Educating and Motivating Students on the Autism Spectrum by Lois Jean Brady MA, CCC-SLP, CAS Matthew Guggemos MS, CCC-SLP

 

 

 

Two brother toddler boys playing with tablet pc

Read this article, and you will learn something new and useful. Hopefully, the previous sentence activated your nucleus accumbens, a structure located deep in your brain that plays a key role in reward and learning mechanisms. Whether you’re playing a videogame, listening to music, eating chocolate, or learning something new and interesting, the nucleus accumbens supports all of these experiences. Learning and engagement are, in fact, intricately woven together by specific regions in the brain. Yet the relationship between learning and engagement often gets short shrift — as if fun can dilute the content of an education. Current research is showing us, however, that learning and entertainment go hand in hand: in fact, edu-tainment may be the future of teaching and learning.

 

Ed·u·tain·ment (noun /ˌɛʤəˈteɪnmənt/) is content with a high degree of both educational and entertainment value that is designed to teach something — using games, computers, films, or other media.

We know that engagement and interest in academic tasks create positive educational experiences for children, which can spark curiosity and fascination for learning. And for children with autism, motivation and engagement are essential.  However, many school-aged children — kids with ASD included — are often given academic tasks that can be overly challenging and mostly unengaging.  Research suggests that mundane, uninteresting tasks can lead to behaviors, which can impede or interfere with learning. On the other hand, recent research has shown that having fun can improve learning: even abstract, complex information.

Currently, educators have effective strategies to help children with autism engage in a task and learn critical new skills — such as using a child’s “special interest” to connect to material, giving choices to promote involvement, reinforcing responses during a task, working for a reinforcer, and interspersing both easy and challenging tasks to mediate frustration. Combining these strategies as a “package” has been shown to improve motivation and engagement — while, at the same time, decreasing behaviors that negatively impact learning.

New mobile devices can help educators and therapists engage children on the autism spectrum, using the power of edutainment. With mobile technology — iPad, iPhone, tablet, and apps that literally fit in the palm of one’s hand — students on the autism spectrum are edutaining themselves and learning like never before.  As a matter of fact, studies have found that mobile technology not only motivates but allows children with autism to concentrate during learning and demonstrate what they have learned.

The concept of edutainment is not new, as a matter of fact.  In the past, we have been edutained by a number of now-famous shows — Schoolhouse Rock, Sesame Street, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Smart Songs — to teach topics such as math, science, social skills, and history.  Board and video games have also been used to teach social skills and academic concepts.

Edu-tainment and apps — how do we employ the powerful principles of edutainment to engage students in academic tasks and improve performance, using apps on mobile devices? Choosing a great edutainment app is more than just picking a math or reading app; here are a few tips on choosing apps that use edutainment to effectively teach important skills such as communication, social behavior, or academics:

  • Use the apps yourself prior to giving them to your children or students.
  • Choose apps that can be customized with the child’s information or picture.
  • Find apps that include reinforcers (verbal or sound).
  • Emphasize apps that have a point system or levels.
  • Pick an app that engages as many of the senses possible.
  • Download apps that use various themes and are not repetitive.
  • Encourage your child to “help” choose the app.

Technology is increasingly infiltrating the educational system, offering students with autism access to tools that stimulate crucial areas of the brain responsible for learning and entertainment. Whether at home or in school, engagement and learning can go hand in hand.

About the Author Lois Brady CCC SLP
lois
Lois Brady is passionate about working with the special needs community. She found her calling while in high school, when she spent her summer breaks volunteering in camp programs for children with special needs.
Lois is a Certified Autism Specialist with over two decades of experience working as a Speech Language Pathologist specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Educational accomplishments include a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, Certificate in Assistive Technology, Certificate in Computer Based Intervention and completion of an Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

Lois an also an author, her books include, Apps for Autism and the Speech in Action book series. In addition, Lois designed and wrote an educational course on Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT.) Lois in partnership with companies like, SpeakinMotion and Motion Portrait, Inc. develops apps to enhance communication and language. These include VAST Autism 1 – Core – SpeakinMotion  and InnerVoice: augmentative alternative communication – MotionPortrait, Inc..  You can read more in our developer interview. Lois also writes a blog Proactive Speech.

 



$25 iTunes GiftCard Giveaway From Erik X. Raj SLP



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Thanks to Erik Raj our final giveaway for #BHSM2015 is a $25 iTunes GiftCard Giveaway. This is open to the USA only.

Erik is an SLP who makes fun and engaging apps for Speech Therapy especially for older students.

We have reviewed his apps:

Multiple Choice Articulation– (review link)


Multiple Choice Articulation Multiple Choice Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

"Top Speech Therapy App of the Year" - Simply Speech

"Encourages carryover of speech and language skills while having fun and giggling away!" - Consonantly Speaking

"Totally engaging! My.

Secret Mission Articulation (review link)


Secret Mission Articulation Secret Mission Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

Created by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP, Secret Mission Articulation is a unique speech therapy game that challenges players to guess a hidden word by choosing from different letters on an alphabet board.

and I Dare You Articulation (review link)


I Dare You Articulation I Dare You Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

"Every one of my clients LOVED the app!" - Teachers With Apps

"It truly brought a breath of fresh air to therapy!" - AppAbled

"The hilarious prompts will have your students moving & laughing.

Erik also has many other fun articulation apps including:

Word Search Articulation for Speech Therapy – Erik X. Raj

Word Search Articulation Word Search Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

Practice your searching skills while working on your articulation abilities with this fun and exciting speech therapy game. Created by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP, Word Search Articulation is jam-packed.


Open-Ended Articulation – Erik X. Raj

Open-Ended Articulation Open-Ended Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

"Top Pick App" - Smart Apps For Kids

"Erik has created a great app that students will have fun with. They might not even notice they're working!" - Home Sweet Speech Room

"It's perfect .


Game Show Articulation for Speech Therapy – Erik X. Raj

Game Show Articulation Game Show Articulation by Erik X. Raj

Price: $4.99 USD

Created by Erik X. Raj, M.S., CCC-SLP, Game Show Articulation is a unique speech therapy game that turns students into game show contestants and challenges them to answer super fun trivia questions for.

 

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Giveaway

If you would like to win a $25 itunes Gift Card please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to US only and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).



Tensebuilder by Mobile Education Store – Review & Giveaway #BHSM



For #BHSM we have 2 copies to give away of TenseBuilder, we reviewed this app in 2013, you can read our review below.

Reviewed by Brenda

What we love…

I love the well-made animations, ease-of-use (including video tutorial) and customization options as well as the ability to share statistics and audio recordings.

What we’d love to see…

The app is solid and I could find nothing lacking as presented, but an option to purchase other languages or specialty packs could open up the playing field even more.

Summary

TenseBuilder is a strong and well-made app that is easy to use and is adaptable to the learning needs of each user. The huge list of customization options make this an app that can continue to be useful as a users learning progresses and the sharing features can be vital in teacher/parent/therapist correspondence.

Our Rating

TenseBuilder Mobile Education Store has another great new app available that is geared to speech and language for kids that need a better way of learning. Founded in 2008 by Kyle Tomson, who found apps lacking and expensive for his special needs daughter, Mobile Education Store continues to raise the standard for education apps.  TenseBuilder  is the latest endeavor by Kyle and his team and is packed with features to help learn verb tenses. The app has 48 humorous (but clear) video models of each verb illustrating each tense. I rarely list all custom options available in a review, but I think it’s necessary here to fully illustrate how TenseBuilder can be utilized. Users have a plethora of customization options available including;

Student name
Audio instructions (Off/On)
Correct Answer Reinforcement (Off/On)
Record Correct Answer (Off/On)
Level of Play (2 levels)
Maximum Number of Level 2 Choices (3 to 7)
Tense (Future/Present/Past/All)
Verbs (Regular/Irregular/All)
Select Verbs (48)
Lesson Style (Long/Short)
TenseBuilder also includes a thorough video tutorial, an option to save sentences and statistics report that can be emailed. Audio recordings of users can also be saved and shared.
TenseBuilder is very user-friendly. As a parent and not a specialist or educator, any app that holds my hand through the process and is easy to learn is a big winner in my book. I love that the videos are engaging and do not have a “special needs” feel to them. I tried them with each of my children and received equally positive feedback. I was especially enamored with the audio recording option because having quick feedback seems to make a huge difference with getting my kids to participate.
I enjoyed reviewing this app so much that instead of finding flaws, I found myself thinking of potential expansion options Mobile Education Store might want to consider. Possible ideas are specialized verb packs for different situations like sports, science and computing or learning second languages like French and Spanish.
I think TenseBuilder is a strong and well-made app that is easy to use and is adaptable to the learning needs of each user. The huge list of customization options make this an app that can continue to be useful as a users learning progresses and the sharing features can be vital in teacher/parent/therapist correspondence.

TenseBuilder TenseBuilder by Mobile Education Store LLC

Price: $9.99 USD

Own as an individual app or as part of our MES Speech Therapy Bundle.

Winner - 2012 2nd Best Educational App by Let's Talk SLP
Winner - 2012 Best Teaching App by TeachHub.com
Winner - 2012.

Giveaway

Please enter via Rafflecopter below, winners will be emailed and must redeem their code within 5 days.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).



Pronoun Heroes by Smarty Ears Review & Giveaway




iPad Screenshot 1

What we love…

Engaging app with comic graphics and real life photos, different game structures, customization,
clear voice, multiple chances for correct response.
text is large and easy to read.

What we’d love to see…

Ability to record responses, addition of male voice option, ability to switch games without quitting app

Summary

Pronouns Heroes is an amazingly engaging app to teach and reinforce 5 different pronoun types and 19 different pronouns. The graphics are appealing and the games engaging.  The app is customizable for different levels of pronoun understanding and usage.  There is  reporting option and is compatible with  the Therapy Reporting Centre.

Our Rating

Pronoun Heroes

Pronoun Heroes is an app developed by Smarty Ears, a long time app developer in the area of speech and language. Founded by Speech Language Pathologist Barbara Fernandes, Smarty Ears has over 50 applications geared towards all areas of speech and language development.

Pronoun Heroes is an amazing app to help learn about 5 different types of pronouns.  The app addresses personal objective, personal subjective, demonstrative, possessive and reflexive.  I didn’t even know many of these when I started to play!

On each page of the game the active user is displayed. The app allows for multiple users and they are displayed on consecutive pages.

 

The app uses a comic Superheroes theme and has bright, engaging graphics. There are 19 different pronouns included in the 4 different games. There are also two child friendly guides that cover “What are the Pronouns” and “Pronoun Types”.  A Superhero avatar guides you through a these explanations of pronouns.

iPad Screenshot 2

Activities

Where is the Pronoun?

You can choose to work on words or phrases in this activity.

In words 4 superheroes hold up cards with words on and you need to pick the one that shows a pronoun.

In phrases a phrase is broken into individual words and you need to choose the word that is a pronoun.

Which One is Not a pronoun?

This is similar to the word activity in Where is the Pronoun only this time the student must choose the superhero carrying a card with a word which is not a pronoun.

Find the Picture

The player is presented with a pronoun and 2 pictures, they need to choose which picture best represents the pronoun. This game can be can be customized for individual students choosing which pronouns to work on.

Use a Pronoun.

For this game you need to choose which pronouns the student will work on, you can use pre-set options or set your own. The child is presented with a picture and a phrase describing the picture with a word missing.  The phrase is spoken can be repeated by tapping on the picture. They must fill-in-the blank by dragging and dropping the correct pronoun into the blank space.

There is a cute sounding reward ding and a not so displeasing gong when the wrong answer is chosen.  The customizable games allow for teaching and reinforcing one or more pronouns. This allows for easy advancement through different stages.

Like all Smarty Ears apps, this app is compatible with the Therapy Report Center.  Users can be imported from and saved to the Center. Data collection is relatively easy and does not interfere with the actual game playing.  At the end of the game, the report page is exposed and results easily read.

There is no option to switch between games in a session, you currently have to exit the session and reselect the players to change games, it would be nice to add an option to do so. I would like to see the ability to add photos from a photo library to make the app even more individualized.  A male voice, as an option should be considered. As with all apps, I like the ability to record the child’s responses, in their own voice.  Perhaps this can be added in a future version of the game.

Overall, I really like this app.  I like the comic graphics and the real life photos, it is engaging and keeps students interest. The pronouns taught are more advanced, yet presented in a manner that is appropriate for the younger and older students. The feedback sounds are pleasant, and the “rate” of the game is appealing to the children.  The voice that reads the stimulus is clear and well-articulated, and I like the ability to customize which pronouns are worked on.

I highly recommend this app to SLPs and to parents to enhance carryover of pronouns (receptive and expressive).  I rate this app a 5 in the true tradition of most Smarty Ears apps.

iTunes Link: Pronoun Heroes – Smarty Ears


Pronoun Heroes Pronoun Heroes by Smarty Ears

Price: $19.99 USD

Pronoun Heroes is an engaging way to teach inspiring superheroes the use of pronouns. Created by certified speech-language pathologists and developed by Smarty Ears Apps, Pronoun Heroes teaches and reinforces.

Giveaway

If you would like to win a promo code for this app, please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lisa is a Speech Language Pathologist who has been working in an inclusive school system for over 32 years. She works with children that have issues in all areas of speech and language. She loves her work and is always looking for ways to integrate technology.

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