The New Mobile iDevice Operating System -iOS6: Helpful Features and a Warning

September 20, 2012

As of yesterday, Sept.19, Apple has their newest mobile operating system available in the desktop iTunes app or online for iPhone 3GS and newer, iPad 2, iPad 3, and the fourth generation iPod touch. Apple is adding about 200 updates to the new operating system. Some of the features are not available on all of the devices- especially the older ones. Here is a link with more detailed information

There are quite a few new features that I am especially looking forward to using with my iPhone and iPad- but I am going to hold off for a while on installing iOS6. I want to play it safe and wait for all the app developers to catch up with the changes prior to downloading this new operating system so that I avoid bugs and crashes. It’s hard to believe- but Apple keeps app developers in the dark until shortly before it releases new devices and operating systems and then there is a race to update the apps so that they will work properly.

Here are few of the changes I am most looking forward to trying:

Guided Access – This feature will enable us to limit the device to a single app by disabling the home button or restrict touch on certain parts of the screen. This will be a great solution for those of us who help individuals who keep exiting the apps we want to be working on. It will help users stay on task and avoid closing apps by mistake. I believe that this feature was added with kids on the Autism spectrum in mind- but I also work with many adults who have cognitive challenges for whom this feature will be very helpful.
Highlighting words as they are said aloud– Research has proven that reading skills improve and individuals with reading disabilities are helped when words are highlighted as text is read aloud. For many years I have used a wide variety of software that provides these types of assistance for students with learning differences as well as for adults who have aphasia. This feature is now going to be included with this new operating system. I am not sure if each word will be individually highlighted or the sentence will be highlighted- but am looking forward to giving this feature a try.
Facetime will work with 3G– Facetime is an iDevice app that allows you to see people as you speak to them. The participants have to both be in Wi-Fi not just 3G or 4G. With this new upgrade- it will be possible to see people and speak to them just with 3G. I can imagine all sorts of ways this can be used to help individuals with communication challenges! Showing live images of actions, people, and items can often convey messages that words may not be able to.
Options for Answering iPhone Calls -When there is a call on a device with iOS 6, it will ask if you’d like a reminder to call back later, or to reply with a text. There will be preset text options like, “I’ll call you later,” or “What’s Up?” This will be great for individuals who are in a noisy location, a doctor’s office or have writing skills that are better than speaking ability. There will also be a “Do Not Disturb” feature which will block calls, texts, alerts and notifications. The user can designate specific callers who can get thru or the feature will turn off when someone calls twice in a short period of time.
GPS Directions Aloud – The Apple Maps app will be accessible directly from the lock screen and include a 3-D image of the desired location.
App Locks- We will be able to password protect apps that we don’t want others to use. This will be very helpful as part of the “pass back” phenomenon- when parents pass their devices back to kids in the car to help them behave well.
I look forward to giving these new features a try when I feel it is safe for me to download iOS 6. I use my ipad every day and want to give time for the developers to work out any issues that might have arisen from this upgrade. On the flip side- I am a bit hesitant about some of the changes not listed above. Facebook is more closely integrated into the new iOS, I am more of a Facebook lurker than poster. I am inclined to keep much of what I do private and don’t revel in frequent posting and updates. I also use Google quite a bit and know that Google Maps and YouTube will no longer be native applications, pre-loaded on the devices, as the Apple and Google go their separate ways. I know that new apps will be developed and all will be fine- it’s just more to figure out.

I am hosting a number of workshops and webinars on using the iPad and other technologies to help children and adults who have a wide range of communication, cognitive, literacy and learning challenges. To learn more about me and what I do check out  For specific information about upcoming workshops and webinars and to register go to

Talking Temptations- Strategies and a few apps that promote the urge to speak

June 7, 2012

During speech therapy sessions with children and adults with severely impaired communication skills, one of my primary challenges is setting up situations that promote the urge to talk. As parents, therapists and educators, when helping individuals who have significant communication challenges, we need to set up an environment that gives the individual a reason to talk and make sure to give individuals enough wait time so that they can initiate speech.  Most of us often know what a person is trying to say and help meet their needs to avoid conflict or make life easier, but there are times that it is more appropriate and therapeutic to actively intervene so that there is more of a reason for the person to initiate a communicate attempt.

There are quite a few methods for doing this. We can sabotage the situation- place something in full view but out of reach that we know the person wants, give them something broken that they need to have fixed or engage them in a pleasurable activity such as swinging on a swing, listening to music or playing a fun game- then suddenly stop the activity. Lots of praise for communicative attempts is critical to promote communication- as is providing frequent opportunities for communication during enjoyable activities. If communication does break down- we try to give just enough help for success. It’s important once the communication is repaired- to then review what happened and practice what the individual could have done or said to communicate the desired message.

I use these techniques with a wide range of individuals- young and not so young individuals with autism spectrum disorder ( ASD), adults with aphasia and individuals with dementia or other cognitive challenges. The initiation of communication is critical for quality of life- and often quite a challenge to establish.

I encourage families, teachers and therapists to create situations throughout the day during everyday activities such as morning rituals, mealtimes, work/school and leisure activities.

When using the iPad- I have recently been using quite a wide variety of apps to create these temptations. Of course- the selection depends on the interests and motivations of the client. For individuals with more advanced communication abilities- these same apps can be used to give each other directions or describe what has happened in the app or what they are about to do.

Here are a few of the apps I have recently been using to generate or improve communicative interactions:

YouTube-    on my iPad I have saved many great videos in the “favorites” section for easy viewing. At times I might pause them engage in comments about what we see. I may offer written word choices using paper/pencil, include targeted vocabulary in an AAC app or provide hands on prompting to facilitate accurate verbal productions. Older clients often like “Dancing with the Stars” , while younger ones often respond to amusing Disney clips or favorite singers. Whenever possible I try to find funny clips to promote enjoyment.


Cut the Rope or Where’s My Water– These two apps are very popular with just about all clients. I hold the iPad and encourage clients to say words such as “dig” , “cut” etc prior to interacting with the app. Hand over hand guidance may be needed for individuals with limb apraxia- but many people young and old love these apps.

  My PlayHome and Cookie Doodle- These apps are not “drill and practice” , but offer motivating ways to engage clients with motivating fun activies. I try hard not to have individuals repeat what I say- but facilitate their production of utterances to make things happen. An example might be “Dad on swing” , “Baby bounce” or “eat cookie.”

Below I have listed a a few websites, blogs and videos that do a great job of presenting ideas about how to create communication temptations and facilitate communicative interactions. I am sure there are many more.

Top 5 Ways to Encourage Spontaneous Language

Communication Temptations: How Use Your Environment to Get Your Child Talking

8 Ways to get your Child to Speak

Communication Temptations

How to make communication temptations really work

Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development

If you know of other sites or videos that illustrate the use of communication temptations to encourage verbal initiative- please email me at

Two New App Goldmines by Tactus Therapy

September 15, 2011

I spend a great deal of time trying out new Apple apps- and currently have over 900.  It’s hard to believe that iTunes currently features over 425,000 apps. There are very few apps which are created specifically to help adults who have aphasia. Tactus Therapy Solutions has recently released two which are wonderful! I find myself using them daily in therapy with adults as well as children who have a wide variety of language and learning challenges. They are a great extension to traditional speech therapy techniques and make it much easier for families to practice at home with guidance about the most appropriate way to configure the apps. They each cost $24.99 and are well worth it!


 Naming TherAppy     

This app is very helpful for children and adults who have word retrieval challenges.

  • The home screen presents four modes: Naming Practice, Describe, Naming Test, and Flashcards.
  • In the upper right corner is the Settings button which will allow you to choose your desired number of trials, the email address to which you want results to be sent, and the Child-Friendly toggle button which takes out pictures that contain alcohol, violence, and adult themes.
  • The upper left corner holds the Info button and contains the basic instructions the user needs in order to use the app. So far I find myself using the “naming practice” mode the most.
  • This app includes over 400 high quality pictured nouns with a flexible cueing hierarchy and optional scoring.
  • The nouns are divided into 10 categories and one or more can be selected for targeted practice.
  • The voice output is a high quality male voice with a neutral accent in slow natural speech to facilitate comprehension.
  • Scoring allows a therapist or partner to indicate when the word is correct or incorrect. The app records which cue was used to get the correct answers and produces a score report for email.

Naming Practice Cueing Hierarchy:

Description: plays a short definition and works as a semantic cue
First Letter: shows the first letter of the target word
Whole Word/Written Word cue: shows the complete written word above the picture
Phrase completion: plays a phrase that the client can complete by supplying the target word
First Sound/Phonemic cue: plays the first sound of the target word
Repetition: plays the entire spoke word for the client to repeat

Describe Cueing Hierarchy
This activity includes over 460 pictures with 4-6 question prompts, with each prompt programmed to be appropriate to the picture currently being shown. The Describe Mode offers questions based on semantic properties such as location, function, smell, color, texture, appearance, shape, size, person, time, sound, taste, sound, category, and association.



I find that I am using Comprehension TherAppy daily with adults and children who have aphasia, auditory processing issues and a variety of attention and cognitive challenges. The pictures and voice are very high quality and there are many ways that this app can be configured to work toward goals. Many nouns are initially includes and expansion packs can be purchased with verbs and adjectives.
There are 3 modes:

  • Listen“: match an auditory stimulus (spoken word) to a picture
  • Read“: match a written stimulus (printed word) to a picture
  • Listen & Read“: match an auditory stimulus (spoken word) to a written word
  • 10 categories of nouns are available  including animals, foods, objects, concepts, places, people, body parts and more. Specific categories can be selected.
  • Users are able to determine the number of photos on the screen (2-6) or the “Auto” feature can be selected to automatically adjust the field size based on performance
  • There are 3 levels of difficulty which adjust the relatedness of foils (semantic and phonemic) to move from Easy to Hard
  • Automatic scoring tracks success and progress on-screen

I look forward to new releases in the near future for Tactus Therapy Solutions. Writing TherAppy will soon be available.

To learn about other ways technology can be used to help adults or children who have a wide range of communication, cognitive, literacy and learning challenges – check out my website at, contact me at or buy my newest book titled The Ultimate Guide to Assistive Technology in Special Education which is full of info about computer software, iPad apps and other tools and strategies which are helpful for improving speaking, understanding, reading, writing and thinking  for adults as well as children. – Free online site for early readers

December 14, 2010

I’d like to share with you information about this free online website I have been using with early readers. It’s a great way for parents to help their young children at home!

Literactive is a comprehensive phonics based reading program for early readers that provides a library of carefully graded interactive storybooks. To use the site it is necessary to register, then log in- but there is no fee. Parents, therapists and teachers can then decide to work online with guided reading or download activities and worksheets. Many of the activities are available in Spanish.

Guided reading activities start with nursery rhymes, proceed with levels 1-5 and then offer a spelling bee, poetry and traditional tales. I love the bright, colorful graphics and children respond favorably to the cartoon characters in the stories. The stories are entertaining as well as repetitive to facilitate learning. I have seen the successful quick learning create incredible enthusiasm for kids who had not before shown an interest in reading. Children can try to read the text on their own or listen to the story first. If the child needs help on a work, they click on it and the computer then highlights the word and says it then breaks it down into the phonemes visually and auditorally.

The worksheets can be downloaded in a PDF format and contain activities for working on ABCs and pre-writing skills. The Activities section includes ideas for engaging in a number of interactive games.