Our preK-12 district is rolling out iPads this fall to support a SPED program, and so one of my objectives for attending the ISTE2010 Conference in Denver was to identify the latest SPED apps for these devices to use in our program. My research included discussions with Meg Ormiston, who let me know about the TCEA i*apps Spreadsheet (which appeared to be missing a SPED column), Camilla Galiolo who showed me apps she used in a recent pilot for autistic students, and Cindy Peters who gave me detailed info on which apps she uses in her work with special needs kids.
In lieu of a more specific i*app resource for special needs, both Camilla and Cindy recommended use of typical age-appropriate iPad educational applications which are geared toward the desired cognitive level. I need to do more extensive research on the subject, but at this time there does not seem to be widespread knowledge about the use of i*app resources for special needs. All that is about to change, hopefully, with help from myself and others in the iear.org community.
The list of iPad apps below, used for special needs students, were provided to me by Cindy Peters who took the time to show me each one, and let me jot down the titles to share with you:
Coins Genius - Free lite version available from FunVid Apps LLC, allows you to move coins around on the screen to support basic coin counting skills.
Biggerwords - Free by DollarApp displays very large text for those learning to read.
Soundrop - A free fun game-themed activity where a ball drops onto lines you arrange and it makes different sounds as it bounces.
Crazy Face Lite - Free app by Ezone.com where a green furry monster face moves his/her lips whenever you talk; great for students with trouble speaking, encourages shy students to speak more often.
iSign Lite - Great free app by iDev2.com for learning sign language.
Doodlebuddy - Free app by Pinger, Inc. used for finger painting, and can send work via email.
Toy Story 3 Read Along - Interactive iPad storybook app for $8.99, good early literacy tool for all learners, including ELL/ESL.
Flashcards for iPad - This $5.99 app is for all learners but can also be used effectively by special needs.
iBooks - Free awesome reading app.
iChalky - Is a fun little dancing figure app that you can control, for $0.99.
Wordwarp - A word game similar to Boggle, to see how many words you can spell out of a given set of letters in a certain amount of time, for $0.99.
iBloom - This has to be the coolest free app I've seen in a while. It teaches students how to grow plants. You turn the i*device on it's side and shake it to plant seeds, tilt the iPad to water the plants (you see a watering can appear on screen at the angle you are tilting it, and hear water trickle down). Then you have to blow on the screen (for iPod touch/iPhone) or whisk hand across the screen of the iPad to make the wind blow.
Finally, someone had mentioned to me at the conference that the ABA had approximately 22 Autism i*apps out on iTunes but I had not been successful at locating them in early searches. My determination appears to have paid off. A Google search turned up some apps made by modelmekids which seem promising, but by far the most active vendor in the space is kindergarten.com. They currently have 26 apps listed on their site which are based on "Applied Behavioral Analysis" (ABA) techniques geared toward cognitive level rather than grade level. These apps are designed to meet the needs of "children with learning disabilities such as speech or language delays, hearing loss, ADD/ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Autism, Down Syndrome, Dyspraxia or PDD".
These apps are broken down into 5 categories, listed below, whose descriptions and pricing are listed out on the kindergarten.com website. Although they were developed for iPod Touch and iPhone, I suspect they may work on the iPad (iear.org will need to test this theory). In the interests of time, I am not going to repeat the vendor's eloquent descriptions of each product, but encourage you to go out to their site and read more about these apps:
Receptive by Class
Receptive by Feature
Receptive by Function
Receptive by Feature, Function & Class Combined
Fruit & Nuts
Things You Eat
Things You Play With
Things You Wear
Animal Sounds Lotto
Inside Sounds Lotto
Musical Instruments Lotto
What Doesn't Belong?
What Goes Together?
Hopefully this information will officially kick-start the effort for leaders in the field to begin taking a serious look at how iPad applications can benefit students with special needs. As the research progresses I will keep everyone posted on my findings.
See also Eric Sailers' groundbreaking work: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch Apps for (Special) Education