February 6, 2015

For the LOVE of CORE Day 6: See THIS Blog…PrAACtical AAC

Posted in AAC, Aided Language Input, Augmentative Alternative Communication, Autism, Core Vocabulary, Favorite Apps, iOS, Literacy at 2:59 PM by kellyvansingel


February 6, 2014

One of my absolutely favorite blog and web resources is PrAACtical AAC. Created in 2012 by two master professors of speech and language pathology:  Carole Zangari and Robin Parker.  Sadly, Robin Parker passed away in July 2014. But her work lives on in this wonderful blog with and in the “Robin’s Tree of Learning” resource page at CARD which stands for the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities which is based at the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University.    There are over sixty webinars cataloged here on a variety of autism-related topics, including assistive technology.

Robin TREE

You may have noticed some links to PrAACtical AAC in previous posts.   There are a wealth of resources about the importance of core vocabulary as well as ideas for lesson plans and implementation.  A fabulous resource for helping to implement strategies for the learning, practicing and using of core words all year long are the downloadable resources of A Year of Core Words 2013 and Another Year of Core Words 2014.  Both blog entries contain a downloadable word document complete with grid communication boards and targeted words for each month of the year.  Each grid is a template grid so that any choice of symbol set from your AAC user’s communication system can be used, be it PCS, SymbolStix or otherwise.


There are also some of the monthly grids available complete with symbols in the PrAACtical AAC tools resource page.   Thank you Carole and Robin for the wonderful resources you have created for the AAC and AT community!


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.


February 5, 2015

For the LOVE of CORE Day 5: Core Word Sentence Building with Clicker Apps

Posted in AAC, Aided Language Input, Augmentative Alternative Communication, Autism, Core Vocabulary, Favorite Apps, iOS, Literacy at 4:39 PM by kellyvansingel


February 5, 2014

Crick Software out of the UK has been making Clicker software to aid in reading and writing instruction for many years. You can actually try Clicker free for 30 days on PC with a download of their trial version. Writing, Sentence Building and more literacy activities are now available for iOS with their series of apps: Clicker Sentences, Clicker Connect, Clicker Books, and Clicker Docs.

Before the availability of the iOS Apps, we used Clicker 5 at home and at school to write a daily note about what Mags would do each day at school.   It was a very successful way for Mags to understand sentence structure and it provided her with a literacy support of a word and symbol bank to help write her daily note.

I was so excited when Crick started to release their iOS apps.   My favorite for emergent literacy students like Gilly is Clicker Sentences.  It sells for $30.99 on the app store.   Recently, apple has now started giving developers the option of selling several apps together in a bundle.   Clicker Sentences, Clicker Connect, Clicker Books, and Clicker Docs bundled for $89.99 is a good value.   Schools can save even more when purchasing any of the Clicker Apps with the Volume Purchasing Program.

I created a sentence building activity for Gilly with some of her favorite Sesame Street characters.   It incorporates the core words is and a / an into a simple sentence structure about each monster’s color:

Photo Feb 05, 12 24 54 PM

Here is another Clicker Sentences activity using see and a about farm animals.  In this screenshot you can see that a sentence model is also provided on the grid below the writing window.

Photo Feb 05, 12 26 55 PMClicker Sentences allows you to scaffold the difficulty of the writing task by various options for Model Sentence and Word Order.  In Model Sentence for each grid, you can select None, On Grid, In Pop-up or Spoken for the sentence model. In Word Order for each grid, you can select Alphabetical, Random, Sentence Order, or Guided Order for the word buttons.

Photo Feb 05, 4 25 25 PM

Clicker Connect can also be used for emergent sentence writing and can do more complex writing tasks.  Here is an example of a sentence building activity using has and use.

Photo Feb 05, 1 01 18 PM

It is very easy to find and use your own choice of pictures for writing activities in Clicker Apps.    Use the camera to take your own pictures, or use an image search engine such as google to easily find photos for your writing activities. For example, look at the all of the pictures that instantly come up when doing a search for “boy holding ball” via images.google.com:

Photo Feb 05, 12 28 13 PM

You could also pair any of these activities with the student’s dedicated AAC device or second iOS device,  Encourage them to also build the sentences on their device or in their AAC app to match the sentences created in the Clicker app.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

June 8, 2014

Extending UDL into iOS app selection, utilization and implementation….

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS, UDL at 11:02 PM by kellyvansingel

June 8, 2014

So as we explore the three guiding principles of UDL:

  1. Provide Mulitple Means of Representation
  2. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  3. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

What are some ways we can use these principles for selecting, using and implementing iOS apps? What are some apps that are good examples of these principles?

Some of my favorite apps that exemplify UDL principles for Mags & Gilly are:

Word Wizard

Video Demo

Word Wizard is a movable phonics alphabet.  You can select the type of background you would like to use along with an A to Z or QWERTY style keyboard layout.  Build words, phrases and even sentences.
Shape Builder

Video Demo

Shape Builder is a visual spatial fine motor app.  Mags has always loved this app. It is equally fun on both iPod / iPhone and iPad.  Move the shapes and match to outline sample to reveal animals, objects, musical instruments and more.

Video Demo

I have blogged about Bitsboard in the past. With unlimited customization of lesson content for any learner, you can have multiple modes of representation of curriculum or objectives.  Flip through vocabulary sets one item at a time, spell items, build sentences and more.

Video Demo
See.Touch.Learn is a great way to make to custom receptive ID lessons for followup on ABA therapy targets.  A huge library of photos and images is included along with an online community where vocabulary sets and lessons can be shared.  Data tracking allows for monitoring of student progress.

Video Demo

SpeechBox was created by a dad for his son with apraxia.  It is so clever and visually appealing.  Not only can you work on practicing words, but you can your own ‘boxes’ of content to use as writing prompts or conversation starters.

Video Demo

Abilipad is a writing support app.  You can create your own custom keyboards with letters, words, even photos to support beginning or more advanced writers who can benefit from visual and text supports.  Notebooks and keyboards can be shared in an online community.
Clicker Apps

Video Demo

Clicker from Crick has been known as an outstanding reading and writing support software for Mac and Windows.  Features from Clicker can now be accessed on iOS with their apps:  Clicker Sentences, Clicker Books, Clicker Docs and Clicker Connect.  App comparison chart can be found here.

Video Demo

Co:Writer software by Don Johnston has been available for Mac and Windows as a writing support for students for years. Co:Writer app for iOS incorporates many of the same features as the software for use on iPad. Users can benefit from audio and visual cues.  Text predication and text to speech help to support writing and communication.

Video Demo

Use DropBox to access photos, files, and reference documents on any almost any computer, tablet or device.  More and more apps are starting to feature DropBox integration for easy sharing and archival of customized content. See previous post on DropBox here.
Google Drive

Video Demo

Google Drive aka Google Docs is an online cloud-based software suite with both file storage and apps for producing spreadsheets, word processing documents and presentations.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

June 6, 2014

Extending UDL into Assistive Technology….

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 10:22 PM by kellyvansingel

June 6, 2014

Three guiding principles are the foundation of UDL or Universal Design for Learning:

  1. Provide Mulitple Means of Representation
  2. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  3. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement


This means that thinking about UDL principles within the context of teaching should drive us to continually address and consider the What, How and Why of learning in our efforts to reach and enrich all learners.  When I think of how this can help learners with diverse abilities, things like the importance of multi-sensory approaches, using a variety of learning materials and harnessing the power of instructional and assistive technologies comes to mind.

Assistive Technology is not automatically UDL. Assistive Technology can help create opportunities for students to perform at their best while it implements principles of UDL to improve the overall learning process. “The use of technology provides clear advantages to those who wish to provide flexible, supportive, and adjustable learning and productivity experiences to all learners” (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003).

“In short, technology is not synonymous with UDL, but it does play a valuable role in its implementation and conceptualization.”


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

June 11, 2013

You’ll never be bored with ‘Bitsboard’…..

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 8:35 PM by kellyvansingel

June 11, 2013

Time for an update on a great app from Grasshopperapps.com.  Back in November, I posted about Bitsboard.  There are now even more games and features in this app, and even a low-cost pro version, priced at $2.99.

Within Bitsboard and Bitsboard Pro you can create custom flashcard sets aka ‘boards’, or download them already created from the vast online catalog.  There are now over ten different learning games you can experience with each board:

  • Flashcards (scroll through images or ‘bits’ one at a time along with an option to record your own voice saying the word)
  • Explore (see many thumbnail images to easily choose one image up close)
  • Photo Touch (identify correct image from a field of 2, 3, 4 and more)
  • True or False (choose true or false based on picture label)
  • Match Up (drag and match picture to printed word)
  • Pop Quiz (multiple choice)
  • Word Builder Part 1 (spell with letter tiles)
  • Word Builder Part 2 (build sentences with word tiles)
  • Spelling Bee (practice spelling and typing with built-in qwerty keyboard)
  • Reader (touch correct picture below printed word)
  • Genius (random play mode of all games)

Within Bitsboard, you can share customized boards and learning lessons so that you can easily access them from multiple devices.  With the Pro version, you can also track data for multiple users.  The app developer also has a comprehensive getting started guide.


See also this recent app review by ClassroomSmart:

Create custom content for any level user. You’ll never be bored with Bitsboard.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

February 23, 2013

Dude!….Where’s my iPad? iPod? iPhone?

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 2:35 PM by kellyvansingel

February 23, 2012

Don’t you hate it when you can’t find something? Seems like every time something is lost you can’t find it until you stop looking for it.  Or as I read on facebook earlier this week…it’s not really not until your mom can’t find it.

In the case of iOS devices, there’s an app for that: Find My iPhone by Apple.  It’s the ‘mom’ of all useful apps when it comes to knowing where your devices are.

Find my iPhone

This is a must install app for any of your iOS devices.   As long as the device you are looking for still has a charge left and is pinging WiFi or 3G/4G you will have a smile so wide when you locate your iPhone, iPad or iPod.  Find My iPhone comes in very handy.  Whether a device is stuck between the couch cushions or left behind at school or the library, you can find it easily with this app.

The app allows you the see the location of all your iOS devices on any of your iOS devices.  From within the app, you can make the lost device play a sound, almost like a homing beacon.  You can also send a message to the lost device, remotely lock the device and even erase it if you think it has been stolen.

The other day I noticed that the iPad had not come home in the backpack.  I turned on the app on my phone and could see on the map in app that the device was located at our elementary school ….phew!   A very welcome sight to see.


Now granted it cannot be of help when the battery has died on the device.  But it still knows you are looking for it.  So even if the device is stolen and someone then later starts to charge it up, you can still be notified of its whereabouts once it again has power and is pinging WiFi or 3G/4G.

For almost a week we searched for our first ever acquired iOS device, our iPod touch 3G.  It was likely in the house somewhere and the battery was dead.  The mother of all apps could not help at this point.  And in true fashion it was found after we stopped looking for it.  It had been ‘stored’ for awhile in am empty shoebox at the top of the stairs.  Hmmm…I wonder who could have put it there?

foundBut the cool thing was I could see the find request was still received by the iPod touch as soon as I started to charge the device.  I also received a ‘found alert’ to my iPhone.   Reassurance that the mother of all apps does know.

So glad we found the iPod after we stopped looking for it.  And that ‘mom’ still knew where it was all along.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.

November 29, 2012

Grasshoppers, Apps and Alligators….Oh My!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Autism, Favorite Apps, iOS at 3:27 PM by kellyvansingel

November 29, 2012

One of my favorite app companies is known by names such as grasshopperapps.com, innovative mobile apps, photo touch apps and alligatorapps.com.  The apps they release are brilliantly simple, effective and all are customizable for the user you have in mind–and that user can be someone of any age or any ability.  This motto that is splashed front and center on one of their webpages says it all:

Highly educational and affordable. They hit this spot on.  Outstanding design and…..wait for it….most of their apps are FREE or 99 cents.

Let me show you some examples:

Photo Touch – Farm Animalsapp store – FREE

Use of real photographs on a simple white background make this app a model example of an app designed for children with autism or other special needs.  There are minimal distractions for the receptive language ID task at hand.  There are also visual and auditory cues that encourage error-less teaching.  As the user makes a correct response, the field of objects to identify are increased with each trial, so that the skill level is also increasing.  The customization options in each of their apps is also key: you can add your own pictures and sound bytes to build a personal experience.

Little Speller – Three Letter Wordsapp store – 99 cents

The dragging and dropping of letter tiles helps reinforce matching skills, phonic sounds, and letter order.  Like all of their apps, Little Speller can be customized to any user.  You can turn off sounds, hints and even remove the picture cue.

One of our favorites has also been

Sentence Makerapp store – 99 cents

The word tiles in Sentence Maker are similar to the letter tiles in Little Speller. Included in the app are over 500 phrases and sentences to reinforce language concepts and object attributes.  A  unique way we used Sentence Maker was by building a custom sequence of sentences that Gilly would use each morning on a morning walk around her elementary school.  The phrases included things like:

  1. “Good Morning Mrs. H!” (her teacher)
  2. “Go to the office.”
  3. “Let’s see the library.’
  4. “Time for a sensory break.”

Before the use of this app, a low-tech flip visual schedule was used to help her learn the names of various places in the school building.  It worked–but eventually Gilly would ‘tune out’ on the morning walk and require numerous prompts to look at / point to items in the flip book.  After introducing Sentence Maker customized with the phrases describing the various stops along the walk, the prompt level decreased.  She could independently and purposely build very meaningful and related sentences to the learning activity.  The fine motor planning aspects of Sentence Maker helped Gilly to maintain attention and focus.

Bitsboardapp store – FREE

One of the latest and greatest from this developer is their new app: Bitsboard.  It is what I would call a ‘portal app’ if that makes sense.  Check out this review of Bitsboard over at SmartAppsforKids.com.  This app contains hundreds of different flashcard sets that can be downloaded within the app.  The developer has also added the first of many great features and updates to come: the ‘Photo Touch’ game setting: allowing your desired flashcard sets to become a receptive ID activity.  It would not surprise me if eventually games such as ‘Little Speller’ or ‘Sentence Maker’ are made available in future updates.  It looks like Bitsboard is eventually growing up to be the ‘Big Kahuna’ residence of many great apps from this company.  And guess what….wait for it….it is FREE.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11.