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?