Monday, May 28, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Numbers Addict Free

Numbers Addict App
Numbers Addict Free app in iTunes

What it is: A simple matching and adding game that could not be more fun (or addicting for that matter). It's reminiscent of Tetris, where balls with numbers (each number has its own color so it's easier to recognize) are stacked along a grid of 5 columns, 8 rows. You can see the next 3 balls that need to be stacked (see screen shot below).

There are 3 difficulty levels, and the "easy" one has no time limit: the balls don't drop until you place them, but a new row of balls appears at the bottom every few rounds. You have to match by number to pop them (remove them from the grid), and you need that number of balls to pop them. So you need two 2's, three 3's, four 4's, etc. to clear them. The first levels start with 1-5, and after a few completed levels you get the 6, then the 7, up to 9. You can also move two balls together to create a ball of the sum: if you move the "2" to the "1", it becomes a light blue "3" ball. The sum has to be within the limit of the highest number on that level (so on a level where you only have 1-5, you cannot make a 6 or above). You're scored by total number popped, so six 6's will give you a higher score than two 2's. There's also a paid ad-free version of this game.
Screen Shot Level 1

How we can use it in Tx: Assume you will only use the "easy" relaxed level that has no time limit, and most likely only the first few rounds of it (where you don't have to match anything above a 5). And let the pt play this game (preferably on a larger device like an iPad). Cue as needed, depending on your goals. In the specific examples section below I make some suggestions.

Goals we can target with this app: Attention and focus, following directions, math, problem-solving, scanning, sequencing, and sorting are the main ones.

Specific examples:

1. If you want to target sorting and/or visual neglect and scanning, direct the pt to sort the numbers in adjoining columns (so only put the 1's in the first column, the 2's in the second, and the 3's in the third... etc.). For added complexity ask the pt to predict when a column will get cleared (e.g., when you add the 4th "4" ball to its stack).

2. To target higher level reasoning and math, for higher functioning pts, make the game's goal to add together as many balls as possible (e.g., drag the middle "4" to the "1" below it in the screen shot to create a "5") to direct attention to the more complex possibilities within the game playing than just matching numbers and colors.

3. For a cool scanning and problem solving task ask the pt to fill up the grid with balls allowing as few as possible to pop. It's not possible to control this altogether because every few balls that are placed a new line of balls appears from below, and some of those may create a match. But the pt's task would be to go for the lowest score possible by placing the balls under their control in a way that doesn't allow two 2's or three 3's, etc. This would be a scanning-intensive task.

4. Brain-training: this is also a great app in general for exercising one's multitasking, math, problem solving, reflexes, planning ahead, prioritizing, attention and focus skills.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neuroplsticity and Brain Training

This is a short post, not about specific apps, but all of them in general. Sort of an added goal for this blog.

Sites such as Lumosity are becoming popular with the general population for training their brain and enhancing attention and memory performance, as well as focus, organization, problem-solving, learning new things, etc. These sites and apps are based on research into neuroplsticity, and boast success stories from customers about their improved cognitive skills since starting the "workouts". As such, I decided to go back and re-tag my older posts where I discuss apps that could be used for this kind of brain training (tagging them as "brain-training") and adding a note to the "examples" section at the bottom for each app that could be useful for the purpose of enhancing cognitive function in normal adults. Whatever "normal" means...

I also went back and tagged apps relevant to brain-training with this icon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Match Panic

Match Panic app
Match Panic app in iTunes (was free for a while, now $1.99)

What it is: It is a matching game, where various tiles queue up in the middle of the screen, and you tap the right or the left to match them. Each level starts with just two tile images (see screen image #1), and every two levels or so one more is added at some point in the level (see screen image #2). It is timed, so if you don't finish a level in 30 seconds, you get a score but you don't move up to the next level (that is the only consequence). If a tile is matched to the wrong side, it turns into a sad face for a second (and costs a second of your allotted time).

Screen image #1
There's powerups too, which may add or reduce complexity of the task as they may affect the queue, e.g., by turning all visible tiles to the same shape, or "blowing up" the next few tiles in the queue, reducing the number of total tiles to be matched for that level. Powerups are a reward for a high scoring round, so a slow player isn't going to encounter this complication often. Don't let the "panic" in the app's name fool you: it's only panicky if you are gung ho about moving up levels and matching quickly. If you're playing the game in a more casual manner, there's nothing in particular that rushes you (other than the fact that the timer may run out before the level is finished, but if your goal is to play one level, no big).

Screen image #2
How we can use it in Tx: Pretty much assume you will only use the first 1-4 levels of this game, although there's nothing specific you have to do to select this. Just keep the goals simple. Turn off the sound so there's no "countdown" sound at the end of a level, and trust me, the music is super annoying anyway. It is designed to make the game feel more urgent (gives it that "panicky" flare) so it's best avoided.

This type of visual matching to right/left is a fairly good exercise for lateral neglect issues. This task is very similar to some divided attention activities that involve canceling a specific word or letter from a pageful of words/letters. Following directions is built-in, and memory plays a role as matching is easiest if one remembers the tiles on each side instead of having to compare each tile. As the number of tile shapes increases, so does the complexity of each of these tasks, including memory.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Following directions, sequencing, sorting, focus/attention, divided attention, scanning, visual neglect, and of course memory. This is also a great app for brain-training for the general population.

Some specific examples: Although this is a simple one-dimensional activity, I think it can be used in a variety of ways for different fxn levels and goals. Here are some examples.

1. For a slow, focused approach, possibly for a lower-fxn pt, prioritize accuracy of matching rather than total tiles matched, and ask the pt to take their time but send the fewest possible tiles to the wrong side. Let the progress be as slow as it needs to be, and set as goal for the task a limited number of tiles (10 or 20, for example). Have the pt count out each tile that is matched, and keep track of how many were initially matched incorrectly (then you can calculate % accuracy easily).

2. For a more advanced pt you can prioritize overall completion: Don't count how many were matched incorrectly (although that will play a role as each incorrect match reduces the level's time) and ask the pt to go through as much of the queue as possible in the allotted time. Calculate accuracy by points scored (since it's difficult to calculate percent of queue completed--you only see a piece of the queue at a time with no hint as to how much of it is still to come; if they ever add a % completed counter to this game it would be even better for Tx).

3. For visual neglect goals prioritize the neglected side, and ask the pt to say out loud the tile on that side each time it is encountered. So for example, focusing on the left side of the level in Screen image #1, each time a cactus is encountered have the pt say "cactus" before touching the left side. That way, not only is matching required on the weaker side, but it's also emphasized verbally.

4. Brain-training: This app is also great for normally (or close to normally) functioning individuals who want to get some cognitive training. This kind of thing is now popular with sites such as Lumosity, with more popping up. Everyone wants a piece of this neuroplasticity performance training. And if you feel the need for brain training, an app like this matching one will certainly do the trick as an attention-enhancing activity much like those offered on the paid "brain training" sites.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dropbox Free App for Any Device

Dropbox free app
Free app for your iOS devices via iTunes, Android device via Android Market, Kindle from Amazon App store, Nook from Barnes & Noble, and your computer or mobile device (including Windows, Mac, Linux and Blackberry) from

What it is: Dropbox is cloud storage. That means your files sit on a server accessible to you from your computer, phone and other devices via the Dropbox software or the web (you can just as easily view and manage your Dropbox files using a web browser by going to and signing in). Anyone who signs up gets free 2GB of space, and it's expandable up to 18GB via referrals (500MB per referral). If you create an account using a referral (for example, using this link which would be a referral from me: Get Dropbox) you get an extra 500MB free, as does the referring party. You can also have a paid account, starting with 50GB for $10/month (& a lot more per referral). I think most users find the free account sufficient (you can have more than one account if you need, but you can only link one account at a time to a device or computer; you can access as many accounts as you want if you're using a web browser). Your files are password protected and safe. You can also share specific files or folders with other Dropbox users, or make them public to share on the web (or via, say, Facebook).

Why would you need cloud storage? Here are my main uses for it:
1. Backing up files
2. Archiving files
3. Sharing files
4. Accessing files

I use it to backup up files quickly (in case something happens to my computer), archive files off my phone (e.g., photos if want to remove them from the phone but don't want to delete them and haven't had a chance to copy them to my PC yet), share files with others, and most importantly, make some of my files accessible to myself at any time from anywhere.

One of the beautiful things about Dropbox is its amazing integration into a variety of applications for Android and Apple devices. There are a ton of 3rd party applications that include export to or save to Dropbox options.

There's also a ton of 3rd party programs that integrate with Dropbox and let you CREATE, EDIT, export as PDFs, and EMAIL your Dropbox files. It's like having a portable hard drive that you can access from anywhere without having to actually port it.

How is it relevant to ST? While this app is not involved in any direct Tx, it is where I keep a backup of all my materials; if I do need to print a worksheet, I can access these files from any web browser and print to an attached computer. I don't have to plug in a flash drive or configure printing from my device. As long as there is a computer attached to a printer, and it has a web browser, I can log in to my Dropbox account, print any file, and log out.

In a previous post I described how I carry all my materials using a Nook Tablet, and that I have a copy of all these materials on Dropbox (here's a link to that post: Device: Nook Tablet). It's one of the fastest ways to get my documents into a device like Nook, iPad or a smartphone. Between the device I carry that is loaded with the PDFs I use in treatment, and nearly universal access to my materials via Dropbox, I have ALL of my resources at my fingertips.

Examples: There's not really specific examples of how I use this in Tx because this is about access to all my materials. But here are some examples of where I've benefited from having all my materials on Dropbox:

1. In one of my facilities, the only way to print is via the tech's laptop, and she's the only one with access to it. So when I need something I access Dropbox via my iPhone app, find the files I need and email them to the tech. This creates minimum interruption in the tech's work flow to get my materials printed.

2. I like to have all my materials on my Nook. I had made an updated document for a cogn eval I was using, and saved it to the folder where I keep these resources on my PC--a Dropbox folder. I forgot to hook my tablet up to the PC to transfer the file, and needed it at work the following day. Logged into dropbox in a room that has wifi, and copied to my local files on the Nook. Ready to use in pt's rooms (where there's no access to wifi).

3. I needed some materials printed, and the only computer attached to printer at one of my facilities is really old, slow, and its USB port is broken. But it has a browser, so I logged into Dropbox using the browser, and printed my files. Even if I could have used my flashdrive (which I also carry everywhere; I'm a bit OCD) it would have taken longer. But as such, I don't really need my flashdrive or have to worry about keeping its files synched.

4. I have a folder on Dropbox I share with other SLPs, and we use it as a convenient way to share resources with each other.

Well, you get the picture. No matter what device you use if any, if you have files on Dropbox, you can always access them from any computer or device with internet connection.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Spot Venture

Spot Venture app
Spot Venture from iTunes (free for a while)

What it is: A spot the difference game that is pretty straight forward and doable (unlike some that are so confusing they aren't even fun). You get 2 minutes per level, which is a lot of time to spot 5 differences for a regular player, but may not be quite enough time for a cogn pt (see ideas to get around that below). The nice thing is that the drawings are really clear and the differences are definitely visible to the naked eye (again, unlike some other spot the difference games I've seen for the iPad).

How we can use it in Tx: Obviously, play the spot-the-difference game. If your pt is able to, let them play the game as is, with the 2 minute limit on each level. If they need cues, figure out how much cuing you want to provide (see specific examples below). If they need extra, or unlimited, time, you can take a screenshot of the level at the start (with no differences found or circled yet) and use the screenshot in a photo annotating app to circle the differences. You can print them out too if you want (by emailing the screenshot to yourself).

Screen image #1: simple easy to see differences
This game has an additional task on every level, and some of these tasks include a useful "divided attention" aspect. See for example the screen image of the level with balloons (below, screen image #2). The task on this level is to find the 5 differences, as always, but also to pop the balloons as they come up on the right screen of the game. The balloons come out fairly slowly: I captured one of the few times that two balloons were on the screen at the same time; mostly it's one at a time with a delay, so it's not like a fast-paced balloon-popping game. This makes the player have to look for differences while periodically clearing the screen of balloons, and if any balloons are missed it doesn't affect the game playing (possibly the score, but nothing else). Perfect for focus-related goals.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Memory, visual field neglect and scanning, attention/focus and following directions come to mind. Some reasoning is involved, but this is more about visual tasks than solving problems.

Screen image #2: divided attention with balloons
Some specific examples:

1. For a higher fxn level pt who is able play the game within the 2 minute limit per levels, decide on how much cuing to provide. For example, I often ask the pt to find the first 2 differences independently, and then provide assistance (direction or hints) for the rest.

2. For a pt that needs extra time, use a screenshot of each level in a photo annotating app and circle the differences as you find them without a time limit. Don't forget to set your screen timeout to something long like 5 minutes so the screen doesn't go dark mid-task. For an added delayed-memory component, after finding the differences on the screenshot, go back to the game itself, and mark them within the game (this time going mostly from memory of having just found them). Then move up a level, take a new screenshot, and repeat.

3.  You can also print the screenshot (if you don't have a compatible printer, which most of us don't, you can just email yourself the screenshot and print anywhere, on BW or color printer). It takes a little more advanced planning, but it's just as good if you'd prefer to use a paper version for this task. In that case, you'll just be using the app as a source for spot-the-diff images.

4. For a pt with visual field neglect specify which side to mark the found differences on (both sides must be compared, which is good for this goal, but if you want to draw attention to a specific side then suggest that is the one where differences are to be marked; either side will work for marking differences within the app). You may also choose to alternate which side is marked as you go up levels.

In summary, there's not a lot more to this. It's a spot-the-difference task. Such tasks in workbooks are often drawn as cartoons (rather than photographs) so the cartoon quality of this app does not stand out as abnormal for this task aimed at adult populations. It's something that can be done in a lot of ways that does not involve an ipad, but it is extra fun and in some ways quicker as well as more versatile on the pad.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

iPad/iPhone app: Word Cracker (free for a while)

Word Cracker app
iPhone/iPad app: Word Cracker in iTunes (free for a while)

What it is: A word game where you are presented with (mostly) common words with missing vowels, which you have to fill in. In terms of game options, there are 3 settings that affect difficulty level: First, there's a choice of how much information is missing from the target words: you can have the words presented without spaces (e.g., "VWLS" for VOWELS), and you have to figure out which vowels to put and where, or you can go a level easier by having the word presented with blanks where the vowels go (e.g., "V_W_LS" for VOWELS), and all you have to do is figure out which vowels to insert. Second, and a nice benefit for Tx purposes, you can control how much time is given for each round: in minutes the choices are 1, 3, 5 or infinite, which is equivalent to untimed. Third, there are 3 levels of word difficulty: easy, hard or random. There's also a multi-player option, but that's less interesting for us

To play the game, you are presented with the vowel-less word, and the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) below it, and you drag the vowels into the appropriate spaces in the word. As far as I can tell, when there's more than one vowel option to form a word, the game will accept any of possible vowels. You can also "pass" turns if a word is too difficult, which is nice. And if you submit an incorrectly spelled word, you lose some points but you can continue the game nevertheless. Easy levels, ability to pass, un-timed option and "redos" are what make this word game especially useful for Tx purposes.

Screenshot of game
How we can use it in Tx: Simple answer to this: play the game with your patient. Decide how much cuing to provide (e.g., word definition or example of use), and which words to pass if they are too difficult. But be aware that the easy level of this game is still not that easy (it certainly doesn't qualify as an easy level language task). You can reduce difficulty by inserting all vowels but one in each word, and letting your pt figure out the last vowel only (and pass difficult words).

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Apraxia, and other language goals. Some reasoning and sequencing is involved in playing this game, but mostly it's about accessing language information and recognizing the words. Surprisingly, I cannot think of a useful way to address memory goals with this app (if you look at my previous posts, you'll see that I can almost always think of memory-related applications to any task) but give me time...

Some specific examples:

1. The most obvious use for language goals is to play the game, at whatever difficulty level is most beneficial to pt, and choosing the amount of cuing to provide. If you need to make the game easier than the easy level with vowel locations marked by blanks, you can add all the vowels but one (in most cases the words have at least 2 missing vowels). You can further reduce the difficulty by narrowing the choice down to just two vowels (e.g., for the word in the screenshot above "str_ng_" add the final "e", and then ask the pt if it's missing an "a" or an "o"; and if needed you can use the two choices and ask "is 'strange' a word or is 'stronge" a word?"). Additional cues can be added with descriptions or definitions. If you want to up the difficulty a little (not so much as to move the word difficulty to "hard" or "random") you can let the pt fill in the vowels and then ask them to provide a definition and/or have them use the word in a sentence. Basically start with what the game provides, and add cues or additional tasks as needed for each pt's goals.

2. For lowest-level language goals, a good task is to work on text/word recognition. Set the game to easy level with no time limit and showing blanks, and pass any words that seem too difficult (here's an easy way to determine: if you couldn't tell what the word is at first glance, it may be too hard for a low-level lang goal pt). Add all but one vowel, and then that last one--fill in with the correct or the wrong vowel and ask the pt if it's a word or not. Determine accuracy based on how many correct words are recognized as such, and how many incorrect words are recognized as non-words.

3. Apraxia goals (this is what I've used it for, with very good results): just play the game at whatever level is appropriate for your patient. Play it together, so if the pt can't figure out the more complex words, help (I cue with either a definition or description at first, but then I'll say the actual word if my pt needs it--this particular pt still needs to see the word written and also benefits from hearing it spoken to attempt to produce it). I have the pt figure out the vowels by saying the word (giving the answer to the puzzle verbally) and then I move the vowels into position (my pt does not have use of his dominant hand or the dexterity in his other hand to grab the vowels on the screen). Once the vowels are in place I have the pt repeat the word again. So we use this game to access higher level language as well as for spoken language practice. I find that my pt is able to produce words with complex consonant clusters that are normally much more difficult for him because attention is on solving the puzzle instead of on how hard it is to produce the sounds. This has been a great find for treatment with the apraxia pt!