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App of the week: ColAR Mix that animates your child’s drawings

Friday, September 5th, 2014

 

Mom, can I play on the (insert digital device here)? As parents, how many times do we hear that question every day? We are living in a digital world. While some devices have benefits, they have many drawbacks as well. As a pediatric occupational therapist who also has young children I can attest to the fact that one drawback to devices is that our children do not use their hands as frequently as we used to. Now, I don’t want to turn this into an “I remember when …” article, however, kids used to play in the dirt and with a huge variety of toys such as Legos, Erector sets and Lincoln Logs. They cut, pasted, glued, colored and made Play-Doh cookies. All of these activities naturally facilitated hand development and were the physical foundational skills built upon when they entered school and learned how to write. With the current pervasiveness of digital devices, kids are using their hands a lot less and increasingly lack the building blocks for muscle strength and coordination to support early writing. When they get to school today’s kids often present with a weak grasp, hold a pencil awkwardly, and have difficulty learning how to write properly. Sounds kind of gloomy, right? Well let me tell you about an app that blends the digital and the physical world so your child will be motivated to color, which in turn, will assist in building up those hand muscles.

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Download the ColAR Mix 3D coloring app free from the Google Play store or iTunes. Next, go to colarapp.com to print coloring pages that appeal to both boys and girls. Once your child colors in a picture, open up the app and hold it over the picture. Magically, the picture is transformed into a 3D animated picture that is truly amazing; a flying dragon breathing fire, a bird chasing and catching a worm, an airplane that does loop-de-loops, all in the exact colors that your child used. There are even pictures where you can write in your name, which then pops up on the 3D picture!

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While the he app is free, all the pictures can be printed free of charge, and quite a few of the coloring pages can be transformed into 3D for free, others cost some money to unlock the magic. All the children I have used this app with became so excited when they saw their pictures come to life that they asked to color more. So, while we are living in a digital world, there are many opportunities out there to blend the virtual with the real and keep things moving in a positive direction, so our kids don’t miss out on basic pre-school skills.

Sumitted By: Gershon Kravetz, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Friday, September 5th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, What's App Wednesday.

Tech Tip of the Week: Limit Your Child’s Screen Time the Easy Way!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

techtipoftheweek

 

As a parent, among the many struggles we deal with is limit setting. This is especially so when it comes to electronics such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, and computers. Typically, you may allow your child a set amount of time to be on the iPad, and when that time is up there is often screaming, crying, and negotiating. Well, I was recently at a course about technology, and I wanted to share with you a small but valuable piece of information that I found very useful for limit setting with the iPhone\iPad.

Simply use the timer on the iPad or iPhone to shut it down and automatically go to the home\lock screen. If you have the screen password protected, your children won’t be able to get back into the program they just exited.

To access this feature, tap on the clock icon (Picture 1) and then tap the timer at the bottom of the screen. Then there is a space where one can choose a sound to come on when the timer goes off (Picture 2). Tap that section, scroll all the way to the bottom, and select “Stop Playing” (Picture 3).

Picture 1.

Picture 1 

Picture 3

Picture 2

Picture 2

Picture 3

Once you set the timer, your child can go into any app he/she chooses. At the end of the time you specified, the IPhone\iPad will shut down the program and revert to the lock screen.

If you don’t see this feature your software may not be up to date. I hope you find this information useful and it cuts down on some stress over use of electronics in your house.

 

Blog Submitted By: Gershon Kravetz, MS, OTR/L

 

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 and is filed under Parenting, What's App Wednesday.

Educreations

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

educreations

Professional athletes, international speakers and anyone who wants to improve performance has access to video critiquing, a highly effective tool for self-improvement. The users film themselves either at practice or when performing live, and then watch the video, either by themselves or with others, to analyze and fine tune their performance. Are they throwing the correctly? Are they speaking clearly and slowly? They may make small critical changes, or perhaps catch a fundamental error and completely change their approach.

This is similar to learning handwriting. People who are kinesthetic learners learn by doing. By this I mean, they practice writing a number of times on a firm or textured surface, their muscles receive the feedback of how letters should be formed, and they can learn to form their letters properly. Other individuals may be visual or auditory learners. They learn best by watching a demonstration and following directions. Most people benefit from both. That’s why using multiple modalities is an effective way to teach children.

What does this have to do with video critiquing? I’m glad you asked! Educreations is free app from the iTunes store that I have been using effectively in my occupational therapy (OT) practice.

educreatorslogo

The app consists of an interactive whiteboard that let’s you record what you draw, and records your voice as well. It was designed as a teaching tool so that an educator can record a lesson, and then email or post it to the web to share with an online community.

educreations-gallery

 

For OT purposes you can have children draw a letter while dictating the steps of how to form it. For example if they are learning the letter ‘B’, while they are drawing they can use the Handwriting Without Tears language: “Start at the top, draw a straight line down, frog jump to the top, little curve to the middle, little curve to the bottom”. When they are done drawing\recording you can save the lesson. Once it has been saved they can play it back, and watch and listen to how they wrote the letter.

Kids love doing this. They see the letter being formed and hear their own voice. It is a very powerful strategy for all those visual and auditory learners we spoke about before. They can see how it was done and spot any mistakes they may have made.

The app itself has some rich features to keep things interesting. You can choose to write in various colors, you can type letters, and you can even add pictures to the lesson either by taking a picture or downloading one from the web.

Using pictures is a great feature because:

  • You can take a picture of the handwriting worksheet you are using, and use it as a template to trace over as they are doing the lesson.
  • Children can take a picture of themselves and use it as the background to write on.
  • Another way to use a picture of oneself is to have the child draw on the picture. Can they draw a hat on top of their head? How about boots on their feet. Maybe have them draw a balloon or animal behind them. This is a great way to teach directionality, which is a foundation for learning how to form letters.
  • There is also an option to resize the picture. So, take a full body picture of your child, size it so it takes up half of the screen, and then have them draw a picture of themselves on the white space. In this way you are having them practice body parts as well as body awareness, which is another foundational skill for letter formation.

For a free app this has a lot of wonderful features that can be utilized in many ways. So, how are you going to use this app? Please post your comments below, and any suggestions on apps you would like to see reviewed or have questions about.

If you have any other questions I can be reached at gershon@potsot.com

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, The Special Needs Child, What's App Wednesday.

Can’t draw? Create funky animals on the Drawnimal App

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

There’s a TV show I enjoy watching on the Discovery channel called “Dual Survival”. On the show they take two survival experts and drop them off in a barren area. There  they rely on their knowledge of the land to survive and find civilization. If they were to deposit me in the same area, I would look around and see trees, dirt, rocks, insects etc. These experts see ways to make shelter, fashion weapons, gather food, and most importantly, make fire. Essentially, the survival experts are doing a “task analysis” of their situation, quickly envisioning the possibilities that the found materials afford them. While I may be at a loss to analyze a survival situation, as an OT I am continually doing a task analysis of all the equipment that I have, and what each item affords me when I work with a child. This is true in the world of Apps. One person may look at an App and see a game, but I look at it and see a therapeutic tool to facilitate learning and development.

drawnimal_logo

One App I recently discovered is Drawnimal (available on the itunes App store). As stated on itunes, this app teaches kids to think out of the box. How does it work? First place your device on a sheet of paper. When you launch the app you are shown a letter. Under that is a representation of the ipad\iphone. There are then cues to draw various shapes around the ipad.

drawnimal_howitworks

For example, you may be prompted to draw the tail of an alligator, the ears of a bear, or the fins of a dolphin. Most are pretty basic shapes, but some younger kids may need more help from a parent. When you finish drawing, click “play” and the animal appears on the screen to completes the picture you drew! Finally when you tap on the animal, it does some funky action that will make you laugh, and motivate kids to play again and again.

First of all I love this App because it is gets you to pick up a pen\marker\pencil and draw, to work on pencil grasp. Next , it is a great exercise in visual perceptual skills, as well as directionality. Do I draw it on the left, right, top, bottom? In addition, it provides practice in sequencing and spatial relations. Where do I start? How far up the side? How far apart should the ears be? These are all developmental skills that are precursors to letter formation. What a great tool to use to encourage kids to practice their (pre-) handwriting! While the app does not ask the child to form letters, but you can encourage your kids to do that. Perhaps, before they move on to the next animal, have them write the first letter of the animal they just saw. If they are learning a specific handwriting technique, such as Handwriting without Tears, have them practice the letter formation that reinforces proper technique. You can encourage older children to write the whole word. They will be having so much fun they won’t even realize they are practicing their handwriting.

As you use the app repeatedly, change it up and make it more interesting by having the children add more body parts. If the app just asks you to draw the ears, suggest that your kids draw arms, legs, and tails. Get creative, draw the bear holding a jar of honey, and then have your kids write a sentence, paragraph or story about how he acquired it. Maybe the bear met the survivalists, scared them off, and stole the honey from their packs.

Ejemplos-Drawnimal

As you can analyze this app there are so many possibilities for strengthening skills  here, drawing lines and shapes, visual perceptual skills, sequencing, directionality, letter recognition, and handwriting. All from a simple game  .So, the next time you discover a new app, look at it more critically ,analyse the task requirements and you may find  more ther than meets the eye initially.I if you are working with an OT ask them what possibilities your child’s favorite  of the apps afford.

As always, if you want to contact me about any apps I can be reached at gershon@postot.com

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, What's App Wednesday.

Our new favorite pre-writing App is “Ready to Print”

Friday, May 16th, 2014

readytoprint

 

In the ever changing, fluid world of apps, it is challenging to keep up with all the new innovations that are taking place daily, if not hourly. The same holds true for apps that are used by occupational therapists to boost handwriting, fine motor control, visual perception, sensory regulation, and organization. In this space I will present those apps that I have used and found beneficial and worthwhile to utilize during therapy sessions, and at home.

Ready_to_print_app

I have recently discovered and am impressed with ‘Ready to Print’.  As indicated on the app’s web page, “Ready to Print is a pre-writing app that was developed by an occupational therapist with more than 20 years of experience working with children.” It was designed to help children progresses through pre-writing skills in a developmentally appropriate order, so that they can master the skills necessary for writing.

Ready_to_print_app

As you can see from the screenshot, the app is divided into eight categories that progressively build upon the developmental skills required for pre-writing and handwriting.  The first two games, Touch and Ordered Touch, focus on finger individuation and sequencing, requiring the child to touch in the order that will be required when beginning to form letters.

Matching. In this activity the child matches basic shapes. Like all the other activities it can be easily customised to match the child’s skill level by changing how many items have to be matched, as well as the size of the shapes. This activity facilitates visual tracking, scanning, and visual motor skills, all of which are required when learning how to write and recognize letters.

The next two games, Paths and Shapes, have the child trace a line or shape within set boundaries. They both tap into visual tracking and visual fine motor skills. As children progress and refine their skills, the width of the paths can be adjusted.

In Connect the Dots the child is asked to draw one of ten different shapes, from simple to more complex. The app encourages proper formation of the shapes , which will eventually carryover into good practice habits when learning to write letters.

The Pinching game sharpens fine motor skills. The ability to pinch is helpful when developing a grasp for any writing implement. Two objects are presented which the child has to bring together using his/her thumb and any other finger on the preferred hand. The spacing between the objects can be adjusted for various hand sizes.

Having progressed through all the other developmental levels, we finally arrive at  Letters, where children learn and practice letter formation. In this section the child is asked to copy letters first by following prompts on the right side of the screen, and then immediately practice freehand in a blank space on the left side of the screen. This is a wonderful feature missing from most other handwriting apps that I have used. This section allows you to work on capitals, lowercase letters, numbers, or a combination of upper and lower case letters.

Finally there is a section for free drawing that encourages creative and artistic expression with a variety of colors to choose from.

Overall, this is a marvelous app that is rich in many different areas. It provides a child  with the developmental activities required to build up underlying skills to support handwriting, as well as an opportunity to learn and practice handwriting in a fun way, all in one app. While no app should be a substitute for using a marker, crayon, chalk, pencil, or pen to write, this app is good to add on your tablet, to be used with a finger or a stylus (higher level). The ability to customize each level to match each child’s progress is a winning feature. I encourage you to log on and create a user account so you can track your children’s progress.

This app is available on Apple’s app store, Google Play, and for the Kindle fire.
I look forward to your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at gershon@potsot.com

This entry was posted on Friday, May 16th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, What's App Wednesday.

Fred iCreate Stylus

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

At POTS we use the Fred iCreate Stylus to help kids on the autistic spectrum with fine motor difficulties to write on the iPad. We are having amazing success with this tool! Something about it must be non-threatening and motivating, because children who typically avoid crayons and markers are jumping at the opportunity to use the iCreate.

 

 

 

Here is why we love it:

  • It is motivating and FUN! Kids love to use it
  • The friendly black lines “tell” your child exactly where to hold the stylus for that essential tripod grasp
  • The rubbery tip provides just the right amount of friction to remind kids to put the breaks on and end the letter at the appropriate place

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Some Friendly Tips:

  • Children who struggle with fine motor skills may prefer to use their finger to draw on the iPad. To encourage use of the Fred iCreate Stylus, make sure to designate certain (very fun) apps that may only be used with the stylus.
  • When to provide a B R E A K:
    • As with a regular crayon, go for quality over quantity. If you see the quality of grasp, writing or drawing deteriorate, take a break
    • When a goal is spontaneously assuming (versus sustaining) an appropriate grasp, find reasons to take frequent breaks. This gives your child the opportunity to practice assuming a grasp over and over again
    • I like to build breaks into the activity. For example, when playing trace & erase on the Dexteria Junior app, have your child draw lines through paths with the iCreate stylus, and let him/her erase with a finger

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http://fredandfriends.com/products/view/icreate-crayon-stylus

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, What's App Wednesday.

What’s App Wednesday: Turtles, Huh?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

How to Play:

In each mini game there is a turtle and/or a penguin.  But beware, Instructions are not provided. That’s part of the fun of Turtles, Huh? (iPhone/iPad app; $1.99) . You have to figure out how to play each game! For example, the first game requires the player to tap to flip as many turtles as possible in the allotted time. At first, tapping each turtle once is sufficient, however the player soon learns that certain turtles must be tapped two or three times. Eventually the player realizes that the design on the shell indicates how many times to tap each turtle. A score of A, B, C, D, E or F is earned at the end of each game.

But does this incredibly addictive 5-star rated app with over 3,000 reviews have any therapeutic value? We think so!

“Turtles, Huh?” promotes finger isolation, visual-motor integration and cognitive flexibility.

  • Finger isolation: The player must isolate the index finger and move it rapidly to complete each game.
  • Visual motor integration: The player often must use the eyes to guide the finger to tap a constantly moving turtle.
  • Cognitive flexibility: The constantly changing game rules challenge the player’s ability to switch between modes of thought, an important component of executive functioning. Turtles, Huh? Requires the player to adjust thinking and attention in response to changing goals from game to game and within each game. This mimics the skills that children need in order to enter ongoing play with peers, by figuring out the rules of the game and how to smoothly insert oneself into the fray.

Who is it for?

  • Ages 8 – 120

Our Suggestions:

  • When using the games to promote cognitive flexibility make sure to grade the task to meet the player’s level. You can give the player the initial rule for each game and give hints as new rules are added within the game. Try proving hints such as, “look at the design on the shell.”
  • Some children are perfectionists and may get frustrated easily. Reassure your child that it takes a lot of practice even for adults to get an “A.”

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/turtles-huh/id542661154?mt=8

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2013 and is filed under What's App Wednesday.

Whats App Wednesday: Improve visual perception with Spot the Dot

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Who is it for?

Toddlers and preschoolers

How to Play:

In Spot the Dot (iPad app; $3.99) based on David A. Carter’s book, the player finds a colored dot hidden on each page. On each page the dot is hidden in a different and slightly more challenging way. Each page requires the player to engage in a new activity to find the dot. For example, on one page the player uses a finger to move a spotlight around a dark screen until they find the correct dot. On another page the player flips cards over to find the dot.

What skills does it improve? 

“Spot the Dot” promotes many of the components of visual perception including: visual attention, visual scanning, figure ground discrimination, visual memory and visual closure.

  • Visual Attention: Each page requires the player to visually attend. As the tasks become increasingly challenging, for example, the shapes move, the player must visually attend for longer periods of time.
  • Visual Scanning: Every challenge requires the player to scan the page with the eyes in order to locate the colored dot. Pages that are more densely populated with shapes challenge visual scanning.
  • Figure Ground Discrimination: Many activities require the player to find the dot hidden among other forms.
  • Visual Memory: Some tasks, such as the card-flipping page, require the player to recall a form.
  • Visual Closure: On one page the player must construct the dot from broken pieces, requiring the player to determine the whole from parts of the form.

Why we love it!

  • The app is fast-paced, visually stimulating and engaging
  • Auditory feedback is provided for correct and incorrect choices
  • Each time the game is played the location of the dot changes on each page, so the game cannot be memorized

*Note: Some pages are very challenging. Those that challenge visual-perceptual speed (e.g., cards flip over quickly) may put some children under too much pressure

https://itunes.apple.com/app/spot-the-dot/id436198140?mt=8

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2013 and is filed under Uncategorized, What's App Wednesday.

What’s App Wednedsday: ChoiceBoard Creator

Friday, July 12th, 2013

What is a Choice Board?

ChoiceBoard Creator (FREE, iPad app) is a tool for creating choice boards. Choice boards are visual organizers made up of squares that contain pictures or words of a variety of options (the app allows 1-6 choices). Options can be an activity choice or the answer to a question (e.g. “where is the dog?” or “what do you want for breakfast?”). Children choose one or more correct answers or activities to complete.

Who will benefit?

  • Children with Autism or any child who has communication challenges and benefit from alternative communication
  • Children who benefit from visual cues for learning
  • *Although the app is frequently used for educating children in the classroom, it works great for enabling children to make any kind of choice.

Our Tips & Recommendations:

  • Promote making a choice!
    • Use choice boards at mealtimes, play time, or any other times in which a choice is available
    • Start by providing only 2-3 choices and slowly increase the number of presented choices children are better able to discriminate choices, visually scan and sequence
    • When using the app to promote making a choice, make sure that all options are appropriate to choose
  • Build skills!
    • Organize choice boards so that children are required to choose options that focus on several different skills or on the components of a particular skill

How to use the app:

  1. Press the “Create Activity” button
  2. Tap “New Activity” and enter the activity name
  3. Select number of boxes per page. These are the number of choices your child will have
  4. Tap on each box to download images from your camera roll or type in words
  5. Tap on musical note to download reward sound clips. Use the audio option as positive reinforcement for a “correct” response, or turn it off if no one choice is correct or incorrect
  6. Tap on check marks set “correct” boxes, if there is a correct answer
  7. Press “save activity”

Click here to see a video tutorial: http://vimeo.com/28280082#

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/choiceboard-creator/id453988580?mt=8

Submitted by: Ariela Harcsztark OTR/L

This entry was posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, The Special Needs Child, What's App Wednesday.

What’s App Wednesday: MetroTimer

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

What is it?

MetroTimer (iPhone/iPad app; Free) is a digital metronome. A metronome is used to keep a steady beat and typically used by musicians to help improve rhythm, timing and speed. This metronome can be set to a speed ranging from 40 bpm (beats-per-minute) to 208 bpm. There are eight options of metronome sounds and a flashing light (optional) accompanies the sound of the beat.

What can a metronome help my child achieve?

What are some metronome activities to try?

Pick a specific speed between 40 and 60 bpm. Check with your occupational therapist first to determine what speed is the most appropriate for your child.

Try doing the following activities “to the beat”:

  • Clap both hands
  • Tap your shoulders or knees
  • March in place
  • Hit a target on the wall with one or both hands
  • Hit a target on the floor with one or both feet

To increase the challenge, choose activities that require crossing the midline of the body:

  • “Cross Crawl”: Alternate touching your right hand to your left knee and your left hand to your right knee
  • Hand games such as “Miss Mary Mac.”
  • Sit back to back and pass a ball to each other by rotating from side to side

Get as silly as possible to keep your child engaged and encourage creativity:

  • Stick your tongue out to the beat
  • Make animal noises to the beat
  • Move like different animals
  • Lie on your back and move your feet in the air

 

For more information on digital metronome check out http://www.potsot.com/stick-to-the-beat.html

 

Submitted by:  Ariela Warburg Harcsztark, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013 and is filed under Boost Gross Motor Coordination & Rhythmicity, What's App Wednesday.