The school year is coming to a close and it will be time to return the iPads to the technology department. We don’t always get the same iPad back in the Fall. If the technology department has completed updates it is possible they come back wiped clean. I didn’t keep a list of apps last year and I regretted that. I decided to post my most used apps on the page now called Videos and Apps. Maybe you will find one you haven’t discovered yet. They were all free when I originally downloaded them.
I thought I would also write a bit about how I use what I call my Pretend Play apps. Three of my favorites are Toca Hair Salon, Toca Monsters, and PlayHome Lite. I use these boards frequently with my students in the Life-skills programs. I have found I need to create a lot of structure and routine or it becomes the student making a lot of random hits on the screen and basically zoning me out. If there are two students, it is often difficult to get one student to give up their turn to the other student. I don’t find a session very fruitful under these conditions. Maybe you have had that experience too. I have found that adding activity based communication boards to go along with the apps adds the structure and the control I need.
I use Boardmaker to make the communication boards and usually start with a pretty basic framework. My pronouns and nouns are on the left side of the board. The next section contains the verbs needed, then prepositions and adjectives. I leave the right side for my My Turn, Your Turn, Finished, exclamations like Oh-no, and Do it again. By keeping the basic framework the same, the student becomes familiar with the icons and knows where to look for them. You do too which makes it easier to model the sentences. If you keep your framework similar, you can make new boards easily by using the same framework and only replacing the vocabulary you need for the new activity. I use plastic protectors and just slip the new board in. This has saved me from laminating.
Quite a few of my students are working on using two to three word phrases using carrier phrases such as “I have____”, “I want____”, “I need____”, and turn taking. I require them to use words or the communication board before manipulating something on the iPad. They then indicate Your Turn to the next student. I model this behavior as I play with them and it isn’t long before they are talking with me in a more natural context. It also works if you are working on subject pronouns and verb forms. I model which tense of the verb I want them to use such as future tense on something they “will” do. I am posting pictures of two of my boards I use with the apps “Play Home Lite” and “Toca Hair Salon”. Has anyone else discovered this works for you?
Here are two adaptations for the game Crocodile Dentist. This is a plastic crocodile that has a spring loaded mouth. The mouth closes when a certain tooth is pushed down. Kids enjoy the suspense of seeing who is going to get bit. The trigger tooth changes location each time the mouth is opened. Some of you may already use this game for reinforcement. I thought you might like to know how you can expand its use a little further. I use it to expand a student’s verbal output to 2 to 3 word phrases using a communication board and to review prepositions when following directions.
Using permanent markers, I colored the teeth alternating colors. I used pink, green, and orange because I already had a die that had those colors. If you don’t have a die you could make a spinner or use colors for a die you have.
For my students with limited verbal abilities, I use the communication board along with the die in a plastic jar. I have the students shake the die to get the color of tooth they need to push down. I then model phrases using the communication board while playing the game. The game creates a lot of opportunities for repetition of phrases such as “I have ….” or “push down green tooth”. I also reinforce saying “your turn” and “my turn.” After repetition the students start to say the appropriate phrase when you point to the correct icons as a prompt. Finally, they may prompt themselves by pointing to the icons and verbalizing. This is a good way to break up an imitative pattern that often happens when training non-verbal children and uses a natural context for turn taking.
The colors are used in the direction cards also. Cards were made using the concept vocabulary: next to, beside, between, right, left, colors, not, side, front, either/or. Children take turns drawing the cards and following the directions for the tooth to be pushed down. We play a variation by giving each child three poker chips. They feed the crocodile a chip if he bites. The person who feeds all three chips is the winner. I provided a word program down load because I thought people may need to adjust the color words for their needs. If you have any difficulties with this, leave me a comment. Print out the cards and have the students pull them out of a bag and then follow the directions while playing the game.
card download here
Winter break is finally here. December went by pretty quickly and I didn’t have time to post. Now that I have extra time I will try to catch up and tell about some of the things I have been doing. If you have a chance, pick up a package of match box cars in the after Christmas sales. It would be well worth it. They are great for therapy sessions with some of your harder more concrete thinkers.
It was our last week before winter break and I needed an activity that would keep my students focused as the sugar plums danced in their heads. You may remember that last May I had a post on using match box cars. They were a very popular item especially for the boys. Just like before, I started out with descriptive work on identifying features of the vehicles and identifying a vehicle from the description. This was expanded to asking questions to get clues and drawing a conclusion in the Mystery Vehicle activity. I used communication boards to help the process. These help my lower grades as well as my more challenged learners.
There is a communication board “What Vehicle is it?” in the vocabulary section. I have access to Boardmaker, but I know others do not. The boards make a big difference keeping this activity moving and on topic. It also helps to expand the sentences of students who are trying to get past one and two word utterances.
After the initial describing sessions, I decided the students could really benefit from one more round with the cars to reinforce the descriptive vocabulary. I often find the novelty is worn off by the 2nd or 3rd presentation of the same activity so I really needed to find a way to expand it. I dove into my recycle box. I found a nice long flat box. A race track seemed like a pretty good option and would be easy to put together. The race track was made by gluing black tag board on to the flat box. A piece of cardboard could be another option. I marked 3 starting positions on the top,1st, 2nd, 3rd. I could now use positional vocabulary when directing the car placement. Students placed the cars behind a paper roll. We have been working on variations of the meaning for the word “behind.” We predicted which vehicle was faster and would be first. Students took turns holding the paper roll and lifting only after “ready, set, go” was said by another student. This would also be a great opportunity to use a speech button so a nonverbal student could be included. It is a good way to practice impulse control and waiting for a verbal cue.
I have found that the proper container can make a huge difference on how an activity works. A gift box from the dollar store is great for the mystery vehicle activity. Everyone likes to open presents. For the race activity, I put the vehicles in a large clear freezer bag. Some of my students have difficulty with impulse control and would be continually grabbing a vehicle if they weren’t contained in something. This way the students can see through the plastic, but are unable to grab vehicles until they have completed the work of describing and asking.
The picture shows the setup. The communication board on the left was used for making descriptions and asking questions about the “Mystery Vehicle.” The communication board on the right was used to choose cars for the race and the race itself. Students gave descriptions of the vehicles they chose for the race so I was able to review those descriptions one more time.