Sunday, May 5, 2013

Top 10 Apps for Children with Cerebral Palsy.... Marcela De Vivo, Guest Blogger

Top 10 Apps for Children With Cerebral Palsy


Daily I marvel at how parents of yesteryear handled having children—especially children with special needs. Through blogs and the Internet, there is a greater understanding of what special needs entail and network of support for parents. Technology has also benefited the children themselves, with all types of advances providing assistance where they need it the most.


Communication often can be a struggle for children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Sometimes getting the most basic messages be a challenge and create frustration for parents and child alike. For children with cerebral palsy (and autism, Downs Syndrome, or other conditions that impair language and verbal communication), a number of applications for tablets and smartphones have been developed with their special needs in mind. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps helps those struggling with speech to communicate with their parents, teachers, and peers.


Children with cerebral palsy can also benefit from other apps that help improve motor control skills. Here are some of the best apps out there for children with cerebral palsy.



1      Proloquo2Go - AssistiveWare  One of the highest rated and most popular (and relatively expensive) apps available, this AAC program is highly customizable and can be adjusted to a wide range of users. This text-to-speech program generates speech by tapping buttons with symbols/icons or typing on-screen. It features a range real children’s voices from which to choose, and can be personalized with a combination of icons and photos. Best of all, this program is easy to customize and personalize on-the-go. Here is a video of the Proloquo2go being used by Max, a nine-year-old-boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy.


2      TapToTalk™ - Assistyx LLC  Like Proloquo2go, this is a AAC program. A free application, it offers solid basic text-to-speech needs, but does not have quite the vocabulary or flexibility of its more expensive competitor. However, if you purchase the customizable version, you will be able to add more words and images (including your own photos) as needed.


3      Yes-No - Smarty Ears From the Smarty Ears stable of AAC applications, this basic, quick and easy application only offers a choice between yes and no, but is a great program for non-verbal or pre-verbal children to quickly get across an answer. The two-choice sets can be configured with pictures, audio and text as needed to illustrate the difference between the two choices.


4      iComm - Bappz  An excellent AAC application for quick choice-making, iComm comes with a number of pictures and voice recordings of colors, shapes, letters and body parts, with the option of customizing with your own photos and recordings. All the child has to do is select the images that correspond with point they want to communicate and create a short sentence.


5      First Then Visual Schedule - Good Karma Applications, Inc  A great tool that helps children to better understand their daily schedule—especially for those with a rigid timetable. Foreknowledge and understanding of next steps can help decrease frustration and anxiety in children, especially with those with limited communication skills or understanding of sequences. A selection of photos and voice prompts (you can record your own) allows you to create custom schedules that walk children through their routines.


6      SpeechBox™ for Speech Therapy (Apraxia, Autism, Down's Syndrome) - iPad Edition - The Jonah Bonah Learning Company An Award Winning iPad app designed for word practice, this easy-to-use program uses simple picture-for-word “flashcards” to help children increase their vocabulary. Not only does the app have over 700 pictures/words, but you can customize by adding your own pictures (including friends and family members) for practice.


7      Dance Party Zoo - FIZZBRAIN LLC  A fun way to practice balance, coordination, and rhythm (while engaging children in always needed physical activity), Dance Party Zoo is a dancing game that provides children feedback about how well they did at keeping rhythm via a simple graph. Not only are children able to pick their own zoo animal as an avatar, the after each session, they can watch their avatar replay the dance.


8      Dexteria - Fine Motor Skill Development - BinaryLabs, Inc.  A multiple-award winning app, Dexteria is a set of therapeutic hand exercises. Used on a regular basis, this program can build strength, control, and dexterity. A great program to improve fine motor skills in children’s hands, so as to get their handwriting-ready. Dexteria has an automatic tracking and reporting feature that allows you to monitor progress.


9      Injini: Child Development Game Suite - NCSOFT  This collection of learning games target toddlers and preschoolers with cognitive, language, and fine motor delays. Injini entertains and engages children with 10 feature games, 90 puzzles, over 100 illustrations and more, while helping them practice their fine motor and language skills, and improve spatial awareness, memory and visual processing.


10   Zanny—Born to Run. With beautiful illustrations, pictures that move by touch, and an audio narration this interactive app is part of a book series written specifically for children with special needs. While not directly aimed at children with cerebral palsy, the story focuses on acceptance, tolerance and understanding of people who are “different.” This program comes with a game that helps children recognize facial expressions and feelings.



And here’s a short bonus list of apps that are not specifically targeted for children with special needs, but are for preschool aged children and so still can be used as great tools for development.


1      iEarnedThat HD - Kidoc, LLC  An excellent non-verbal and interactive motivational tool to keep your child working towards a goal. Take any picture of a desired reward and turn it into a 3D interactive jigsaw puzzle (of up to 60 pieces), set the goal and how each puzzle piece is awarded, and encourage your child as they earn their desired prize one piece at a time.


2      iTouchiLearn Life Skills: Morning Routines for Preschool Kids - Staytoooned  Teach your child virtual morning routines that can translate into real world activities. Each level is achieved only by completing a unique activity in the prior level; children earn star rewards for successful completing a goal. This interactive program reinforces life skills in a fun, approachable manner.


3      Monkey Preschool Lunchbox - THUP Games  A great way to introduce your child to letters, colors, shapes, counting and pattern recognition. Children earn reward stickers to put on their own virtual canvas board by helping the monkey fill his lunchbox with fruit through solving puzzles and other learning games. Added possible bonus: convincing the picky eater to try eating something that’s featured in the monkey’s lunchbox. rel=author">Marcela De Vivo
is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. Her oldest son has cerebral palsy and it was her special needs lawyer that first suggested many of these apps, all of which she now uses on a near-daily basis.