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Review: VisTimer


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VisTimer is a useful app that allows you to do something simple but very important for children with ASD: to measure something as abstract as the time. It is common that such children have a deficit in executive functions, such as organizing, so a tool that helps them to control the time spent on an activity can be very useful. VisTimer can help them with this in a very visual way, and is also highly customizable in terms of colors, sounds and texts. If you think you can help, I recommend you continue reading this review, where I will try to show you both some of its features and setting options VisTimer with some images.

The way VisTimer has chosen to represent the passage of time is a sphere, which decreases in size as time goes on. The result is very visual and understandable. When the app starts, the entire sphere appears, showing on the bottom the bar that allows to start the counting down.

Once started, the same bar allows you to pause and, just below, indicates the remaining time.

VisTimer settings allow you to customize many aspects, such as the sound played when the clock runs out, to activate and configure a pre-alert that produce a ‘beep’ 1 minute before the end and to choose the color of the sphere or the color of the text, among others.

The pre-alert is very interesting for people with ASD. It allows you to anticipate the end of time not only with a customizable sound but also with a text that appears on the sphere.

VisTimer also lets you to set the tone that sounds each time out. Although you cannot add your own tone, it does have enough variety to find one suited to our purpose.

As I said before, the color of the dial is also customizable. Although it seems a detail without importance, sometimes these small details make the difference between a tool that work with a child or is inoperable.

Depending on the capabilities of each case, it may be useful to show the numerical value of the remaining time. As shown in the picture, the numbers are large and clear, while respecting the image of the area as a visual aid.

You can also define the color of the text. Often, for these things, it is interesting to choose the preferred colors of the child, so that using this tool becomes more attractive.

Finally, when the time ends, besides playing the sound, VisTimer displays a text on the screen indicating the end of the defined time.

From my point of view, VisTimer is a tool that can be useful for organization and better time management during activities, primarily for children with ASD. In any case, it can also be useful for other children with special educational needs. There is also a Free version with less settings, but that allows you to assess whether the app is really useful for you.

-Iván

VisTimer 1.1
VisTimer - Mindfultools

Company: Mindfultools
Languages: English
Functions: Visual timer; time management and organization aid.
Versions: Universal version for iPhone/iPad; Free version.
Price: $1.99 / €1.59

 


Review: R+Remind


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I continue with the review of the three apps of Pyramid Educational Consultants that I started yesterday with Working4. Now it’s the turn of R + Remind, a kind of timer that reminds us of something on a regular basis. Pyramid has thought it can help remind us to reward appropriate behavior (something very characteristic of ABA-based interventions), but it could have other uses.

First, you have to specify the interval in minutes (minimum 1, maximum 15) and if you want to repeat it continuously during one hour or only once. You must also indicate whether you want sound or not. There will always be a visual effect after each interval, but the sound is optional.

Once you touch the Start button, the countdown screen appears. It shows two bars on the top that indicate how much time is left to finish both the current interval and the hour.

The hourglass image is just decorative. Each time the interval counter reaches zero, the screen changes its color for a few seconds and you hear a sound, which is different depending on the length of the interval.

Three sliders allow you to interrupt the current interval and start another immediately, to pause the app, and to stop the timers and return to the settings screen.

R+Remind is an app with a very specific use and a very specific design that you may like or not. As happened in Working4, the iPad screens seems somewhat awkward, as if they had enlarged a design for the smaller iPhone screen. I think that any visual representation of how time passes in the center of the screen would be nice, for example. Anyway, R+Remind is fully operational and is designed for the educator, not for the child, so the design here is not so important.

-Francesc Sistach

R+Remind 1.0
Links: iTunes
Company: Pyramid Educational Consultants
Languages: English
Functions: Timer / reminder for reinforcements.
Versions: Universal version for iPad, iPod touch and iPhone; one for Android.
Price: $1.99 / €1.59

 

Review: Turn Taker


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To let our children play with other children is a plus in their evolution and increases their quality of life. But how do you play a game of two if we do not know how to take turns?

Turn Taker gives us the opportunity to learn to manage and take turns with a highly simple, affordable app that also incorporates a learning mode that will be very useful, especially for children with autism or other special needs.

How does it work
The operating mechanism of Turn Taker is simple thanks to its visual simplicity. It consists basically of a hand that points to the person to which corresponds the turn.

It also shows a small box on the screen that the participants should touch to end their turns. This way, the hand will reverse and point to the other participant.

This visual stimulus will be accompanied by a verbal audio clip that will announce: “your turn” or “my turn”. It is, therefore, an app for just two participants.

As an example: imagine we play dominoes. We put the iPhone or the iPad in the middle of the two players. We start the game. The hand is pointing to one of them and the app says “your turn”. The player starts his move. Once he has placed the domino, he touches the box “finished” and the hand reverses and points to the other player. And so on until the end of the game.

Settings and learning
But before you start playing you need to know Turn Taker. As mentioned above, the app has a learning mode that allows you to teach children the significance of each image and the purpose of the buttons.

Just after starting the app, you will see the settings menu.

The first thing you must do is deciding if the option Game Play has to be on or off. If enabled, you will see a single option to configure, Interval, allowing you to choose how often you want the verbal aids (“your turn”, “my turn”) to appear. To start the game you simply have to touch on ‘Begin’.

If you disable that option, you access the learning mode. First of all you have to choose a particular activity: painting a picture, playing video games, etc. that will be shared by both participants.

In the same settings screen two configuration options will appear:

  • Duration of turns: Here you can select how long you want that each turn to be. Turn Taker lets you choose different durations for the turns of each of the two participants. This option is useful considering the child’s turn will probably need to be longer, at least initially. You can later adjust it and try to make it similar to the other participant’s turn.
  • Interval: Here you can select how often you want to hear the verbal aids. If you select an interval longer than the turn itself (eg turn of 15 seconds, interval of 20 seconds), the voice will be heard only at the beginning of each turn. Muting the iPhone or iPad will eliminate it and putting it on vibration mode (only the iPhone) will make the warning to be in that format.

Participants should sit one in front of the other. To begin, you touch the ‘Begin’ button. The pointing hand will appear accompanied by the verbal stimulus (“your turn”), indicating that the child can start painting (or doing the activity that has been decided).

Once you the time specified for the turn ends, a new screen will appear automatically to indicate the end of turn.

As indicated in the drawing that appears on the screen (with hands raised) the child must stop painting (or doing whatever activity he was doing). Then, by touching on the image, the hand will change its direction and point to the other participant. The same sequence is repeated again and again. This way the child will learn that when the hand points him it is his turn, and vice versa. When you want to end the activity, you make a double tap on the screen.

Social Story
In the 1.8 update of Turn Taker, you can find a new and interesting section titled Social Story. It is a little cartoon to teach children to take turns and accept losing. A beautiful story that does not forget the different emotions involved in sharing a game and the importance of taking into account the other. This extra will be useful for children with some degree of oral and written language.

Assessment
Turn Taker is a very useful application for children with learning disabilities and especially for those who have difficulty understanding and taking turns. It will be very useful for teaching children when a turn begins and ends and to wait until it’s their turn.

It is true that having only two participants simplifies and facilitates the child’s learning. Obviously, we like the idea of a future version that allows adding more participants once the child masters the mechanism.

We also value very positively the simplicity and accuracy of images, which are very expressive and clear. Although, perhaps they could be more colorful, so that the app would be more attractive to children… and also for parents!

With regard to verbal stimuli (“your turn, my turn”), we think it would be helpful that they were single term phrases, even more differentiated between them (eg YOUR-MINE) to facilitate learning to children with impaired verbal comprehension.

As mentioned above, Turn Taker is not a timer, and therefore will not serve us to play timed games, but instead it can be very effective to teach children to play games such as Dominoes or Parcheesi, to make a puzzle sharing, and many more.

We therefore recommend its purchase to parents, educators or anyone working with children with difficulties that want to teach them to play using turns or simply to respect them.

-Sandra Ballesta

Turn Taker 1.9
Enlaces: iTunes
Company: Touch Autism
Languages: English
Functions: Visual turn taker for two participants and a learning mode.
Versions: Universal version for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
Versions: $4.99 / €3.99

 


Review: SharingTimer


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Handhold Adaptive, LLC is an old friend in iAutism. Its applications, iPrompts and AutismTrack, have been discussed in our pages, and now it’s time for SharingTimer, its latest release.

And it’s precisely ‘time’ what the application is about. SharingTimer is a small but complete application to take turns or to share games or other activities that involve several people that need to take turns one after another.

SharingTimer, of course, can be useful for anybody, especially for children, but everyone knows that time management and turn taking is not usually one of the strengths of people with autism, so it is not surprising that Handhold Adaptive has developed this application.

Comprehensive setup
SharingTimer does something relatively simple, but in a very complete and colorful way. You will usually start the settings by defining who participates in the activity. You can use some of the default “players” (there are 11, each one with a different color) or add new ones by typing their names and using a picture, which can be taken with the built-in camera or chosen from the image library. The second option allows you to use photographs of real players, so that the shift change is visually more understandable.

You can also delete players from the list. However, those who have been created will remain forever in the list of ‘candidates’, so that you can re-select them again. The same screen allows you to reorder the players at will or press a button so that the application shuffles them.

Once done, you can similarly select the activity to be performed in shifts. There is a list of 40 predefined activities (basically, games for children) and you can add your own activities by taking or selecting a picture and writing a name or description. For the existing activities, you can change the text, adapting it to your wishes or to the language you want to use, for example.

The third key element is the time of each shift, which can be defined in multiples of 15 seconds, 1 minute or 5 minutes. The minimum time is 15 seconds and the maximum is 30 minutes.

Finally, you can choose the wallpaper from 14 images and the sound that marks the end of each turn (4 options), but the default values are more than adequate. So, you can change many settings, but that does not to impede to start very fast.

Turn taking
Once everything is configured, it’s time for starting the activity. The display will show the photo and name of the player whose turn it is, the activity that takes place, who the next players are, and the remaining time of the shift.

The time itself is presented in the form of a box that shows the minutes and seconds left and a green background that decreases as time runs out. As a visual aid, there is a kind of clock with a clock hand that makes a full rotation every 15 seconds.

When a player’s turn ends, you hear the selected sound and see an alert message that shows who is the next player, and so on until the end of the list of players. At any time, you can press the pause button to stop the clock.

Assessment
SharingTimer is similar to other turn taking applications, such as Take Turns (already discussed in iAutism), but it is notable for its striking graphics. Being able to put pictures with the faces of the participants, to assign a photo to the activity, to change the wallpaper or to see a double time counter is appealing. Its price is higher than other alternatives, but it is not prohibitive.

SharingTimer does not work as a background application, so if you leave the application you will not receive any alert of the end of turn. In fact, the sequence will be totally aborted. This is important if you precisely want to take turns for accessing an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. But I think that the purpose of this application is to be very visible on the table at any time during the activity.

I always like to contribute ideas for improvements, and in this case I would like to see an “endless” mode in which as soon as the last shift ends the application would start over. And I would like to see a button to terminate prematurely the active player’s turn, for example. But, anyway, SharingTimer is pretty functional as it is. And although it is available only in English, its use is very intuitive and, as you can change the texts of the activities, you can easily localize the application.

-Francesc Sistach

SharingTimer 1.09
Links: iTunes
Company: HandHold Adaptive, LLC
Languages: English
Functions: Visual turn taker
Versions: Universal version for iPad, iPod touch and iPhone
Price: $7.99 / €5.99