This afternoon I had a chance to spend some time with my good friend and former student, Colleen. Colleen is now 22 and I have know her since she was my student from 2001-2006 and we have been good friends ever since. Colleen is a wonderful young lady with a great sense of humor who likes working hard. She is a power chair user and communicates through alternative methods of communication.
I brought along my iPad to our visit and she tried it out. First we spent sometime with Colleen learning to slide her finger across the screen. We used Cat in a Rainbow and Picture Pusher for this.
Cat in a Rainbow is essentially a cause and effect program which rewards sliding a flower across a stripe of rainbow with a pop-up photograph and sound effect. It is a good learning how to target and slide/scroll app and a fun cause and effect app for those who can manage the fine motor skills. Colleen thought Cat in a Rainbow was ok, but she loved Picture Pusher.
In Picture Pusher a number of photos or images appear on the screen and user slides them into a box. The app is very customizable. Colleen loved sliding pictures of herself, her friends and family into the box and quickly came to understand dragging and dropping on the iPad. Next we moved onto ACT Spelling which is a program that shows one to five large, high contrast buttons on the screen and asks the user to find letters, spell CVC words or spell words from the first three Dolch lists. This app is also very customizable, especially for vision issues. Colleen loved this app, although it took her a minute to move from sliding to tapping (at first she wanted to slide the letters to the top of the screen, but she soon understood to tap the letters.
After she did all three Dolch lists twice I convinced her to try out Proloquo2Go. Colleen has a love/hate relationship with communication devices. She has all the skills she needs to access a device (she understands thousands of picture symbols, reads on a late grade two level and spells on a grade one level; she can access a touch screen and although she is legally blind a small to medium size screen in the right field of vision is something she sees perfectly) yet she has severe problems with making communicative selections. She will hover her finger over the button she wishes to choose, waiting for a cue to activate it. (Yes, it is a cue dependency/desire to please/learned helplessness issues - I have known her for nine years and still we haven't successfully broken through with this. We have seen some success using a mouse set to dwell in breaking through but that leads to all sorts of issues with finding a device that has dwell for mouse or joystick and not just for eye or head tracking. Someday someone will invent the right device for my friend; I hope.) Thus I started small when showed her Proloquo2Go, just having her spell words on the Keyboard Page like she had been doing in the ACT Spelling App. Eventually we will try out communicating with Proloquo2Go, but we are going to move slowly.
Overall I was impressed with the simplicity and how much Colleen liked the apps we tried out in practicing iPad skills, especially Picture Pusher and ACT Spelling. Cat in a Rainbow and Picture Pusher are both excellent apps for teaching the fine motor mechanics of using the iPad. ACT Spelling is nice app to teacher spelling to students who know how to tap the screen or targeting/tapping to a student who has some letter and/or spelling knowledge.
(I will add links to the apps mentioned tomorrow, as well as add them to the iPossibilities Round-Up blog entry. It is just to hard to do that kind of editing on the iPad.)
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