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Review: Autism Colors


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Autism Colors aims to help children with autism learn the colors. Specifically, the application is designed to learn the basic colors through receptive language. So, with Autism Colors you can learn through pictures previously selected in a very easy way (the child must tap the color whose name is heard).

Autism Colors is not only a game, but an application based on the training of new concepts supported by the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) method, with which various pre-school skills can be taught to children with autism.

Although in this article we will mainly talk about Autism Colors application, it has to be mentioned that the same author has developed three more applications that have a similar operating mode: Autism/DTT Letters, Autism/DTT Numbers and Autism/DTT Shapes.

Settings

When you start Autism Colors, it shows a brief introduction on the origin of its methodology. In the same screen you have the option to open the application manual or to start using the application.

Selecting the option “START” you will be taken to the settings screen, where you can determine the necessary variables to start working with the colors.

In the first column there are 11 different colors from which you can select the ones you want to teach the child. For example, you can work only with green and red colors.

The second column lets you select the colors that you want to appear together with those that you want to teach but that won’t be asked for because the objective is not to work with them.

These two options allow you to define the difficulty in the learning process, having under control aspects like, for example, that the child differenciates less similar units (red and green colors) or very similar units (red and orange colors).

In the third column you have the option to select up to four different types of presenting the colors that you want to teach. This selection is really important for working with children with autism, because one of the difficulties that these children have is to understand that one concept can have various shapes. That is, that different objects can share the same color, for example red.

Still, we miss the option of introducing more generalised objects like different colored cars, balls, chairs, etc.

In the settings screen, specifically in the left bottom part you also find 3 more options:

-       The time that the child has to respond once the pictures appear on the screen and if the color that has to be tapped is to be heard. Autism Colors lets you choose between 1 and 60 seconds.

-       The time between the appearance of the image and the verbal demand. The options are from 1 to 90 seconds.

-       The number of cards that will appear on the screen, which can be between  2 and 10 pictures.

Another option in this screen allows you to select the language. Autism Colors supports English, French, Norwegian, Chinese and Spanish.

On the right bottom corner, on the same screen, there are three tabs. The first one allows the child to have a first contact with the colors that he will learn.

The second one, View log, shows you the record of the colors that have been worked upon showing the percentage of the number of correct responses. This can help the adult to identify where the child has more difficulties when learning a color.

The third one, reset settings, restores the parameters as they were initially defined.

Exercises

Once all the settings are defined, you can go ahead by touching the “START” button on the top right corner of the screen. At this point, the working screen will appear. This is the part that the child will use and consists of a series of 10 exercises where the child has to tap the color that the application says aloud.

In the top left corner we will find the “MENU” tab from which you’ll be able to access it whenever you want; and on the right you’ll find a stopwatch that will show the countdown to indicate the time left for answering.

In the top middle part of the screen the written name of the color to select will appear, and at the same time you’ll hear a voice saying the name of the same color.

When the child taps the correct color, a small message will appear showing the word “correct” and at the same time you’ll hear a voice saying that the answer was correct.

If, on the contrary, the child makes a mistake by touching another color, the message will show “wrong” and the voice will inform you of the error.

If there is no response, that is, if during the period of time that the child has to answer he doesn’t tap any color, the message of “no response” will appear together with the voice saying the same.

All these messages disappear from the screen when pressing the “ok” button. Immediately the next demand will appear, varying the elements but maintaining the same working unit.

As we said in the introduction, there are 3 more similar applications: Autism/DTT Letters, Autism/DTT Numbers and Autism/DTT Shapes. All of them share the same operating mode as Autism Colors, except for the fact that DTT Letters is available only in English.

Nevertheless, we must highlight that DTT Numbers is slightly different from the others in the screen presentation, probably because it is the latest and the author has improved the design. However we can be assured it shares the easy operation of the other three.

Although, we would appreciate it if DTT Numbers had more image generalisations. Currently, the application is useful to work on numbers in numerical and quantity formats. It could be interesting that in the numerical format different types of writing existed, as seen in DTT Letters.

Assessment

Autism Colors application is the ideal way of introducing the learning of colors to any person, whether they have learning difficulties or not. However, due to its clarity in use and its easy operation, it can be a useful tool for children with some kind of difficulties.

One of the positive aspects of Autism Colors is that the design of the screen is very clear and neutral, which makes the learning process easier for children with difficulties.

A second remarkable aspect of Autism Colors is that it allows the child to get familiar with the units to be learned by practising before starting to work with them.

In relation to the consequence that Autism Colors shows after the different responses are given, we consider as positive that it takes into account the fact that if the child doesn’t respond, it is considered as an error, bearing in mind that the child is supposed to pay attention while working.

We also would like to remark as positive aspects of the application the settings which, for example, allow you to choose the time that the child has for responding, the number of pictures presented at a time, etc. These options will help a lot to adapt the teaching process to the child’s difficulties.

However, as an aspect to improve, we would recommend that during the exercises the verbal part should not be presented in the form of a sentence, for example “touch letter B”. Taking into account that children with autism usually have difficulties with the language, we think that it would be very helpful to present the verbal part as simply as possible, for example “B”.

We would also recommend that the consequences of a correct or incorrect response were less similar in tone of voice and visual presentation. This way, we recommend, for example, to enclose a motivating picture for the child together with applause when the child’s response is correct.

Also, according to the ABA procedures, we believe it is compulsory that, after an incorrect response, the application presents some kind of prompt to help the child know which image is the correct one and in this way offer a true learning process.

Finally, we also think it is important to mention that the application supports various languages and intends to increase its number.

-Aida Farrés and Anna Deusedes (Coordinators at Fundación Planeta Imaginario). Translated by Marta Lladó.

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Autism Colors 1.0.4

Web: http://www.aba4autism.com

Author: Dr. Gary Brown

Languages: English, French, Norwegian, Chinese and Spanish.

Functions: Receptive language learning.

iPhone/iPod touch version: Yes.

iPad version: Yes.

Prices: Autism Colors $19.99 / €15,99; Autism/DTT Shapes $14.99 / €11.99; Autism/DTT Letters $9.99 / €7,99; Autism/DTT Numbers $9.99 / €7,99.

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NOTE: Only the weekend of May 28-29, ABA Letters has a special price of $0.99 / €0.79.

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Review: See.Touch.Learn.


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Good news! The number of available iPad apps for people with autism is increasing continuously. And, after reviewing See.Touch.Learn., by Brain Parade, I can also confirm that these apps are becoming more and more mature.

The iPad, with its larger screen compared to the one present in an iPhone or an iPod touch, can be used for a new myriad of things. And, therefore, the first generation of iPhone apps designed to practice with basic exercises of receptive language, matching, categorization, etc. is overcome now by apps like See.Touch.Learn., designed for the iPad.

In short, See.Touch.Learn. is a platform for the design and execution of image-based exercises, so typical in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) programs, that surpasses anything available so far for the iPad in this field.

Fremium

See.Touch.Learn. follows the so called fremium model (“free” + “premium”): The application is free and 100% operational, but includes only a single library with 32 pictures and 6 lessons (each one with a sequence of exercises). You can create as many lessons and exercises as you want, but adding pictures requires you buying picture packs (from within the same app).

At the time of this writing, there are two packs of letters and numbers (at $0.99), and five other packs of pets, vegetables, fruits, food and body parts (at $4.99). Each one includes between 35 and 77 pictures, usually with three different pictures of each concept. Thus, in the pack of letters, you’ll find 26 uppercase letters, 26 lowercase letters and another 26 colored pieces of wood representing the same letters.

Brain Parade says that it will launch new packs from now on –clothing, vehicles, and shapes and colors will be available soon-, and in fact it encourages the users to ask for specific packs to be added. Moreover, it delivers a free pack to users who write a review on iTunes.

Each pack also includes six lessons labeled with three levels of difficulty: basic, intermediate and advanced.

Lessons and exercises

ABA programs largely use picture cards as a support for learning, using them for activities such as matching, generalization, categorization, receptive and expressive language, etc., usually by executing sequences of basic exercises.

See.Touch.Learn. adopts this model, designating the “lessons” as sequences of “exercises”, in each of which it presents a set of cards to the student so he/she can select one or more than one.

So, for example, a lesson about letters composed of 10 exercises can start with an exercise that shows a single card with the letter “A”. A text on the top of the screen indicates that you have to touch the letter “A”, and a small speaker button allows you to play the same message –using a very “computerized” voice.

You must touch the letter “A” –making a bell to ring– and move on to the next screen/exercise by pressing the “Next” button. Then, two letters will be shown, “A” and “D”, and the app will ask you again to touch the “A”. If you touch the “D”, a failure sound will be played, and the “D” picture will shake. If you touch the “A”, the bell will ring again and the “A” picture will get bigger.

Some exercises after, you’ll see an exercise showing only a picture showing a “B”. Some more, and you’ll see an exercise showing “A” and “B” letters accompanied by other pictures that perhaps you’ve never worked with. You’ll be asked to choose one of them (in the image below, the “B”).

By doing this, you’ll finish the lesson, which is composed of a predetermined set of exercises. You’ll hear a crowd crying out and after that a screen showing the exercise statistics will appear.

Many lessons

The examples that come with each pack of pictures allow you to explore the many possibilities of the app. For example, in the activities listed as intermediate, more objects appear simultaneously, they can appear more than once in the same screen or the app can ask the student to select more than one in the same exercise. In case of repetition, the student can be asked to touch more than one (ie, all the “1″).

And in “advanced” lessons, more complicated concepts can be involved, such as choosing between two pictures of fruits which one shows less or more pieces.

Exercises such as working with numbers in the form of cards with black spots, locating the first letter of a word, practicing the concepts of right and left or basic adding exercises are also possible.

Adding lessons

See.Touch.Learn. has a good card-based exercise engine, but equally attractive is its lessons editor. Beyond the preloaded lessons, the educator, therapist or adult can easily create new lessons consisting of a sequence of exercises to be defined. This option is available from the lessons selection screen, where you can also duplicate an existing one for later editing, or even send it via email. (What is really sent is the list of statements for each exercise, making a good guideline for the “teacher”).

Just by naming a new lesson you can begin to build it, something that can be accomplished by defining one by one the exercises that comprise the lesson using an exercise editor.

For example, you can define a first exercise in which only a red apple is displayed and a second one with a green apple. To do so, in each case you have to navigate through the picture libraries and select those that you want to incorporate. Each exercise can display between 1 and 6 cards.

In the next exercise you may want to show two apples, one green and one red, and some bananas, so that the student must select all the apples. To do this, you add the three pictures and mark the two apples as the correct answers (represented by a green “tick”).

Moreover, you have to define the question that will appear to the student by selecting a phrase beginning (optional) and writing the second part of it. In the example, it is “Touch the apples”.

When the student runs this exercise, he/she will have to touch both apples to finish correctly that exercise.

This way, you can define many exercises, and you can also delete and rearrange them within the lesson. In the picture below, by adding two apples –one green and one red– and two other pieces of fruit –again, one green and one red–, you can create a double discrimination exercise.

Going further, you could use pictures of numbers and define an exercise as “Touch the sum of 1 and 3″, being the picture of “4″ the right answer, for example.

Options and help

See.Touch.Learn. has a short integrated help and the ability to enable an overlay help mode that visually looks very good but perhaps contribute very little. However, in the Brain Parade website there are some videos on how to use the app. (Although, I hope that if you have read this post up to here you will not need them :-) ).

There are also some options to set for determining whether the student will see or not the text on the top of the screen (if not, the list of exercises sent via email becomes invaluable), whether or not it will show the audio button, if the application will play a sound when finishing a lesson, and perhaps most importantly, whether to move from one exercise to another you’ll see the “Next” and “Back” buttons. Otherwise, you’ll have to move two fingers up to display the buttons or to the right to move directly to the next exercise.

Rating

As I said at the beginning of this post, in my opinion, See.Touch.Learn. is a clear advance in the “therapy apps” field, going further that all I’ve seen so far. Graphically, the application is very appealing and very well designed, and its power and flexibility are indisputable. It can be a useful complement to ABA or other learning programs for children with autism or other development disorders.

Of course, designing lessons will take time for the adult, but this also happens when using paper cards. Moreover, the need of buttons to move to the next exercise and other aspects (the button to activate the audio is too small for my taste, for example) implies that an adult has to be besides the student when practicing the exercises. This is not a shortage of the app, which is designed to be used this way.

There are also some details that remembers me that this is a 1.0 version. Moving two fingers up or right when there is no buttons is not explained in the help and it is not so intuitive, although it is useful to prevent accidentally screen changes. After using the app for some days, I can think of some ideas for improvement, as an automatic mode that brings the next exercise after finishing one, but nothing impedes using See.Touch.Learn. as a fully operational app right “out of the box”.

For non native English speakers, the only downside is that the voice synthesizer reads only in English. But the app can still be useful if there is an adult besides the student asking the pertinent questions in their native language. And, anyway, Brain Parade assures that in a few weeks it will deliver a new version that allows the user to record an audio clip with the question of each exercise, making it a more compelling app and specially overcoming the language barrier. This new version will also include over 30 different sounds to assign to right and wrong answers.

See.Touch.Learn is free. To use it seriously you’ll need to buy some picture libraries, but not to test it. I think that it is a remarkable app, so my main recommendation is that if your child or your students are in the long-learning phase that involves using cards, this app is definitively worth to download and try.

-Francesc Sistach

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See.Touch.Learn 1.0

Web: http://www.brainparade.com/

Developer: Brain Parade LLC

Languages: English.

Functions: Creating and executing cards-based exercises (for ABA programs).

iPhone/iPod touch version: No.

iPad version: Yes.

Price: Free, with packs of cards for $0.99 or $4.99 / €0.79 or €3.99.

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Review: Color SlapPs


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Zorten, a software developer, has introduced Color SlapPs, a useful tool for SLP (Speech Language Pathology) therapies that uses a discrete trial teaching (DTT) model. To finish this first paragraph with even more acronyms, I would like to give my first advice to Zorten: expand the description of your application and add that it is also useful for people with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders).

In a more plain language, Color SlapPs is a tool to help children to learn colors in a way that is very typical of therapies for children with autism involving exercises, reinforcement and token economy, and adding simple but colorful graphics that start at the main menu.

Selecting colors

Typically, you start using the app by touching the cloud labeled “Colors” to enter a color selection screen, where you can choose whether you want to work with all colors (there are a total of 12) or only with some of them. This allows you to gradually introduce colors in the exercises to perform later.

New colors

Returning to the main screen, you can select a difficulty mode, which is nothing more than the number of colors that will be shown simultaneously when practicing.

So, if you select level 1 and proceed to “Play”, Color SlapPs will show colored squares using the colors that you have previously chosen, but one by one. Every time you start an exercise, you will hear a message like “Find green”, which is repeated after a few seconds until you touch the square of that color. In doing so, the square will make some visual effects (there are many) and a chime or similar will sound (again, there are several different sounds).

This mode is easy, and indeed I consider it rather a way of training or introduction of new colors, as there is no option to make a mistake.

After 5 well-done exercises, you get the main reinforcement. It consists of a couple of kids jumping gracefully while you hear a group of children crying with joy. After that, the app gives you the opportunity to start a new series of exercises.

Higher levels

At levels 2 and 3, there are two and three colors each time, always including at least one color that you have chosen to work with, but possibly also others still considered as unknown.

Every time you start a new exercise you will hear also a message like “Find blue”, but now you must distinguish between the colors shown. If you touch the wrong one, nothing happens.

Settings

The Settings option allows you to configure the mechanism of the exercises. Thus, you can choose whether the reinforcement will appear after every 5 or 10 exercises, and if a new exercise will automatically appear after the previous one is done.

You can also choose if the aid at the start of each exercise should be audio (to hear the message “Find blue) or text (to see the text “Find Blue” at the top of the screen).

And finally, you can choose whether you want visual and sound effects after each exercise as reinforcement.

Rating

I would prefer if Color SlapPs would give the option of hearing some sound if the wrong answer is made, and also have it display the number of correct answers that were given for the turns allowed (5 or 10), as a token economy banner, or even statistical results of each color in particular.

Interestingly, the main menu theoretically allows you to purchase a “full” version, which does not currently exist. Zorten also sells Word SLapPs, with is similar but focused on words. I hope to analyze that app soon.

Color SlapPs, for those who do not speak English, can still be useful. I think that using the text mode (no audio) and simply staying besides the child and saying each color in his/her language can work. Naturally, I would like to see the app translated into other languages.

In any case, as it is, Color SlapPs is a complete and useful app for its purpose, very intuitive (there is no manual but you do not miss it), with a clean and attractive design and it’s free!

-Francesc Sistach

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Color SlapPs 1.0

Web: http://zorten.com

Developer: Zorten

Languages: English

Functions: Colors learning.

iPhone/iPod touch version: No.

iPad version: Yes.

Price: Free.

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Review: NL Concepts Autism: Sort & Categorize


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Natural Learning Concepts is a company well known for its wide range of educational material for people with autism and other special needs and for their parents and therapists. From books on autism for adults to cards and books or DVDs of social stories for children, through sensory stimulating toys for the child or special shoe laces, the offer covers many types of needs and is well worth a visit to its website.

The company also has had for a while NL Autism Concepts: Sort & Categorize, a simple and free app that allows to exercise the categorization of images.


16 categories

The functionality offered by the application is really simple. After two initial screens, the activity appears. It has a single mode of operation: at the top of the display there are four categories, each with a name –i.e. vegetables– and several small images of examples of that category.

At the bottom, the image that has to be categorized –i.e. as a bunch of asparagus–, which surely corresponds to one of the four categories listed above, but may or may not correspond to one of the small images that appear inside that category.

All the student has to do is touch the right category. By doing this he will hear a nice sound and move on to a new exercise. If he fails, a short “beep” will sound and the same screen will remain, and so until he chooses the right category.

When you have done this 10 times, a message of congratulation appears and invites the student to decide whether to continue or not with another group of 10 exercises.

The company indicates that there are 16 categories: vegetables, bakery items, fruit, kitchen items, clothing, school, toys and games, sport, electronics, the doctor, the beach, vehicles, nature, animals, birds and musical instruments. In my tests I found all but the last, and each has at least 10 different images, so the total should be around the 200 images.

Simple but free

NL Concepts Autism: Sort & Categorize does that and nothing more. The assignment of categories and images to use every time is completely random, and there is no option to set any details, to use more “attractive” sounds, to change texts or to add new images. For now there is only an iPhone version and its only in English, although the importance of language is low as it mainly affects the titles of the categories.

In exchange for these limitations, if the app fits with your needs, the good news is that it is completely free.

-Francesc Sistach

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NL Concepts Autism: Sort & Categorize 2.0

Web: www.nlconcepts.com

Developer: Natural Learning Concepts Inc.

Languages: English.

Functions: Image categorization exercises.

iPhone/iPod touch version: Yes.

iPad version: No.

Price: Free.

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