are formal, and require a student to stand at attention and follow specific protocols, others are less formal and relaxed. Certain forms focus on punching and kicking, other's involve grappling on the ground to control or dominate your partner. Another distinction is whether the form incorporates learning long katas (prescribed choreographed movements) or short katas (moves). Also, does a school offer kid specific programs. A final distinction I make is whether or not the school participates in competition.

None of these distinctions make a school good or bad, but they are simple distinctions which may better suit a specific student.

Locally, my favorite school or Dojo is the Chapel Hill Quest Center (QC), which teaches Stephen K. Hayes' To-Shindo Ninjutsu. Both of my sons, and I trained for several years at QC.  QC offers a blend of formality with relaxed friendliness. They offer a robust youth program which trains near-by the adults (meaning you and your child can train simultaneously), allowing you to be a role model for your youth. To-Shindo Ninjutsu is a blend of strikes, throws, wrist locks, and grappling. This art form uses short katas (ideal for folks who struggle learning long patterns), and is non-competitive. They offer a "Mighty Dragons" program for very young children which resembles an Occupational Therapist's sensory motor playground.

I'm also a fan of Folk-style or collegiate wrestling. This involves a lot
of physical contact, short moves to learn, competition, and self discipline.

A final consideration, parents may find it useful to talk with the staff and ask specific questions: i.e.: is your school comfortable working with kids with _______ (autism, Aspergar, sensory issues, or some other consideration). Some will be uncomfortable, others will jump at the opportunity to help your child reach his or her potential. Go where the staff are excited to work with your child.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Talking BIG Math

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Recently I have been working with a unique situation.

I have a student whom I will call Mike. Mike is very bright. Exceedingly bright. Top of the curve bright. However, he has some significant motor impairments, which leave him unable to write with a pen/pencil, and unable to type functionally.

I have worked with Mike for many years. We've tried voice dictation on and off, but his voice quality was never quite good enough. I always thought, eventually his voice would mature, he might get better breath control, and the voice dictation software would continue to become better.  All of which has come true.

Mike is taking Calculus. He has been dictating formulas to a scribe/TA. It is challenging to find
people who can dictate such formulas easily that are also willing to work for a TA salary. Let me be clear, I don't mean to denigrate, the fact is, I would be hard pressed to scribe for him. Math has never been a strong point for me.

Recently Mike asked to give voice dictation a try again. We set him up with a Windows 7 computer and Dragon 12. Mike was able to successfully complete the Scott Adams training module, which is the hardest of the training modules. I choose the harder one, because in order for Mike to be able to use this tool functionally, he needs to be able to dictate with the sophisticated vocabulary he utilizes.  Anything else, would essentially be pointless. He struggled with just a few words, but overall it was a great success.

Along with Dragon Naturally Speaking, we are using Scientific Notebook and Math Talk.  Scientific Notebook is essentially a word processor designed to create documents that contain text, mathematics, and graphics. Scientific Notebook can be downloaded for a free 30 day trial to get a sense of what the software can do.  A student license is $79.

The third component, Math Talk is a unique and phenomenal piece of software that integrates with Dragon Naturally Speaking to allow the user to voice any math phrases, including pre-algebra, algebra, trig, calculus, statistics, and graphing. An individual student version retails for $275.

Now, these are all pretty robust pieces of software. Layering of technology can often lead to problems. But, when loaded correctly, following the directions from the folks at Math Talk, and the training is completed, it is very impressive what a user can accomplish.

This is not a particularly inexpensive intervention when you tally a laptop, Dragon Naturally Speaking  Scientific Notebook, and Math Talk. But, in the long haul, it is significantly less expensive than hiring a scribe.  Also, I have yet to find anything that will work in this type of situation. My expectation is that the intervention will open up a significant level of independence for Mike.

One more note to make. The dove-tailing of 3 pieces of software can at first seem daunting. It did to me, and I tend to be fluent in this sort of venture.  If you follow the written directions from the Math Talk, it will work.  Or, if you call Math Talk for help, you will get NanciLu on the phone. She is the creator and owner of the company. She will make you laugh, and help you experience success with dictating complex math to a computer.  That is a win!

For the right student, this intervention is phenomenal, and I encourage you to take a look at a video or two if you think you have that student.

Happy therapy!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Believe the hype!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! First, let me say, I love rap music. I do. Old school, and even new school.

Second, I also love when everyone gets to participate in cool stuff!

So, if you haven't seen this clip, dig it... a sign language interpreter at a Public Enemy concert. Too cool!

Happy Friday!

AVAZ returns with a bang!

A few springs ago I was introduce to Avaz, and blogged about what a great AAC app it is.

Well, the folks at Avaz have not simply rested on their laurels.  They continue to offer Avaz Pro, receiving accolades from parents, teachers, and researchers. In addition, they now offer a great companion app called Avaz Together.

Avaz Together is available for a monthly subscription rate of $9.99.  

What makes Avaz Together unique is that it is a communication app designed specifically to guide parents in teaching their child to communicate at home. 

It is filled with ideas and tips for the parent to
create communication opportunities throughout their day. The communication board is easy to navigate, and to customize. In addition, Avaz Together tracks data regarding the number of words your child uses, and sentence lengths.

For those of us wanting to be evidence based in our work, Avaz offers a page of research behind Avaz Together, and the insights that went into the app.

For folks who want to or need to take their child's communication experience past the therapist's time, Avaz Together may be just the tool needed!

Happy Therapy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Look a Little Closer at Ginger...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, recently I wrote about a grammar and spelling correction software called Ginger. I have removed the blog post, as a friend has directed me towards several online complaints about it.

Several users complain that the software works as malware. They also indicate that it is very difficult to remove. Other folks explain that Ginger coming up as malware as a secondary function of it being an online tool. I don't necessarily understand the explanation, suffice to say these users suggest it's not an issue.

Nonetheless, there are enough complaints that I am a little leery of recommending the software. I intend to write the company and see what their take is on these complaints.

I will report any response I get from the software engineers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little Help FOR Our Friends...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, don't we love it when we find a great app? How about when we like an app a lot, and make a suggestion or two, and those suggestions get incorporated in the next update? How cool is that?!?!

Well the good folks at ModMath built an amazing app. I wrote about it awhile back (read my blog here).  They built it originally with their own son in mind, but to date around 27,000 people have downloaded it, so clearly, we like it. And, folks are making a lot of great suggestions for various updates.

I really like this app. It is a stand out because it allows math students to complete their assignments without writing out answers longhand. And it's purposefully built sans calculator so the teacher can see if a student doesn’t understand the concept, or has simply made a computation error.  The app builders, Dawn and Josh Denberg could feasibly leave the app as it is, and walk away feeling successful. However, they would like to make it better, and they want to incorporate many of the ideas users have suggested. In order to do so, they will need some money. They indicate that "An upgraded ModMath 2.0 supporting advanced algebraic equations is about $25,000. An Android version with the exact same features will cost $30,000".

Dawn and Josh have started a ModMath Kickstarter campaign.  For this first iteration, they are asking for $20,000 and in about a day, they are already half way there!

If you like ModMath, if you would like to see a more powerful/robust version of ModMath, or simply need a worthy place to donate, consider supporting their fundraiser! Also, be sure to "Like" their Facebook page.

Happy Therapy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Communication, Math, Timers, and Organization

Tel-Ninjas, this is part four, and the final segment of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Communication: (certainly considered a SLP domain, OT's can be involved in this process)
Proloquo2Go: $219.99, Proloquo2Go® is an award-winning symbol-supported communication app providing a voice to over 100,000 individuals around the world who are unable to speak.

ModMath: Free, ModMath is an adaptive program that improves math skills. The app lets you type math problems right onto the touch screen of an iPad rather than write them out long-hand. You can then solve the problems using the touch pad and print or e-mail the assignments all without ever picking up a pencil.

VisualTimer: $1.99, Refer to my blog. VisualTimer is a 60 minute timer with a graphical display that's also incredibly easy to use. To get started, just touch and drag the meter to the desired time and hit the Start button. It's that easy!

Metronome!!: $0.99, An easy to use and accurate audio/visual metronome for your iPhone and iPad. Keeping tempo has never been so simple.

Blogger: Free, Refer to my blog.  Compose a post that you can save to draft or immediately publish

First Then Visual Schedule HD: $14.99, FTVS HD lets you easily and quickly create and use Visual schedules, Task analyses, Social stories, Choice boards, and Video models.

Folks, I hope some of these prove useful to you. If you have some favorite apps, I'd love to hear what they are, and maybe a blurb about how you use the app in your sessions.

Happy Therapy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Visual Motor/Visual Perceptual, pt. 3

This is part three of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here, and part two here.

Visual Motor:
Dexteria: $3.99, Refer to my blog article. Dexteria is a set of therapeutic hand exercises (not games) to improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults. Dexteria’s unique hand and finger activities take full advantage of the multi-touch interface to help build strength, control, and dexterity.
Just Find It: $0.99. You are presented two images almost identical but at most 4 different spots. If you find all the differences in each stage before the countdown timer runs out, the remained time will be added to your score. Be careful! Wrong spot means time penalty! But you will be relieved to know that some unused item is left!
Bugs & Buttons
Bugs & Buttons: $2.99. Bugs and Buttons 2 seamlessly incorporates numbers, letters, patterns, shapes and so much more into 18 exciting games and activities. Use a rubber band to bounce falling buttons and acorns away from a parade of marching metallic green beetles. Fine-tune your motor skills in a high-speed race on a remote-controlled car gaining speed boosts, avoiding obstacles, and running competitors off the road. Practice your listening skills in a fun game of “Simon Says” with a funky, button covered puppet! Learn to play popular tunes or record songs of your own with a working keyboard. Guess the shape as a water bug creates geometric ripples on a gorgeous, three dimensional, babbling brook.

Visual Perceptual:
Shape Builder: $2.99. Shape Builder educates & entertains your little one with easy to move shapes that snap into place on top of silhouette puzzles. Each puzzle has 5 to 10 pieces & after positioning all of the pieces, the real image is revealed along with a professional voice recording of the word spoken by a licensed speech therapist that specializes in early child development. Shape Builder encourages cognitive thinking & fine motor skills plus exposes young minds to new music instruments, animals, produce, objects & the alphabet in a fun & engaging format with LOTS of sound effects!
ShapePuzzle: Free, Shape Puzzle is a jigsaw puzzle especially designed for little children. After you complete a picture, a cute turtle will pops out and tell you the name of the object you just assembled. What's more, each object belongs to a certain scene and after you finish all the items, a vivid scene appears!
Injini: $29.99, 10 feature games with 90 puzzles, over 100 beautiful illustrations, 8 farm-themed mini-games and more. Injini is ideally suited for early intervention - it brings fun to learning and at the same time practices children’s fine motor and language skills, understanding of cause and effect, spatial awareness, memory and visual processing.

Kids Can Match - Animals...: Free, An interactive, adaptive and fun memory game for children of all ages. This app contains an amazing, one of a kind, collection of over 70 authentic animal images and sounds.

Happy Therapy!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Story Telling and Typing (pt. 2)

Hey Tek-Ninjas, this is part two of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here.

Story Telling:
Pictello: $19.99, Everyone loves to tell fun, engaging, and imaginative stories. Go ahead and make a social story or visual schedule for a child with autism or a slide show of holiday pictures for your friends - Pictello makes it a breeze to create and share! Whether you use the included natural-sounding Text to Speech voices, or record your own voice, Pictello is the perfect tool for visual storytelling.

Toontastic: Free, Refer to my blog article. Toontastic is a creative storytelling app that enables kids to draw, animate, and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world.

Comic Life
Comic Life: $4.99, Refer to my blog article. Comic Life isn't just for creating comics.

You can retell a family vacation or capture a special day using your photos. It's simple to do: just drag photos onto the page and add your text in speech balloons and captions.

Voice Dictation with Siri: Standard on iPhone 4s or later, iPad 3rd gen or later, iPad mini, and iPod Touch (5th gen). Siri seems to work better with my students then some of the most expensive voice dictation software. Good blog article here

Pictello: $19.99, Everyone loves to tell fun, engaging, and imaginative stories. Go ahead and make a social story or visual schedule for a child with autism or a slide show of holiday pictures for your friends - Pictello makes it a breeze to create and share! Whether you use the included natural-sounding Text to Speech voices, or record your own voice, Pictello is the perfect tool for visual storytelling.

Abilipad: $19.99. Refer to my blog article. Abilipad is a customizable keyboard and adaptive notepad, with word prediction and text-to-speech.

Snaptype: Free, Refer to my blog article. SnapType helps students keep up with their peers in class even when their penmanship holds them back. Students can easily complete school worksheets with the help of an iPad or iPhone.

Turbo Type
Typing JR: $ 0.99. The fish are swimming towards a shark. You'll have to save the fish by typing in the word, before they get eaten by the shark. Fun and hectic game for the kids, where they learn how to typ.
Turbo Type: $1.99. Race to the finish and turbocharge your iPhone typing skills!  Battle the ruthless CPU opponent in a no-holds-barred typing race across expansive retro-styled scenery and environments, attempting to keep up with the randomly generated sentences and stay ahead of the enemy racer by avoiding deadly mistakes.

Be on the look out for part three of this blog soon.

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Letters/Writing/Drawing Practice (pt. 1)

Hey Tek-Ninjas, back in June of 2012 I wrote a blog titled “Favorite Occupational Therapy Apps”. Several years later, it remains one of my most consistently visited blog pages.

Many of the apps are still some of my favorite, however I am not working directly as an OT anymore. Instead, I am serving my district solely as an Assistive Technology Professional.

Recently a colleague sent an email out to the Occupational Therapists in our district, asking what were their 3 most often utilized iPad apps.

I plan to share the responses in a four part blog.

This is not necessarily my endorsement, but rather the endorsements of several very skilled and experienced Occupational Therapists working directly in a public school setting. 

Letter/Writing/Drawing Practice: 
Letter School: $4.99, Play to learn how to write all letters of the alphabet: abc - xyz and the numbers 1-10 with LetterSchool. Kids practice essential skills as they play four exciting games per letter or number.

Handwriting Without Tears: $6.99, Make handwriting practice fun! With our Wet-Dry-Try Suite App, children learn and practice correct formation habits for writing capitals, numbers, and lowercase letters. The app simulates our Slate Chalkboard and Blackboard with Double Lines and helps children learn handwriting skills in the easiest, most efficient way. The result truly is handwriting without tears!

Doodle Buddy: Free, Doodle Buddy Gold is the most fun you can have with your finger! Finger paint with your favorite colors and drop in playful stamps. Connect with a friend to draw together over the Internet.

Write My Name: $3.99, Write My Name is a fun way for children to practice writing letters, words, names and phrases. Write My Name supports children ages 4 through 6 to learn how to write their name, trace uppercase and lowercase letters, and write over 100 familiar sight/Dolch words. Write My Name meets some of the basic reading and writing Common Core State Standards for kindergarten such as the introduction and mastery of print and word recognition concepts.

Snaptype: Free, Refer to my blog articleSnapType helps students keep up with their peers in class even when their penmanship holds them back. Students can easily complete school worksheets with the help of an iPad or iPhone.

Ready to print: $9.99, Ready to Print progresses through the pre-writing skills in a specific order, so that children can master the visual-motor, visual-perceptual, and fine motor skills necessary for correct printing patterns. It is designed to teach children the correct patterns for printing, and to avoid bad habits that are difficult to change as the child gets older.  

iWriteWords: $2.99, Refer to my blog articleiWriteWords teaches your child handwriting while playing a fun and entertaining game.

Look for the second installment soon.

Happy Therapy!

SnapType Upgrade!

Hey Tek-Ninjas, a few weeks ago I blogged about SnapType.  I was and still am very impressed with
the product.  If you've not checked it out yet, do so. But if your a school system, wait until tomorrow. I will elaborate.

My only complaint about SnapType, and one I shared with the company, was that the product is free, with the option to "upgrade" with an in app purchase.
I'm not complaining about the "freeness", just the upgrade option.

Any app with in app purchasing is not able to be purchased with Apple's Volume Purchase Program. This is not a problem for an individual, but if you want to buy the app for a school (for example), it's hard to be legally compliant, providing the company with payment every time you load the product.

The developer Brendan Kirchner responded promptly to my email, apologizing for any inconvenience, and indicating he'd heard the issue raised before, and he was working on it.

Well, today I received a follow up email which I've shared below. 
I'm writing to tell you some good news... SnapType Pro for schools goes live tomorrow! We had many people reach out to us and ask for a standalone option of SnapType Pro and I'm happy to say that Apple has just approved it. You'll see it in the App Store tomorrow morning and will be able to deploy it effortlessly to multiple iPads with the help of Apple's volume purchase program. It will be $2.99 for a limited time as a launch special. Let us know if you have any questions, we're always happy to help!
 I share this because I think it's terrific when a company hears the requests of it's users, and works to address those needs. It suggests they are paying attention, and that's good for all of us! So, kudos to the Brendan Kirchner!

Happy Therapy!

Here is the link gone active today:

'bout sums it up folks...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mac Chargers Cost a Lot...

Make a loop up top
Hey Tek-Ninjas, have any of you had to replace your Mac laptop charger? If you have, you know they cost about $80. There are no knockoffs. No cheapy versions. It is a cost that is simply unpleasant, but when necessary, there is no getting around it. 

Wrap the cord with loop
Most Mac chargers break where the thin cord comes out of the block. The breakage often occurs because of the way in which we wrap our cords. Apple thoughtfully provided wings to wrap the cord around. But it turns out that how you wrap the cord can greatly impact the life-span of your cord. See the images for the preferred way.

Happy Therapy!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Just Let Them Dictate...

Recently I was in conversation with a fellow OT and colleague (Molly) whom I've worked with since I came to this district. She is a veteran therapist, a wealth of knowledge, willing to share, and inquisitive ( I work with some really terrific people).

We were discussing the amazing progress in voice dictation software. We also discussed some of the inherent challenges of voice dictation, which users often don't recognize. Switching from brain-->pen/paper to brain-->voice output is not as simple as it might seem.

She made some really interesting observations, and so, seeing a gold mine to tap, I asked her to guest blog.

Below you will find Molly's thoughts on helping to train/teach students how to use voice dictation successfully.

The “go to” solution for children with handwriting problems used to be “just let them keyboard.” This solution was rarely a quick fix – 

keyboarding is a skill that needs to be learned and if a child has fine motor problems to begin with, keyboarding is also going to present challenges.  

Now, a frequent “go to” solution is using a speech to text program.  Thankfully, these programs have improved immensely in recent years and can be effective in helping a reluctant writer get words onto paper.  
However, what are the necessary component skills to make a child a competent dictator of text?  How can a therapist or teacher help a student use this software successfully?  
I am on the beginning of this learning curve, but have learned a few things that might be helpful for others.  
1.     Reading pre-written sentences is a good way to start using speech to text.  It gets the child used to the “mechanics” of the program (like turning the microphone on/off), and gives them a degree of instant success.
2.      The child will need to learn to say punctuation.  Reading from a written copy with big red periods/question marks helps teach this skill.
3.     As with writing, using some type of graphic organizer is crucial to organize and sequence information before dictating.  Using a traditional graphic organizer with key words does not work well.  The child sees the key word(s) and says that without thinking about putting it into a sentence.  What works better is “sentence starters” combined with the key word(s) so the child knows where to begin.
4.     Rehearsing with the graphic organizer can help achieve increased success.  It might also lead you to add additional words or cues to the graphic organizer if you see “stumbling” points.
5.     Proof-reading is vital.  Dictation software is not perfect and the child must learn to read their dictated text carefully to catch mistakes.  (You might even use a text to speech program to read it back to them.)
Dictation software has come a long way from the days when you would end up swearing at the computer because it was mangling your words.  It can now be an invaluable tool for children who are resistant to writing for any number of reasons.  You might even find yourself beginning to use it.

I hope this provides you with some useful tools in working with your students. Thanks for the guest blog Molly!

Happy Therapy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Symbols!

Recently I have been delving into what symbol software to procure for our district. We have been using the industry standard for awhile now, and most of my folks are very happy with it, but, there are a few issues. 
Pricing Structure

The main issue is that it is costly. 

So, I've been considering various options including web-based software, some of which is subscription based, and not platform dependent (meaning, I get a subscription, you can use it on a PC, Mac, or Chrome device). 

Recently I came across Smarty Symbols. This is an online, subscription based service or purchasable disc that provides access to over thirteen thousand illustrations.  It alone may not be the solution to my question, but it is a really interesting service.

Smarty Symbols does not provide a a user interface to create boards so the user will still need something to do this, though it could be a simple word processor with tables. 

What is unique about this service is that the user is allowed to sell products made with these graphics. This is not the case with any of the other vendors, at least not without significant royalties. Their library is huge, and if you still don't find what you need, they indicate that custom images can be created. 

If you are looking for symbols with which you can publish a product, Smarty Symbols is a great solution. Or perhaps you don't need to own symbol software, but would like to "play" with some for a month or two, again, Smarty Symbols is a great solution.

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SnapType for Occupational Therapists (and anyone else)

Greetings Tek-Ninjas. Recently a co-worker of mine asked me if I'd any experience using SnapType for Occupational Therapy. I had to say no, and quickly went in search of the program. I'm sure glad I did, as I think we will be using this a lot in our school district. SnapType is compatible with iPhones and iPads. I have not tried it on a iTouch, but seems like it ought to work there too.

SnapType is what we as Occupational Therapists have been looking for some time. In fact, the idea for the app came from Amberlynn Gilfford, a Occupational Therapy Graduate student. SnapType allows the user to take a picture of a form/worksheet, or pull one from your photos, and then add text anywhere you want via the keyboard or voice dictation.

SnapType allows student who have slow writing or decreased legibility to type or voice dictate into forms quickly. With some iPad skill, many students can learn to take the pictures of the worksheet themselves, and complete the work independently.

It is super easy to use and email finished products as images or pdfs. The free version allows you to store only three finished products, but I found that it's no problem to finish a document, mail it to myself, and then delete it. The pro version for normally retails for $4.99, but for a limited time it is available for $2.99.  The Pro Upgrade offers unlimited storage of documents, as well as a "whiteboard" function which turns images into simplified black and white documents in order to save ink when printing. For my purposes the free version was terrific.

Happy Therapy!