Saturday, June 13, 2015

You are a Social Detective Beginner App Review

I am always on the look out for some decent social skill materials to use when working with students. So, when I was asked to review the "You Are a Social Detective Beginner App" by the same people who make the Think Social! curriculum (which I love and use all the time) I had to give it a try.

Of course, I agreed to do this review at the beginning of the IEP season. I'm afraid I am way late in making my review. However, its now summer, and even though I'm at a year round school, I have more time on my hands than I did back in May.

So, I have been fairly disenfranchised by speech therapy apps as of late. I feel like there is a lot of apps thrown together real quick to make a quick buck. The last few app purchases I've made I've been disappointed with. To be honest, at first I thought that was what I was getting into when I started to look at this app. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The app was meant to go with the You are a Social Detective Book by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke. It emphasizes the use of social "smarts" at home, in school and everywhere else. If you are already familiar with the Think Social curriculum then you'll already be very familiar with the concepts that this app teaches.

This app has quizzes to test your students social skill "smarts". I especially like the videos of real kids. There has been a lot of research done on using video modeling to teach social skills to students on the Autism Spectrum. I been to several training's where they have emphasized this. Students with Autism and Asperger's respond well to watching social skill videos. The short little videos during the quizzes are fantastic. 

Now, I tried to use this during therapy with some kids with social skill goals on their IEPs. One problem is that you can't access all the sections unless you have unlocked it with a your "Avatar". It doesn't lend itself well to group therapy in my opinion. It would be great if you were working one-on-one with a student or as supplement practice for home. This is something that parents can do with their kids at home to further generalize the information from the "You Are a Social Detective" book. 

However, the app costs $24.99, which might be a difficult sale for parents. For therapists, it would be well worth the price at least for the video quizzes. 

These guys have also created the Social Skill Builder app which I haven't had a chance to look at yet, but would love to hear from any of you if you like it or not. 

So, how are you using technology for social skills? Have you found something helpful in assisting students or at least augmenting your lessons?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review of new product- the Forbrain

I got the opportunity to try a product from Europe called Forbrain.

First of all the company has been so great to work with and so dedicated to their product.  They were also patient with me as I took an ETERNITY to write this review! 
The Fobrain offers auditory feedback via bone conduction!  They call it an "enhanced audio vocal loop."  It's supposed to increase your sound encoding skills.  They say it can improve your comprehension of the info you read aloud, it can help your attention to the task, your encoding it into memory, and your improved speech and voice as you listen to yourself, among other things.  Basically, while you're speaking, you can hear what you're saying more loudly and intensely as it comes back to you.  The "speaker" part of the device rests in front of your ears right on your bones and the sound is vibrated through to your ears.  The company suggested I try it out with patients working on voice, motor speech, and cognition.

I tried the device on myself first, and did some reading out loud. I could definitely hear my speech coming back to me loud and clear, and I could feel the vibrations in my bones. I immediately thought this would be great for those patients with voice issues or dysarthria who are less aware of their speech problems, or who have a hard time hearing the subtle things we are asking them to listen for. Even artic problems could benefit I'm guessing.

Of course, after wearing it myself and doing some reading, it's very hard for me to judged accurately whether or not it improved my attention and memory, etc.  There are some clinical trials going on in Europe right now to test those things.  It will be interesting to see the results.  If the company can still stand to work with me after me being so slow and annoying, I'll keep you posted.  :)

I then tried the device with several of my patients, since it is obviously not harmful, and since any additional potential help to my dysarthria and voice therapy skills is welcome. My patients have all commented that the device is comfortable, seems to be helping.  I did notice with two particularly quiet and dysarthiric patients, their speech did seem to improve mildly after placement of the device.  I think I will hang onto it and continue to use it with patients who need a little something more than traditional tx, or who are not responding to my cues well.  I tried it with a couple of patients working on memory and attention, and again, they said the device seemed helpful in staying on task and remembering what they were reading. Again, I don't see why this couldn't be used by me experimentally to help give patients a "boost."

Several of my colleagues are considering using the device experimentally, and we even considered doing a simple research project and presenting a poster at ASHA.  This could be a future research project!

In conclusion, I think the deice has some great potential.  I love to try to things, and will continue to use it with dysarthria and voice patients who need more help with listening, perceptual skills, changing subtle thinks in their speech, resonance, voice, etc.  And I'll be watching for the results of these trials in Europe.  If you are interested in the device, you can leave a comment below and I'll ask my contact person if they would like to contact you for beta testing, reviewing, research, or purchasing. I don't know if they are currently available for purchase in the US.