Osmo – Worth the hype?

Are you looking for a gift for a tech-interested kid on your list?  Something that they’ll find engaging, but that will also teach them a thing or two?  Perhaps you’ve seen a video about Osmo and wondered if it really works!

We wondered too, so we tried Osmo.  It was a really enjoyable, hands-on way to play with the iPad.  It works amazingly, knowing which tiles you’ve placed in front and providing the appropriate feedback.  It’s easy to set up on the iPad and works universally with different generations of iPads, no need to figure out which device they have! Keep in mind, the iPad does need to be out of any kind of case in order to be go on the Oslo stand.

Sarah is more of a word-game lover, and learned that the levels on the ‘Words’ game – all the way up to ‘Impossible’ – would be fun for any age and stage of learning.  This level involves spelling the word that is illustrated in the background.  It’s great for spelling for young kids, and to learn some new vocabulary for older ones, and adults. You can even design your own word lists.

Amanda, a fan of puzzles, enjoyed the Tangram game, and again felt that with the various level of support and hints anyone could enjoy the game.  This one involves creating a picture on the screen with the coloured, differently shaped tiles.  Depending on the level it gives you more to less feedback about the tiles that you have correct as you place them. At the hardest level some of the puzzles took a day to figure out – without using the accumulated points for hints 😉

Osmo would be a great game in pairs or individually in a school, as well as for some extra learning and fun at home. We’ve played with a handful of kids and they all loved it too. It’s designed for school-aged kids and up – there are games for Kindergarten-level learners to start with. The kids in Grade 1 and older really get into it.

If you want more information check out the videos at: http://www.playosmo.com.  We picked up our Osmo for $79 at the Apple Store. If you want to try it feel free to contact us for a consultation!


At the hardest level you only see if the shapes are in the right places after all the pieces are in the correct place to make the picture.


Sarah’s favourite home app

Sarah’s favourite app for use at home – HomeRoutines by Wunderbear (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/homeroutines/id353117370?mt=8).  This app is $3.99, and very worth it for the organization and sanity is has brought to my chaotic household.  It’s purpose is to streamline and organize your daily tasks, with a focus on housework chores, but it can be used in many ways because it is so customizable.  I can see clients who don’t need picture support using it for their to-do and task lists, as well as reminders and routines. The default is organized into times of the day with household tasks in each section.  Once a task is complete the user presses the star beside it and it appears in the ‘Accomplishments’ list.  It’s a great way to keep track of progress on a to do list.  Another great feature available in the latest update is the ability to sync the list between devices, and program it online.  You can add tasks for someone at home, or your client to complete without having to see them or take their iDevice away.  You can also see what they’ve accomplished without them knowing! Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 11.01.30 PM I have to quickly mention the ‘Focus Zones’ that are included by default in the app.  These encourage you to focus on an area of your home each week and clean it thoroughly.  It’s sometimes nice to be reminded that you need to clean out the lint traps, or clean under the stove.  Of course these can be ignored or changed depending on the purpose of the app as well.  In short a great organizational app with good support and very easy to use.

AAC Apps: Proloquo2go and TouchChat

Both Proloquo2go (P2G) and TouchChat are high quality Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps with a long list of features which allow the user to have a ‘voice’ for communication. The companies that make these apps have fantastic customer support and training through their website, emails and Facebook. There are manuals, cheat sheets and webinars. So if you want, and are able to take the time to learn, both companies are there to help.  So how do you choose?  After a debate that lasted all of June, here is what we noted are the largest distinguishing factors for the average user.

Both apps can be programmed to suit an individual’s needs, but it’s a question of what level a person is at, what the goals are, what features are the most important and how much support is available.  At iEmpowerU we look at not just the individual, but also their family and the community around them. So despite the pros and cons,  if someone has support from those who are more familiar with a certain app, then we would lean towards recommending that one. This community support would likely reduce the learning curve and it would be easier for the individual to access help in the future.

Here is a very simple customized page on P2G which includes the target and a blank distractor.

Here is a Touch Chat scene created by Amanda during her ‘learning curve’

Please note , these are all just guidelines to help sort it out. Often people use our services to do just that, figure out which one would be best. And we can then help you get started too 🙂

June – Apps we love

Toca Boca: Toca Kitchen Monsters

Note: Toca Kitchen Monsters is the free version of Toca Kitchen which has more characters and ingredients

I read quite a few blogs, and a lot of SLPs are talking about Toca Boca apps. The kids love them because they are fun but I love them because of all the language that can take place. Here is what PrAACtical AAC  said:

  • joint action routine practice- can take different roles & predictable sequences
  • multiple choice making opportunities can choose characters as well as many aspects of the activity (foods, colors, hair accessories, spices, etc)
  • modified social story experiences or as we like to call it personal participation story experiences allows learners to have various illnesses, cook on hot stoves, eat foods, change hair colors; these are experiences that often can not be experienced on demand.
  • making abstract experiences more-concrete shows how things work that can not be seen typically during the experience (the stomach, tasting over spiced foods, etc)
  • providing focused opportunities to talk about past events – allows you to photograph ‘creations’ for later discussion, writing,
  • providing focused opportunities for commenting- the characters often give a specific photo comment as you take the picture (think paint my wings)
  • providing low stress learning- (for both learner and adult facilitator) there are no in-app purchases, no timing to complete activities, no win/loss scores, and no negative error messages
Here are some screen shots form some of my favourite moments:

Left picture: If you aren’t sure what to do with the food they’ll give you an idea..notice the monsters face  – do you think he likes lemons?

Right picture: what happens if you feed it to them. YUCK!

Left picture: Cooking fun. What happens to the mystery blue vegetable when you microwave it? What about when you boil it?

Right picture: What happens to the mystery blue veggy when you fry it?

What I’m learning is that apps like this belong in my “TherAPPy Toy Box” and then they are gold!

I luv Drawing (Series).

The step by step app started with Animals, and now the series includes Santa (Christmas items – free app), People, Dinosaurs, and Monsters. Since drawing people has always been my biggest struggle I’ll use this one for the examples, but they all work the same*

There are 3 index pages of images to choose from as well as a horizontal and vertical blank pages.

The app show you which lines to draw in blue, when you go to the next step the previous lines turn dark grey. At the end the trace lines all disappear.

You can draw in pencil or coloured crayon with choice of 3 widths. I use the pencil as it works for a border for the paint bucket.

When your drawing is done  you can paint or colour, add a background, and even stickers. Then save your drawing to the iPad’s photo library, the app’s drawing book, email or print (with air print).

My only criticism of this app is that when using this app in a structured way for teaching, the number of steps  varies per image, as well as the number of things/shapes to draw per step. There is no way to identify this except to go through each image. Therefore in a typical ABA program I likely wouldn’t recommend starting with this app when teaching step by step drawing.  However for advanced drawers and in the classroom this is a great way to expand your drawing skills!

*Animals is slightly different than the other apps in the series:

  • the trace lines are dashed.
  • these pictures use more classic shapes but then require you to erase lines at the end. The later apps use shapes that don’t require erasing.
  • Animals also has more detailed parts that are hard for even me to do accurately with the fine tip. Features are less detailed in the later apps
Please note that there is an HD version for each which is more expensive (the iPhone versions are often free) but the HD version is much clearer on the iPad. The iPhone version is very grainy when at 2x the size for the iPad.

Barnyard Dance – Book

I have spent many hours acting out this book to wide eyed children. The price tag of this app made me hesitate but my love of Sandra Boynton got me to purchase. I wasn’t sure if the app could be more fun than my crazy charades, but the jig music is just the start of how this book comes alive on the app.
It gets points right away for having both a read to me feature and when you read it yourself having the ‘tap to hear’ feature (where the reader can tap a word and it is spoken).
On each page the story and the animals come to life.
Here my pig bowed to the cow and on the right I twirled them around so now the animals are backwards!
These interactions add meaning to the text and add a whole pile of fun! Enjoy 🙂
I picked this free iPhone app to help out someone showing their house as it makes one of those photos where you can pan around a room. I discovered that while its great for selling homes it has a lot of potential for any other area you want a full view of.  This is great for talking about new places and recalling details. It’s also really fun to use to make pictures!
To use the app hold your device vertical and move slowly and as steadily as possible in a clockwise direction. The circle at the bottom shows how far you have to go to complete the 360. It takes a video as you record so when you view the picture, the longer you took to make it, the more detail there is in each section.

May – apps we love

Here are the apps we’ve been talking about, recommending and downloading the most this month.

Choiceworks $14.99

A visual schedule with a 165 built in icons making it super easy to create visuals on the go. There are some great options like adding a timer to an activity and moving it to the ‘All Done’ column.

The app has other boards but we love the schedule boards. Save as many as schedules as you need and add your own photos to the library. The preloaded icons have a boy’s voice. For the icons you create you can record your own voice. Future updates will include the ability to record over the current icons, print and share boards as well as some other features to make it easier to access your boards when opening. The developer is committed to keeping this app beautifully simple and clear to use for everyone from parents using their first apps to therapists. That’s why we love it and think you will too!

If you’d like us to include a tutorial for this app in our next edition please comment 🙂

Adding Apples, Subtracting Sardines, Multiplying Acorns HD $0.99 each

Adding Apples and Subtracting Sardines are also available for iPhone/iPod Touch.

We love this series. The apps are simple, clear and fun. The big calculator buttons are inviting.

For addition and subtraction, press the first number and that’s how many apples or sardines appear. Keep going and  tap the next number. When you add in the Apples app more apples appear. When you subtract in the Sardines app the fish turn to bones! For multiplication in the Acorn app the first number makes the squirrels pop up and the second number gives them each acorns.

The next part is my favourite as the child can then tap on the manipulative to count them. Great kinetic learning!! A multiple choice box then appears to the right and the learner selects the answer. A right answer earns coins. A wrong answer results in a simple “m..m” audio, the correct answer is shown and the screen clears for the next equation.

In the settings you can change what the highest number on the calculator is or whether the screen automatically clears.  If you want to make this a closed ended activity select ‘check & lock correct answers”. The child will then need to use each number on the number pad and once they’ve done four equations there is a cheer. These apps allow for multiple users and track each users’ accuracy.

Heads up – on the subtraction app it teaches negatives and there is currently no way to turn this off. Another teaching feature that is needed is the number 0.

Kids think this one is fun. I think it’s great for teaching and for generalization. I also think it would be perfect in an inclusive setting so your child can also be working on math independently  (with headphones).

The Lorax – By Dr Seuss $4.99

Two big reasons why this book is the book of the month

1) With the release of the movie it is a great way for kids to connect with reading.

2) This book, like many from Oceanhouse Media (but not all) has the ‘tap to hear’ feature. This means when  you select ‘read it myself’ from the main menu and then you tap on the word in the book it will be read aloud. Great kinetic feature to help a child attend to the words they are on and helps children who are starting to read be independent when they can, then get help when they need it. There is also the option to have the whole book read aloud which makes it a perfect independent leisure activity for a child who is not yet reading.

Heads up – there are a few words (from the original book) that you may not find appropriate  or want your kids repeating – like ‘stupid’ and ‘shut up’. However this could also serve as a way to discuss these words, and the way that they are used in the book.

For the grown ups: Doc Scan HD free

Note: requires a built in camera

Use this app to snap a photo of a piece of paper and turn it into a PDF. It can even work with curled pages! Create multiple paged documents too. Perfect for quickly sending a data sheet to a consultant!

*Tips – use a different colour under the paper (a pile of papers makes it hard to pick up which one you want) and make sure the lighting is good. A grainy or blurry image can’t be cleaned up.

 Its our double digest first edition so that’s not all! Apps we love 2  

These recommendations are made by Amanda Raichelle of iEmpowerU and are general ideas only. These apps may not be appropriate curriculum for your child or other individuals.  Before implementing these or any other changes, discuss these recommendations with your Behavior Consultant or other professionals.