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).