Sunday, September 22, 2013

iOS app: Missing Link

Missing Link App
Missing Link on iTunes (free)

What it is: A puzzle where 3 words are presented with missing letters, and solving the puzzle requires filling in the blanks to find these words. The main clue you get is that in all 3 words the same string of letters is missing.

There are 3 difficulty levels: easy, medium and hard. At easy level there's usually 2 letters missing (see Screen Shot 1), 3 at medium level, and at hard level there's shorter words with 3 blanks, so a larger part of the word is obscured.

Screen Shot 1: Easy Level
The layout is clean enough, even with the ads that pop up at the top in the free version. It resembles
an old-style typewriter (with sounds to match) and is obviously directed at adult populations.

How we can use it in Tx: As far as language goals go, even at simple level this is not the easiest game because the target words aren't the most common. As such, I would use this app for the higher functioning language client, stick to the simplest level and provide a lot of cues.

As far as reasoning goals go, the directions are simple (find 2 letters that would complete all 3 words) and yet not automatically familiar (there's not a lot of games/puzzles like this) so you have a chance to work on direction-following, and on recall of directions from one puzzle to the next. In this context, you can work with mod impaired clients as long as they don't have comorbid symbolic dysfunction.

Cuing could involve recognizing letter/sound combinations in English (e.g., if you have a verb like "keel" in screen shot 1, followed by blank-blank-g, familiarity with English should make one think of the "-ing" ending); or cuing could involve clues towards guessing the words themselves (e.g., "what's another word for 'airplane'?"). You can enter letters (even wrong ones) and ask the client whether they recognize each entry as a word. Word-recognition is an important aspect of symbolic dysfunction, although normally I'd choose simpler and shorter words for such a task unless the client was pretty high functioning.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Language goals involving reading, word-finding, symbolic dysfunction and intelligibility (see example 3 below); memory/recall goals related to direction following and sequencing, as well as reasoning goals.

Some specific examples:

1. Higher functioning client with language goals, you can solve the puzzle providing cues as needed (start with sound/letter familiarity cues as discussed above, then add word definition hints if needed). Once solved request client form a sentence with each word, followed by one sentence using all 3 (it can be silly, as long as it's grammatically correct).

2. For client with language goal, after solving the 3 words, have them make a list of 3-5 additional words that contain the string of letters missing from the current puzzle.

3. For a client with intelligibility goals, the simple level puzzles in this app provide great practice word lists since they are mostly 2 or more syllables long. So, solve the puzzle for fun, then use the words for intelligibility strategies practice, and to make sentences (silly sentences are really great for intelligibility practice because they lack context and thus have greater dependency on each word being heard and understood).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Android, Windows and iOS app: 4 Pics 1 Word

4 Pics 1 Word App
4 Pics 1 Word for Windows RT, for Android devices on Google Play, and for iOS devices from iTunes (all are free at this time). Also available for Nook from Barnes and Noble, and for Kindle from Amazon (these cost $0.99, and possibly are from a different developer).

What it is: A simple puzzle that presents 4 pictures that have one word in common, and you have to guess what that word is. See screen shot below where the target word is "sweet".

The gameplay is simple. Just start it and it presents 4 pictures on the screen (beautiful and high resolution), 12 letters, and blanks for each letter of the target word. Figure out what word the 4 pictures have in common and fill in the answer. You can turn off the sound if you want (although it's not annoying, just sound effects for when you select letters) and you can turn off the notifications re "buying" hints and such. As you progress through the puzzle, you win "coins" with each correct answer, and then you can purchase hints with these coins. Players can also buy these "coins" via in-app purchase.

How we can use it in Tx: Solve the puzzles with your client, providing cues as needed. You can talk about each picture of the 4 presented per puzzle, ask questions and elicit replies. In many cases the target word has more than one meaning (e.g., "sign" where it could be a noun or a verb) which provides context for some great language intervention. Solving the puzzles is great, but the path to solving each puzzles provides context for some useful interaction.

The main problem with this app is that you can't go back to puzzles you've solved (unless you remove the app and reinstall it, presumably). The puzzles do get progressively more difficult but very gradually and not by much. It's not optimal but for now you can use it until it's too difficult for your population, then reinstall and start from the beginning. And hopefully down the road, there will be a setting to go back to solved puzzles/restart the progress. On the other hand, it's free so expectations for greater customization are rather low.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Language goals that involve word-finding and naming are addressed rather straightforwardly, but there's also good use of repetition and Q/A that can be useful in addressing apraxia and dysarthria goals. Describing and discussing the 4 pictures presents a great opportunity to practice verbal expression. Reasoning is addressed with solving the puzzles, and focus/attention can be addressed as well (presenting 4 different pictures to solve for one word would require some cuing for focus for quite a few of my current clients). A client with lateral neglect may benefit from having to give equal attention to all 4 pictures to solve the puzzle. And you can always address memory goals with recall of pictures.

Some specific examples: Just a couple of examples of the less straightforward uses of the puzzle.

1. Memory goals: after discussing each of the 4 pictures and, hopefully, solving the puzzle, turn off the device and recall the 4 images. Start by cuing with the common word, then provide additional cues as needed.

2. Homographs/homonyms: address the various meanings of the target words as they come up in the puzzle. Since it will be as part of the puzzle-solving activity, and since the differing meanings of the words are in most cases what make the puzzle (e.g., in the screen shot above the actual taste of something vs. a synonym for "cute"), you'll have a great opportunity for this type of activity in  context (rather than a rote list of words as part of a structured task).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

iPad app: Move & Match

Move & Match App
Move & Match app on iTunes (US $1.99)

What it is: Listed in the "Education" category, this app lets you create elements on a background and move them around freely. Elements can only be rectangular, but they can hold photos/pictures or words, they can be custom sized (as can the text within), they have a variety of background colors, and they can be cloned. If this description doesn't do much for your imagination, look at the screen images of examples I threw together really quickly (or look at the developers' examples of uses in iTunes via the link above).

Within the app you make a project file for each exercise that you create, and hence can build yourself a nice database of go-to tasks for a variety of goals. The developers also have a selection of pre-created projects that you can download off Dropbox directly into the app and use (this is accessible via the "i" information screen within the app).

Screen Image 1: Closed paragraph
How we can use it in Tx: This app allows easy creation of a host of closed-exercises that require either filling in the blank from provided choices (like in Screen Image 1), multiple choice answers, any kind of matching, or word/sentence building. For cogn goals you can create sequencing and sorting tasks. If you take the time you can build some useful visuospatial/executive function tasks such as completing a pattern or an analogy (you'd need to create some images externally--via an image editor and then get the pictures on your iPad first). I discuss some of these suggestions in the "specific examples" section below. But really, the possibilities are endless... just about anything you do with worksheets that involves multiple choice can be replicated and expanded on using this app!

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Language and word finding goals through a variety of fill-in-blank, closed paragraph, matching, word/sentence building or multiple choice tasks. Higher level cogn goals like planning, sequencing and reasoning. Sequencing and sorting either words, numbers or images (e.g., photographs of various stages of some activity, just like photo sorting cards but all in one screen). You can make simple math problems with multiple choice answers (there's actually a few of these ready-made and freely available from the developers already). You can create a background monthly calendar with fill-in elements to work on orientation and recall.

Screen Image 2: Sequencing photos and/or text
Some specific examples:

1. Sequencing/sorting: As I mention above, you can take photos of various stages of an activity (e.g., doing laundry, heating up a pizza, making ice cubes, etc.). You can import pictures from your album which means you can use your camera or do image searches online, save them to album, and use them from album. Once you have enough steps to sequence you just let the client move them around into the correct order. You can also make text elements to sort or sequence (e.g., months, numbers, days of the week, or steps of an activity listed in text instead of as photos). See Screen Image 2 of a quick and dirty example where I use photos I took for another app I reviewed recently, but also added text that can be moved and reordered.

2. For language goals you can create just about any matching exercise you can come up with. Antonyms, synonyms, definitions, pictures of items and their names... etc.

Screen Image 3: Categorizing text and/or images
3. Categorizing task: create a few headings (e.g., furniture, food, countries, etc.) and a bunch of words or images that fit in each of these and have your client drag the words around to place them under the appropriate category name. See Screen Image 3 for a quick and dirty example I made for this task. The images I just downloaded after a very quick google search, and, you can see at the bottom of the screen the elements waiting to be sorted.

4. Scanning activity: create a whole bunch of elements (icons or words or letters or numbers or even just squares with colors) and direct your client to find (and, for example, move to a specific side of the screen) all the elements that fit some set of criteria (e.g., all the blue squares, or all the blue squares with "r").

Screen Image 4: Calendar
5. Orientation/recall: use an image of a calendar (in my example in Screen Image 4 I used a weekly view of the iPad Calendar that was blank) and add some elements that can be moved around (visitors, routines like therapy and meals, etc.). Work on today, or recall yesterday. I like the weekly view for this because it has all this room to hold the collection of elements while the client decides if to use them and where to put them in the daily list.

There's just too many things you can do with this app to list them all... Since these projects can be saved and shared, maybe if there's enough SLPs using this app we can have our own section on the developer's Dropbox down the road... or find some other way to share amongst ourselves. I know I plan to create a whole load of projects in this app, and although some may take great time and effort, I know I'll use them a lot.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

iPad app: Kokako 123 Audio and Visual Training

Kokako 123 App
Kokako 123 Audio and Visual Training app on iTunes (free)

What it is: Described as a game to "help auditory/visual training". This app's description on iTunes specifies that it is not intended to replace therapy, but to go hand in hand with it by providing repetitive practice to enhance skills. It definitely is targeted at children, but manageably so.

The game only does one thing: it gives a series of cards with numbers one at a time (see screen image 1) and asks the user to repeat them by using the keypad to enter each number below its card. One of the best things about it is that the user can choose what order to put the numbers in (same order they were presented from left to right, or backwards from right to left, or random).

Screen Image 1
Settings for this game include choices for how many cards will be presented (from 1 to 8; the example in the screen shots has 4 cards), and for how to present the cards (visually by flipping them over, auditory presentation where you can choose one of two male voices, or both visual and auditory). There is also a setting for how much time to space in ms between cards as they are presented.

Screen Image 2
Once user puts in the sequence and presses "go" feedback re accuracy is presented. As you can see in screen image 2, feedback includes which cards were correct, how long the turn took, and a count of how many turns were correct (screen shot 2 says "0" because not all 4 numbers were correct).

The themes are rather childish (you can choose car, flower or star; I have it set to the least annoying star) and there's a happy or sad star that comes up at the end of each turn. Not overwhelming, but nevertheless, it's there.

How we can use it in Tx: Set the activity to fit your client's needs in terms of how many numbers to remember (start with 3, and increase complexity to 4, 5 or even 6 if you think it's appropriate for your client's level).

Depending on the goals decide if you want the target number list presented orally or visually, and how fast. Maybe you'd like to have the client repeat each number as it is presented? That's a good memory strategy, and if you decide to go that path you may want to put in a longer delay between cards. Then have the client either tell you the sequence to enter or, if they have the dexterity, have them enter the numbers using the keypad.

What's nice is that you can also use this as a memory/mental manipulation activity and ask for the sequence backwards (since you can enter the answer in any order you want). You could also ask for the number sequence to be repeated in ascending or descending order. If you have the capability, you can enter the numbers in their correct spots; otherwise you can just enter the numbers in ascending or descending order and not worry about the game telling you the answer is incorrect--since it will flip the cards over at the end you'll be able to check accuracy that all numbers were recalled.

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: You can customize the settings and activity to target memory, immediate recall, spaced recall, working memory, attention,  and visual & auditory processing to a lesser extent.

Some specific examples:

The memory and attention activities are limited to numbers which is rather rote, so you don't want to spend too much time doing only this activity, but it can be useful for a short task or two.

1. As I mention above, if you want to work on memory and mental manipulation you can ask for the sequence of numbers to be given backwards or in ascending or descending order. If you ask for the numbers in reverse order, you can just enter them in reverse order and let the app tell you how accurate you were. If you do ascending or descending, you can just ignore the app's feedback on accuracy (since the game expects the numbers to be entered in their correct spots, not just be the correct ones) and judge for yourself when the cards are turned over whether all the numbers presented are accounted for. Should be just as effective and simple enough (except for the frowny star that will show up).

2. For spaced retrieval: you would think that you'd be able to use the running timer on the screen during the turn to space out input from output, but in fact this timer doesn't run during the turn--it merely returns the total time it took once the turn is over (and "go" is pressed). So you'll need your own watch/timer to space out this task. But otherwise, it's doable (although frankly, I'm not a fan of doing context-free numbers in this sort of activity).

3. If you are not working on mental manipulation that involves returning the numbers in a specific sequence, you can--like advised in #1 above--just ignore the accuracy of the order of the replies, and focus only on whether the client remembered all the items on the list. Again, you would not use the game's accuracy feedback for this and just keep track of it separately.

4. Brain-training: for the regular (not rehab-patient) population, this game can provide great training for memory and focus. Since you can set the game to provide you with a sequence of up to 8 numbers, with very little delay between them, visual or read, you can really set the task up to challenge anyone's function. You can also make yourself give the numbers back in ascending or descending sequence while getting them in their correct slots. And you can motivate yourself to return the answer faster each time as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

iPad app: ScrapPad - Scrapbook for iPad (for sequencing)

ScrapPad App
ScrapPad - Scrapbook for iPad on iTunes (free!)

What it is: A sophisticated easy to use, and fun, scrapbooking application. It provides a variety of backgrounds, borders, embellishments and stickers (organized by themes like holidays, seasons, etc.). You can import images from your album (or take new ones from within the app with your camera), resize, move and rotate them however you want (except cropping--I didn't see that capability in the app; but there's native cropping in iOS already).

The app responds very smoothly to repositioning, rotating and resizing elements. You can work on the canvass with the tools at your ready or in full screen mode taking advantage of more space.

When you've made your creation you can email it, save (I'm assuming each page separately) to your album, share on FB, or send it to the app publishers to print (for a fee of course). They do not include the option to save your creation as PDF or some other format that can be read in iBooks, which is too bad for the scrapbooker, but not a big deal for our uses.

Screen Image 1
How we can use it in Tx: One obvious use for this app is to create family albums, logs, memory books and the like (much like what I wrote about in my review of My Story from 3/3/2012). I won't elaborate on that idea as it's fairly intuitive. My more interesting idea for this app though, is to use it for sequencing.

There's a few apps out there that are dedicated to sequencing tasks, where a user is presented with 3-6 step common tasks, with an image for each step, and asked to put the steps in sequence. I haven't seen any free apps for this, but here's a review from "Speaking of Apps" of a $4.99 app dedicated to sequencing called Making Sequences. It sounds great and the price tag is not too bad for a Tx-dedicated app. But it only comes with 15 sequences.

So here's what I did. I created my own sequence photos. For this review I very quickly made 2 sets of 3-step tasks (one making the bed, another folding laundry). I could have just as easily downloaded clipart. I put both of my tasks together to simulate what the screen would look like with a 6-step task (but if I was using each of these I'd have only the 3 steps of each task on the screen at a time).

I added all 6 photos to my scrapPad canvass, resized them for best fit and rotated them for proper aspect. I switched to full screen mode and basically created a space where the photos can smoothly be moved around as needed (see Screen Image 1). And there you have it: a sequence task. The reason it works so well is that (1) you can use the full screen so there's no dedicated sequencing app out there that can beat the real estate available for the task; and (2) the dragging/placing of the elements (the single photos) is so very smooth. They don't "snap to", but neither do photo cards you would use for this task if you didn't have an electronic version. There's also no music, no grading, no animation. It's just an improvement on the low-tech version in the sense that it's a lot easier to quickly make new sequences, and if you want, you can make them with images from the client's immediate environment.

Screen Image 2
One can make a page for each task, and create a "scrapbook" with as many sequencing tasks as they bother making with no limits. You can size the images to your liking (I wanted to make them as large as possible while still having enough room to move them around). You can also add titles to each page (if you want to add context; I like to ask my pts what the task is before they start sequencing, but some need the context to perform the task).

Just to show the full potential of this app (so well beyond what I'd use it for) here's a scrapbooked (albeit hideously... I'm not much for scrapbooking) version of my 6 pictures on the canvass with the tools open, and the "export" window open so you can see the options it comes with (Screen Image 2).

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Memory/STM and orientation goals (which I didn't discuss much but they are fairly obvious), focus and direction following, spatial reasoning if you want to do some actual scrap-booking tasks, and the one I suggest it for: sequencing and sorting.

Some specific examples:

1) For sequencing--the main use of this app I recommend--snap some photos of common daily activities, even specific activities of your client if you feel it's appropriate, import them into the app and size them so all steps of the sequenced task can fit, then move to full screen and let the client order the steps. Just as I describe above. There's really no end to the possibilities.

2) For sorting, download or snap photos of elements you can sort (items or animals that vary in size or number, people that vary in age, foods that vary in size or calories, whatever you can think of... just keep it clear) and create a task just like the sequencing one. Save these and over time you'll have a ton of fun sequencing and sorting activities in one place.

3) A fun STM task that allows for use of memory strategies is to create a page for a specific event or season (e.g., for Easter or a birthday). Create it with the pt, discussing the various elements you're putting in there and color decisions, etc.; make all decisions explicit and together. Then find some filler task you can do for 5-10min (whatever you think is appropriate) and return to this task: ask for recall of the creation you made together, and carefully use cues as needed to get as much recall as possible (cues can range from visual to discussing some of the decisions you made together, etc.).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

iOS/Android App: Counting Dots

Counting Dots App
Counting Dots on iTunes ($0.99)
There's also a version for Androids on Google Play (same price)

What it is: It is described as a colorful counting game for kids. The colors are vibrant but crisp and clean (if nobody told me it was for children, I'd just think of the layout as modern). Popping sounds and vibrations can be shut off as well. The task is one of counting, where you can count by 1's, 5's or 10's, and you can start with any number you choose (so if you start with "5" and count by 5's you'll get 5, 10, 15, 20, etc, just like in the screen image below; and if you start with "2" and count by 5's you'll get 2, 7, 12, 17, etc.).

A player is presented with dots in various colors and sizes with numbers on them, and the task is to select them in ascending order. The game playing happens in levels of increasing number of dots. First you're given one dot. When you clear that (by selecting the one dot) you are given 2 dots. When you clear those, you are presented with 3, and so on.

The background colors and dot colors are different each turn. The dots overlap, but the correct answer is always visible (though sometimes hidden by the previous answer). The sizes vary randomly (so 80 may be tiny and 85 large; but all fully legible and selectable). If you touch the wrong dot it shakes for a split second, nothing else happens. So there's no error reporting, there's no scoring and as far as I can tell, there's no end.

How we can use it in Tx: I'd shut off sounds and vibrations in the settings, and set the difficult appropriately for each client. Here's my opinion of settings ranging from easiest to most complex given the parameters of this app:

1. Starting with 1 or any number, and counting by 1's (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)
2. Counting by 10's, starting with 10 (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.)
3. Counting by 5's starting with 5 (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, etc.)
4. Counting by 10's starting with something other than 10, for example 3 (3, 13, 23, 33, etc.)
5. Counting by 5's starting with any number between 1 and 4, for example 2 (2, 7, 12, 17, etc.)

Using an iPad with its larger screen is probably best. Ask the patient to perform the task (select the dots in ascending order, with a greater number of dots presented each after the previous one is cleared). You can keep track of accuracy by counting errors (error stats, as I mention above, are not kept; but the incorrectly pressed dot does shake for a split second providing a quick but not distracting or discouraging visual of an error if a therapist is watching for it). Maybe stop the game either after a certain time limit (play it for 5 minutes, for example, and note how many levels have been achieved in that time) or after the pt seems to get stuck a lot (hits the wrong dot several turns in a row). Definitely try to stop before frustration sets in, but do try to get to a level that is challenging for your client.

Goals we can target with this app: Sequencing obviously, providing a range of difficulty levels for this task. Certainly math (on the simpler level, although you'd be surprised how challenging it can be to sort the dots in ascending order as you get into the higher numbers). Memory (STM, working-memory) are addressed: it is actually pretty challenging to remember where you are in the sequence once you've been playing for a while, especially with distraction of colors and sizes of the dots. Visual field neglect and scanning are incorporated as the dots are spread across the screen, and again, the colors and sizes can provide competing stim. And if there's competing stim, focus and attention play a role as well as direction following. I wouldn't spend too long on this task, but it's a nice 5 minute exercise that can address a number of goals.

Some specific examples (or in this case, rather, just notes):

1. If you are working on memory goals, then note the fluency with which the sequence is carried out. That is, to play this game smoothly the player must remember what number they are on. If, however, they forget, they can still carry the task out by scanning the screen and finding the smallest number to select. So it would be up to us to see which strategy is being used.

2. If you are working on visual neglect or scanning, note accuracy involving the weaker side compared to the stronger.

3. Patients with focus goals will probably be most distracted by size differences between the dots. You may also want to add another layer to the task, where if a smaller number has a larger circle your client must somehow acknowledge it (verbally, for example) which will provide a divided attention aspect to the exercise.

4. For a reasoning/problem-solving (and math) goal you could set up the starting number and intervals, and let the client start playing with the goal of figuring out what the sequence is counted by (1, 5, or 10). Difficulty levels for this type of exercise are similar to those listed above, although it is fairly limited in that respect.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

iPad App: A Memory Game

A Memory Game App
A Memory Game on iTunes (free)

What it is: Basic memory/concentration game where you start with 20 "face down" cards, and picking 2 at a time try to match pairs. When pairs are found, they are removed from the board. It is one of the few memory/concentration game apps I've found that is not targeted at children with cute pictures of animals and such. The images are crisp and clear and definitely favor adults. There's no distractions such as unnecessary animation. Very basic, very clean, and I can't believe it's free!

Screen image 1: playing with flags
You can play the game using flags or symbols. The first is flags of countries where the card shows both the flag and the name of the country (see screen image 1). Symbols are black and white simple images such as pencil, flower, airplane, etc. (see screen image 2); they are all very clear and easy to tell apart, but there is no text or color.

As you play the game keeps track of your tries and how many pairs have been cleared. At the end of a game you're presented with a message that tells you how many moves it took you to clear the board.

How we can use it in Tx: Obviously the way to use it is let your client play this game. I would consider the flags option as the more basic, easier, level. Flag images come with context: the name of the country is provided which gives a player something to hold on to in memory. There's also colors that help visually distinguish each card. The symbols option is definitely more complex as there is no text, and there are no colors. A player would have to name the image and hold on to just that word and location to continue matching.

Screen image 2: playing with symbols
The flag option provides you with plenty of opportunity not only for various cuing levels, but also to practice various memory strategies. As a card is opened the flag and country that is presented can be discussed. What do you know about that country? What continent is it in? Are you familiar with that region? Have you ever been there or wanted to go there? Did you recognize the flag? Do you like the colors of the particular flag? And references can be made to the location of the card itself (e.g., this country is a southern country, and hey, it's at the top of our board... it should have been at the bottom). OK, I'm reaching here, but my point is that this simple set of images presents us with lots of opportunities to model and practice memory strategies.

Goals we can target with this app: Memory (STM and to an extent working memory) obviously; certainly some scanning/visual field neglect. Focus/attention and following directions, as well as categorizing to an extent as part of flag/country discussion.

Some specific examples: I don't know that specific examples are needed in this case: just play the game using flags option, and decide on the level of cuing you want to provide. If you are targeting specific memory strategies (like repeating or visualizing) you can write goals for implementing those strategies while playing this game. And you can use the stats provided at the end if you want to help you measure accuracy and progress.

Brain-training: For the regular (not rehab-patient) population, this game can provide great training for memory. If you want it more challenging, certainly use the symbols option over the flag one. On the other hand, with just 20 cards, this will never get TOO challenging, just fun.