For parents of children on the Autism spectrum who are in the mainstream classroom environment, the question of having highly qualified professionals on your child’s team is an important one. Although most parents want their high-functioning child to be in the mainstream, what they don’t realize is that they are giving up the potential of having specialists who really understand their child, in exchange for time in the mainstream with neurotypical peers. The highly qualified clause of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, sadly, does not give parents the right to demand a specialist who is qualified in inclusion, social communication, and other key aspects of your child’s learning style. Nor does it require that your child’s specialist have a particular passion for incorporating cutting edge technology and strategies to maximize your child’s success. When you have specialists on your child’s team who don’t understand these key components, your child is at risk for social isolation, exclusion, bullying, behavioral challenges and falling below grade level. Read the rest of this entry →
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Dear Developmental Doc:
I have a 14 year old son who has high functioning autism. He loves anything to do with the computer but has a tendency to use technology as a way to hide from social and emotional experiences. I was reading about recent technological breakthroughs where computer apps actually encourage social/emotional and developmental growth. Do you have any recommendations? Lucille M.-Oxnard, CA.
You are right, we are now living in a time where technology can assist in helping to build social and emotional bridges between persons with special needs and the greater communities at large. The following are a list and a description of the 13 best special needs apps of 2012. I recommend parents do their due diligence by doing research on each site before installing the apps for their child. Of particular note, please check out the complexity of the app, whether it can be adapted to the specific needs of your child and of course, cost (if any) per use. Best of luck with your entrance into our Brave New World! Esther Hess, a.k.a The Developmental Doc. Read the rest of this entry →
Basic social skills may not come easy to some children. However, iPad has a number of applications on the market today that can help teach children social skills in a non-threatening and easy to learn environment. The following are the top iPad applications to help your child interact in social and independent settings.
Stories2Learn offers parents and teachers the tools to implement stories utilizing audio messages, text and photos. The stories can then be used to develop the person’s social skills. For example, if someone is learning the concept of taking turns, trying to improve eye contact, sharing or other social activities, the concepts can be showcased in a story that the parent or teach designed within a matter of minutes. The designer can also add their own dialogue and audio to correlate along with the photographs. Read the rest of this entry →
This past Memorial Day, I caught an episode of the Martha Stewart Show; one of the guests was promoting their app for children. The app is called Whole Wide World by Fingerprint. I decided to check it out to see if any child could use it. I tested it out with my son who is 11 years old and is past the intended audience. The games were too simple for a child his age, but he found it entertaining for a while due to the interesting facts that he learned about the different parts of the world. The age range for the games is accurate and any child can use this app for fun and educational purposes.
The games help with visual processing, fine motor skills, simple math and spelling skills. The games are based on a reward system. If a child completes the games in the allotted amount of time, they will receive a stamp for that country and learn an interesting fun fact. Once the child has accumulated all the stamps for that particular country they will receive a post card as their final reward. The games might be in the form of matching pictures, mazes or racing. In addition, some games will teach spelling or have simple math questions attached.
The countries that are available are Iceland, Italy, Egypt, China, USA, Mexico, Australia and Antarctica.
For example, if your child selects China, they will play a variety of matching games.
If the child finds all the pictures that they are supposed to in the given amount of time, then they will receive a stamp and learn an interesting fact about China. Once they have collected all four stamps they will receive a post card.
If the child chooses Australia, then they play a variety of racing games with a kangaroo and collect pictures. At the end of the race, they will have to answer a simple math question, such as 19-8. Once again after completing the games, they will collect stamps and hear fun facts about Australia.
You can find another fun and educational game in the country of Egypt. A word will pop up and the child will be given a few letters to locate on the map using their avatar. Once they have found each letter, the avatar will give an interesting fun fact about what they just spelled. The game informs and teaches spelling at the same time.
I wish my son had this when he was younger; he would’ve been on it every day! The Premier version of Whole Wide World can be purchased for $2.99.
Dan Russell-Pinson has done it again!!! My Son’s Favorite App Developer has just released his fifth app, Monster Physics, and it’s another home run. Monster Physics by Dan Russell-Pinson is a fun, addicting and educational app that will help teach your child basic physics and problem solving concepts all for the low price of $1.99. According to the Monster Physics App page, “Think outside the box! Monster Physics comes with 50 missions for you to solve including simple tutorials as well as mind-bending challenges. Many of the missions are open-ended and can be solved with a wide variety of different solutions so you can play them over and over again. Players will learn problem-solving and creative-thinking skills while having tons of fun.”
The first screen you will interact with is the Main Menu. From the Main Menu you can enter four areas:
- Learn; and
- Select Player
The first area to start is select player. Here you can build your monster to use during all of the game play. You can personalize your monster by changing the 1) mouth, 2) body, 3) eyes, 4) arms and, 5) legs.
The learn area of the app helps explain basic physic concepts using visuals to reinforce the concepts. There are 8 different concepts taught including gravity, friction, joint, speed & velocity, acceleration, mass, density and force.
In the build area of the app the player can build anything their minds can think of. Besides being able to change the scenery and feed your monster you can build with 68 different parts. These parts are broken up into four categories, shapes, shapes 2, connectors and special. Each part can be manipulated to change its size, rotate the position, flip it or change the color. Anything your mind can imagine is available to build using these parts. My favorite category is the special parts. This is where you can find rockets, propellers, cannons, hoverbots, magnets, bombs and more. I’m having fun just thinking about it.
My absolutely favorite area of this app is the missions. There are 50 missions to choose from with various degrees of difficulties. This is where those problem solving skills will be utilized. There are many ways to accomplish each mission and the solution really just depends on what your mind comes up with. My son and I have worked our way through the tutorial, training and most of the beginner missions and have found it to be extremely fun and challenging. Considering we have not gotten to the challenge or advanced stages I can’t wait to see what Dan has in store for us.
As you can see, Monster Physics packs a lot of learning and fun into a very affordable price of $1.99. I highly recommend this app for any child who enjoys building, creating and problem solving. You might be surprised by the creativity your child can display using this app.
Next Dollar Up by Limited Cue, LLC is an app to teach children with special needs money management skills. According to the app page, “Next Dollar Up is a widely utilized special education teaching strategy for those with special needs to develop independence in money management using a whole dollar amount concept. It involves looking at an item price and rounding up to the next dollar to make the purchase.” Utilizing whole dollar concepts is a nice way start teaching the basics of money management and the app is presented in a simple, easy to use format. The App is currently on sale in the iTunes marketplace for $1.99.
The app was just released on April 24, 2012 and currently only has one game that teaches the child how to make grocery store purchases that cost up to $5 by using 1 dollar bills. I have an idea on how to expand the concept for the next version but will get to that later. The game presents the child with an item priced between $0.01 and $5.00 and prompts the child to drag the correct number of dollar bills to the payment area.
The concept is to teach the child to round up to the nearest dollar and provide the correct number of dollar bills needed for each purchase. For example, if you were shown a picture of lemons that cost $0.58 the correct answer needed to make the purchase would be $1. There are currently 34 game cards in all which are rotated in a randomized order with amounts up to $5.
If the child gets the answer correct they are awarded a star. The goal is to get 10 correct answers and when this occurs the screen will play music and show a sign that says congratulations. If the child gets the answer incorrect the will see a red x on the screen indicating the answer is wrong and flipping the card over to show the correct answer on the screen.
The App page also states that, “Simplicity and consistency are at the forefront of design, with the intention that the user not become lost in its functions but rather receive the maximum educational value possible.” While I agree the app is simple and does a nice job of teaching the concept presented I think the next version needs to be expanded. For example, my son has mastered this concept but is struggling with differentiating the value of higher denominated bills (i.e. $1’s, $5’s, 10’s and 20’s). I would love to see the next version expanded to include difficulty levels and introduce the concept of higher dollar purchases using multiple bill types. I think by adding difficulty levels the user base would increase tremendously. That being said, if your child is struggling with the basics of money management this is the app for you!!!!
iTouchiLearn Life Skills: Morning Routines for Preschool Kids by Staytoooned is a cute app that teaches young children and children with special needs life skills by utilizing music. Utilizing music is a wonderful way to teach children how to perform each task required for their morning routine. According to the app page, “Kids interact with the catchy “Ready for School” song sung to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”.” This makes a lot of sense since, singing and music involves both hemispheres of the brain and more parts of the brain are stimulated and light up when a direction or concept is sung rather than spoken. It makes teaching difficult concepts more interesting and less of a demand. The current price for Morning Routines in the iTunes app store is $1.99. This makes it a very affordable option for teaching your child how to get through their morning routines without a meltdown. Read the rest of this entry →
Tell me about it by Different Roads to Learning, Inc. is a language development app that utilizes the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) framework to teach “the label, category, function, and features of more than 235 language targets over 6 levels of incremental difficulty.” The current price for Tell Me About It in the iTunes app store is $9.99. The app is designed for children with autism or language development delays. According to the Tell Me About It app page, “For students with speech and language delays or for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning to simply label an image doesn’t necessarily translate into comprehensive understanding of that word. By breaking down each language target by its category, the function that it serves and its salient features, we offer students the opportunity to fully comprehend and then engage in language. This app is ideal for both home and classroom use.” Read the rest of this entry →
Khan Academy the widely popular online learning source has finally released an iPad App. If you don’t know much about the Khan Academy their website describes them as:
…an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.
All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.
And now they are all available on your iPad as well!!! Still want to learn more about the Khan Academy watch the video below from last night’s 60 Minutes.
The Khan Academy app gives you access to all 2700+ videos in its educational library all for free. The videos are broken up by categories and sub-categories. Categories include, Math, Science, Humanities, Test Prep and Interviews. Each video provides an outline that can be used to jump to specific sections in each video. Since many of the videos are very long this is a good way to pinpoint exactly the part of the video you want to see and move to it quickly.
You can watch the videos over your internet connection but you can also download any of the videos directly to you iPad. This gives you the ability to take the videos along on trips or places without internet connections.
Since my son is in the 5th grade I tested the app on him. He is currently learning integers and how to add and subtract negative numbers. I easily navigated through the Math category to the sub-category of arithmetic and pre-algebra where I found negative numbers. I found 6 videos on negative numbers and played the first one entitled, “Negative Numbers Introduction.” This 9 minute video did a wonderful job of auditorily and visually presenting the information. My son is a visual learner and the video helped him see how to use a number line to determine negative numbers. This was just 1 of the 2700+ videos on the app. As you can see, Khan Academy is not joking when they claim, “Khan Academy allows you to learn almost anything for free.”
The Khan Academy app and the corresponding videos are amazing. Future versions of this app are scheduled to include the Khan Academy exercises that are currently available on the website. I can’t think of any downside to adding this free app to your iPad today!!!!!
I review many types of educational apps. Some are in a game format and others are not. The best educational apps always feature praise, rewards, etc. They are bright, colorful and enticing. Many apps use stickers as a reward, providing a unique place to store your stickers. Educational apps also include regular progress updates in many cases.
I have to say that Book apps are landing as my absolute favorite. Most recently, the release of iBook Books that are actual Text Books. It is simply amazing when you see the amount of information that is packed into these iBooks! They are filled with videos to support the lessons, slide shows that hold more than any conventional book could hold in informational text, interactive 3D images that students can explore to their hearts’ content. All of this brings then back to the text information and stimulates their desire to learn more. It becomes a multifaceted lesson. Read the rest of this entry →