Monday, November 30, 2009

iPod Update

Last week I shared my excitement at the new Time Timer app for iPod Touch and iPhone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Our iPod Touch


Over six months ago I wrote a Donors Choose grant application for an iPod Touch for my classroom and about a month ago it was fulfilled. A few weeks ago it arrived. A week after that I purchased an iMainGo speaker case (which I will need to replace as we seem to have gotten a dud - I have had many iMainGos and it is an awesome solution, but this one has been terrible). One of the things our classroom staff marveled at was how quickly some of our students mastered turning up the volume while music was playing!

Our iPod Touch has quickly become one of the most valuable tools in out classroom. It is loaded with the following:
We have used the iPod Touch:
  • as a reward for positive behavior
  • as a way to increase student exposure to music
  • for students to listen to books and poems while stretching or resting
  • as a way to distract students and thus increase prone stander tolerance
  • as a way for our students to be just like the other kids

Sunday, June 28, 2009

iPod Touch/iPhone App Round Up for Users with Significant Disabilities and Those who Teach Them

Updated June 19, 2010

Please note YGWYPF notation means "You get what you pay for!"
T&T means the blog author uses this application
BIC is Best in Category, based only on the authors impression, no other criteria are in play
* means that the app has been used by the author


AAC
  • Answers: Yes No - is an app that simply says yes or no, press the green yes to say yes or the red no to say no, you can have a male or female (or cartoon) voice, simple and works great in a pinch ($.99) T&T*
  • AutoVerbal Talking Soundboard - an AAC app which uses clip art like icons and low quality voices when off of wifi and high quality voices when on wifi, has a limited number of programmable buttons, many have noted it is currently buggy, compelling horizontal scrolling looks interesting ($.99 with rumors to be going up to $29.99) YGWYPF
  • Expressionist - is a app by Adastrasoft it holds 120 common expressions in 7 catagories and 1000+ nouns using photographs as identifiers in addition to a black and white line drawing of a cartoon-like person to create "composite images", the system design is a little baffling to me just looking at the screenshots and videos
  • EZ Speech by Gus Communications is a text-to-speech system with NeoSpeech voices and a system of folders to organize and speed things up.  No pictures symbols. ($795!!!!)
  • Grace - A PECS style app for all the iDevices that uses simple color drawings in a PECS like set up.  ($37.99)
  • iComm - a newer photo based AAC app with recorded voice and yes/no confirmation of choices, iPhone and iPad only (free for introduction period and price will scale upwards to $27.00, some reports of being "nagware"*
  • iConverse - this is a "you get what you pay for" augmentative and alternative communication solution, offering six choices with a decent voice and clip art icons and a horrendous text-to-speech voice for user created buttons ($10) YGWYPF*
  • Look2Learn AAC - yet another "you get what you pay for" app, this one is photo based (comes with 80) and allows you to change sizes of the images, basically this allows the user to communicate "I want" messages only (only 4 buttons with vocal output). ($25) YGWYPF*
  • My Talk Tools - Voice output AAC using photos and emoticons, not research based, nor designed for intuitive communication or motor planning based use ($35.99) YGWYPF*
  • Small Talk - by Lingraphica is a photobased communication program designed for adults who have had strokes (free - subscribe for more)*
  • Speak It! - text to speech program with choice of voices ($1.99)*
  • Proloquo2Go - a complete augmentative and alternative communication solution using current research in the field, SymbolStix communication symbols and a high quality voice and many highly customizable features ($189.99) T&T, BIC see TLWMSN review*
  • Talk - by AlterMa Inc is a text-to-speech application ($0.99) YGWYPF*
  • Talk Assist - a free program that allows keeping selections of text-to-speech to click on and play or typing and playing messages with TTS, voice is very low quality (free) *
  • TapToTalk - AAC seet up in "albums" of "emoticon" style clip art, the starter album is free and may be enough for beginning communicators, more advanced albums and original program requires a subscription (free starter, $99 a year subscription) *
  • Tap Speak Button - essentially a Big Mac Button (or single message voice output switch) where you record a message and touch the screen to play it back, you can store multiple messages and use when needed ($9.99) T&T*
  • iAssist Communicator - a photograph based AAC app with 4 photos and related speech output per page over multiple pages, customizable ($29.99)
  • iBlissSymbols - not many people still use Bliss symbols with individuals with severe or multiple disabilities, but if you happen to work with someone who was talk Bliss Symbols this app is for them, a Bliss Symbols based communication app!  (Lite is free, Full is $18.99)*
  • iCoon - a global icon dictionary using very simple line drawings and digital pics, meant for travelers, may have other implications in our field
  • iInteract - an odd communication board set as it has no regard for the heirarchy of symbolic representation, the main board is text based and subsequent boards mix clip art and photographs; there are a total of six boards at this time and a choice of a boy or girl voice ($8.99) YGWYPF*
  • iMean - is a letter board based AAC system with word prediction for literate AAC communicators, currently no voice output ($4.99) YGWYPF*
  • Locabulary - is a primarily text based (some small digital pics), list based, sentence chaining, AAC or vocab teaching or prompting system that uses GPS to determine vocabulary on the page (i.e. puts you to the coffee page in Starbucks) currently the lite version is up for beta testing; hopefully they are putting together a really great expansion of Locabulary because the beta is very promising T&T*
  • iTake Turns - simple app allows user to say, "my turn" and "your turn" in a male or female voice ($1.99)
  • SynthSpeech - allows you to use an adjustable voice to create text-to-speech selections, which can be stored on a soundboard for AAC use ($1.99)
  • Yes/No Bilingual - allows the communicator to say yes or no in English or Spanish and in a male of female voice ($1.99)
Data Collection
  • ABC Data Pro -  complex data collection software for those that need it (27.99)
  • Behavior Tracker Pro - allows the users to log ABC, frequency or duration data and then see it graphed, supports multiple data collections at once ($9.99) T&T*
  • eCove Observation Software - five types of counters and timers to allow you to take different types of data (free)*
  • iBehavior - allows tracking of positive/negative behavior of multiple subjects, designed for teachers to track classroom behavior in general education (free)*
  • Percentally - data collection by tally or +/- which is automatically converted to percentages, allows for tracking multiple goals and objectives for multiple students at the same time ($4.99). T&T, BIC*
  • Tallymander - list based tally management, keep tally of multiple things (behaviors, data) at once and e-mail it
    Prompting/Visual Schedules
    • First/Then Visual Schedule - simple picture schedule allows three formats of viewing, however a limited choice of pictures and currently no means of importing images ($9.99)*
    • Halo Talk - by AdstraSoft this forced choice/prompting app is designed as pairs of opposites to use to offer choices from a field of two photos or to prompt to using a field of two photos, like the other AdstraSoft applications this uses the cartoon drawing of a person as well as photos ($33)
    • iPrompts - this is an ap allowing you to use photograph or clip art symbols to make visual schedules, pair with a count down time or make basic choices from a field of two (without speech output) ($50) (if you tried this a year ago, the updates make it more user friendly - still not worth $50, but more user friendly and no bugs)*
    • Picture Scheduler - this app shows a visual reminder (photo or video) at a specified time as well as playing a voice note to cue the user ($3)*
    • Step Stones - by AdastraSoft is a new app for visual schedules using photos the current version has 12 visual sequences, the new version to be released will add 15 more and allow user made sequences, the user can check off each step as it is done ($29) 
    • Visules - sets of individual or lists of picture cues to use separately or as routines. ($4.99) YGWYPF*
    Reward Charts
    • iReward - is essentially a "star chart" or behavior contract system for your iPod/iPhone ($2.99)*
    • Reward Chart - simple, early childhood type sticker charts for tracking multiple rewards over time for children (free)*
    Sign Language
    • Signing Time - the famous DVDs now have an app! Learn sign on your iPhone or iTouch
    • Sign4Me - SEE Sign Language Tutor using animated avatar ($9.99) *
    Timers
    • Time Timer - the original Time Timer as an app, visual showing of time remaining, 10 sounds you can play when time is elapsed (we like the clapping for differential reinforcement of zero behaviors) ($4.99) T&T, BIC*
    • Time Jot - allows you to time things and keep multiple logs of those times, good as both a timer and for data collection*
    • Visual Count Down Timer - a stack of blocks that lowers as time counts down ($2.99)
      Other
      • 3D Brain - a 3D image of a brain with various view, labels and information about brain and brain disorders; very useful if you teach those with brain injury, seizures and various brain based issues like agenesis of the corpus callosum or microcephaly (free) T&T*
      • A_T_Chooser - it is hard to say something isn't worth $.99 but this isn't, basically it is supposed to give you an overview of AT options for various types of disabilities, if you know how to use Google or have ever been in a special needs classroom you don't need this app, let's just say if someone can't be bothered to remove the underscores from the app title don't but it! ($.99) YGWYPF*
      • ArtikPix - using SymbolStix Communication Symbols for flashcards and matching games this app gives teachers and speech therapists probes for working on articulation
      • A Special Phone - this is an app that allows dialing without looking at the key pad and a shake of the phone instead of pressing dial, additionally you can program six dial by photo numbers that allow dialing without knowing or mathcing numbers ($0.99)
      • Flick Tunes - allows a playlist to be controlled by sliding a finger or fingers across the screen, designed for drivers and others to control music without looking this app is wonderful for those with fine motor issues (be careful, your students will learn how to crank up the volume FAST!) T&T, BIC ($.99)*
      • Flux Tunes - very similar to Flick Tunes ($.99)
      • IEP Checklist - this app lists all of the sections of the IEP as required by federal law and allows you to create a checklist of those sections by student to be sure you have completed everything you need to complete before, during and after the meeting (free)*
      • Talkulator - a talking calculator, basic in design ($.99) *

      Sunday, May 24, 2009

      iPrompts iTouch App Review

      iPrompts is an application for the iPod Touch and iPhone that offers vertical visual schedule, a countdown timer and a simple choice making utility. It is designed to replace carrying those bulky (and annoying) visual schedules and choice making boards so many of us are used to using. It has recently come down in price and now retails for about $75. This review comes from using it a few weeks in my classroom.

      The Good:
      • the visual schedule picture does allow for a much more portable way of carrying a visual schedule for individuals who need it
      • the choice making feature allows very quick, on-the-fly, choice making from a horizontal field of two of two pictures
      • the countdown timer could make transitions easier for some individuals and displays an image or photo as well as a numeric and a visual image of the time passing
      • the price just dropped to about 75 dollars (I paid 80)
      • an iTouch is a much more portable and socially acceptable way to present visual scedules and cues to individuals with disabilities, especially in public, especially to older individuals in schools
      • the product was designed by a family of a little boy with Autism to meet his needs for visual supports and I am all for families creating solutions and sharing them with the world

      The Bad:
      • the software is buggy, closing without notice and refusing import of many images (the company promises a release soon with a bug fix, no word on when)
      • there is no way to "lock-out" the option menu, allowing students to "accidentally" or "accidentally-on-purpose" change into different parts of the program, put in new pictures or remove pictures
      • the choice feature is used up and down to create the choice menu and side-to-side to offer the choices, meaning that for our students who always pick the left on (or the right one) you cannot really switch to a vertical choice (unless you want them to enter the library when they choose)
      • the countdown timer sets off warning chimes before the countdown ends which are confusing to many individuals ("why is it beeping if I still have time?") and there is no way to change those settings
      • the visual image of the countdown can be confusing (at least it is to my students)
      • in general the software is not very customizable, sure you can change the pictures in the schedule, choice or timer but beyond that not much else, in our field, with our students being able to individualize is everything and this app just doesn't meet the need - in fact iPrompts does not even appear in the iTouch's settings app
      • if you use with an iPod you cannot take pictures directly, although you can import from iTunes, but again, that is buggy
      • according to the website they only trialed the software with about 12 individuals
      • there are no special education teachers, SLPs, OT, BCBAs, AT specialists or other professionals listed on any sort of advisory board - not that you need to have these people, just that a little input and access to the research you are trying to emulate doesn't hurt (there is an autism specialist in their promotional video)
      • as far as I know there was no closed or open public beta trial, there was no recruiting of professionals to try the software from places like the Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) List Serv, the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) or the RESNA group
      • The presentation of the software as "AAC" in some places create the illusion that this is "talking" software when it is not, I fully expected the app to speak and it doesn't, caveat emptor, it was my mistake, but one easily made

      The Ugly:
      • the "stock images" provided are pretty terrible, clip art (and babyish) and not-so-great photos - no picture symbols provided (you can import, with some effort Mayer-Johson Picture Communication Symbols Meta Files (if you own them $199.00 - there are some less um... legal ways to do this of course) or a free symbol set like Imagine Symbols with considerable effort and use of your iTouch memory
      • although this is not really an AAC application (simple choice making yes, AAC not-so-much - if this app wants to compare itself with AAC it needs compare itself honestly, not with devices that do millions and millions of times more what it does) the website feels the need to "bash" AAC companies with high tech, well developed, specialty products, not realizing, perhaps, that without those companies we would not have the research and development, the knowledge and the ideas to do what we do with AAC and technology with individuals with communication disorders everyday - in addition they state that these companies "prey" on vulnerable school districts and parents, that's a gutsy accusation to make publically when opening a new company
      • the company uses the term "Social Story" (which is trademarked) in its documentation incorrectly (Social Stories are a very specific format with a very specific focus) and does not credit Carol Grey
      In summary, this is a very expensive app for what it offers that is buggy, not terribly customizable and meets very limited needs. However it might be perfect for some individuals who just need those basic picture schedules and simple visual, horizontal two choice options. If you think it might be you should check out the YouTube tutorial video and their website, or download from iTunes. You should also consider using it with the iPhone versus the iPod for the avaliability of a camera to help overcome the lack of symbols.

      In some cases it may be best to spend a little more money ($75 more) and get Proloquo2Go (introductory price currently $150), then you will have a high quality, well researched AAC, fully tested application that, when place in "list" format can do the same type of visual scedule and will allow you to create endless "choice" boards (that talk with your choice a top of the line voice) and then just use the regular count down timer on your iTouch for countdowns (the only app Proloquo2Go can't currently do).

      P.S. That makes me wonder when there will be a Time Timer app. Wouldn't that rock?

      Tuesday, January 13, 2009

      Proluquo2Go - AAC on an iPod Touch or iPhone


      Sam Sennott and Assisitiveware have announced a new product in various Assisitive Technology Listservs and at the BETT conference. Proloquo2Go is like the
      Proloquo software for Macs but is designed to run on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Proloquo2Go is in its second beta testing and will be showcased at CSUN. The device will use Acapela's new iPhone text-to-speech voices.

      This is an exciting break through for those who are resistant to looking different by using AAC and for those who just want a tiny, handheld AAC device.

      This is from Sam's announcement:

      Proloquo2Go is the name of the application and it is pronounced:
      • Pro as in program.
      • lo as in low.
      • quo as in quote.
      • 2 as in two
      • Go as in go to the store.
      • It is Latin for speak out.
      Proloquo2Go: Communication on the Go

      Assistiveware also announced improvements to many of their other applications and a new text-to-speech reading solution for those with reading disabilities called GhostWriter. Many of these are designed to work well with Axiotron's Modbook (Mac tablet).

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