c'mon get Appy (part II: Android)

Editor's Note: As we discussed last week, I started these entries soooo long ago. Lots has changed since I started the post but since I do have an Android device I use these apps more frequently. I have included resources for more information at bottom of the page.

I have an Android phone and have used these apps at various points. When comparing Apple and Android, there are a lot more free apps on the Android store, but they don't always work across platforms. So things like the Handwriting Without Tears app don't connect to my phone, so this is definitely a limited list. These are free unless otherwise noted.

Treatment Apps

Activity Timer Trial - this is essentially like the Time Timer, where you can watch the time disappear. You can customize the color of the timer and the length of the timer. I have the trial version of this, which only goes to 10 minutes, but I never really need to measure longer than that during a treatment anyway. My gripe with this is the same as with all Time Timers, that the kids sometimes fixate on watching the time disappear instead of whatever they are supposed to be doing.

Ultrachron Lite - this is a stopwatch and timer application that works well. The free version tracks a history of 10 times if you need to time several things in a row. 

Balance Ball - This game is really hard. You try to balance the ball between two clowns who are blowing on it. I can't make it longer than 10 seconds, so it's really too much for the kids.

Beautiful Bubbles - this is very simple and good for a little diversion if needed. Bubbles float around and you pop them. The free mode just allows you to pop the bubbles as you wish, and the challenge mode gives you points for popping the bubbles quickly and accurately. 

Double Balance! - this is another game that is deceptively hard. You are balancing one ball on a platform at the same time that you have to bounce a second ball off another platform. Moving the bounce platform causes the balance platform to move too. 

My First Tangrams Lite - Such a cute little app. It uses basic shapes and you drag them into the outline to form a creation like a butterfly or flower. Obviously there are a limited number of puzzles with the free version but it operates very well.

Tangram HD - This is the app that I use when I personally want to do Tangrams. It has multiple categories of puzzles and a large number of puzzles per category. The only issue is that you have to complete one puzzle before moving onto the next. 

Labyrinth Lite - This operates just like the old wooden labyrinth games. The nice feature is that you can connect this to a computer based account and make your own mazes.

Intellectual Education - This is a game with a little Japanese penguin that lets you choose matching or memory games. It's pretty cute and appeals to the kids.

Instant Heart Rate - I use this for myself, but if I worked in home health, I could see using this more in practice so that I could monitor vital signs. The app uses the camera to measure the heart rate and has been accurate for me more than 80% of the time. It offers you the option to save heart rates and a range of normal  values.

Memory Trainer - I love this app, and use it for myself. it allows you to do memory training exercises (games) in different categories: visualization, working memory, chunking, focus, spatial memory, and fluid intelligence. You can work up levels or choose a specific game to practice on. 

Relax Me - I haven't tried this out too much but it offers guided progressive muscle relaxation.

Black and White cards for the baby - This app allows you to pick a variety of black and white visual stimulation cards and choose time intervals, music, and movement for them. Apparently after a recent update they've started pushing more advertisements, I hadn't had this problem but I don't leave internet on all the time.

Classic Simon - exactly what you think it would be. I miss Simon.

Tactical Breather - this is a great app for relaxation and a bit of biofeedback. It gives visual cues for breathing- inhale/hold/exhale/hold all for 4 seconds each. I wish that you could customize the time frame because my kids can't really hold their breath that long and another program I use wants you to do inhalation for 4 seconds and exhalation for 6 seconds. But it is a simple and effective app.

Kids Preschool Puzzle Lite - Drag the pieces into the outlined slots to create the puzzle. Simple and cute.

MyChain widget - This is based on the Jerry Seinfeld concept of creating of chain of days that you met a goal.  The widget sits on your home screen and is labeled (briefly) for your goal. When you follow through, you touch it and it turns green and adds another number for that day. You also get a positive affirmation. Miss a day and it goes red and you start again. 

Other Apps

Due Today - I love this app, it is one of the only ones I have paid for ever. It's a very customizable to-do list based on the principles in Getting Things Done. Read my full opinion on this app on the AOTA Checking the Pulse blog.

A HIIT Interval Timer - This app is designed for exercise, and I used it for my Couch to 5K training. But you can label each time frame however you want. I could see where you could use this in the clinic, especially for work hardening patients, or if you had some kind of circuit training setup.

Days Left Widget - This is a cute little widget for your home screen that allows you to set a countdown to different events. You can pick a picture, color, and label for the countdown. On my "exercise" screen I had countdowns to the different races I was planning for, and on my "calendar" screen I had the countdown to my vacation.

Drive - I use Google Drive a lot. This gave me quick access on the phone to my documents and I could download the most frequent to view offline as well.

Google Voice - I have a google voice number that I use as my "work number" to give out to clients and then rings my cell phone. The widget for the phone allows me to switch easily from calling with my number to calling with my voice number, sending a text, and viewing messages. 

Pocket - One of the other apps I have actually paid for. This app used to be called Read It Later. It coordinates with a browser extension on my computer. When I am browsing articles, instead of pulling a TL;DR I can press the "read later" button and it will save it to my phone for when I have time. Does not work perfectly, can't do PDFs for example, but it is one of my favorites.

Speed Anatomy Lite - this is a cute little matching quiz on body parts and names. You can't customize which ones to test, but they do make specific ones for bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Kind of fun as a review, might be good for students.

Other helpful app resources:
AOTA 'Appy April series
AOTA list of OT related apps (members-only content)
Advance Magazine Speaking of Apps
Army OT Guy's Apps for mTBI


c'mon get Appy (part I: Apple)

Editor's Note: another example of how entries go awry. I started writing this a couple years ago when I was working in the school system and had an iPad to use. Since then, there's been a multitude of new apps and developments and there are many better sites that discuss apps (I have linked some at the bottom). But read on for some of my thoughts on the apps I was able to use.

When I worked in the school system, we got iPads as part of a grant. My fellow OTs and I developed a list of all the apps we wanted, and then that list got cut to a very small number. So I didn't get to use anywhere near the number of apps that I wanted to or felt would help for work. But here are my thoughts on some of the apps that we did have access to.

IPad Apps I Have Used:
- Camera - This is standard on the IPad. I could (and probably will in the future) use it to take grasp photos. But right now, my main use is to have a large mirror. You can flip the camera to face you, which can be very motivating for some of my lower level students. I wish I could make it make a noise when it was touched but it's handy.

- Photo Booth - Also standard on the Ipad and I use basically as a mirror with a bit of fun attached due to the extra features.

- Dexteria - this app purports to be developed in conjunction with OTs. It has 3 games: Tap It, Pinch It, and Write It. Tap It requires you to place a flat hand on the screen and tap the finger that is indicated. I haven't had any kids in the preschool or the other areas I cover that have been able to get through the calibration, let alone the game itself. I find that the Write It game is too unforgiving for even my older and higher level students. Pinch It is my favorite of the games. It starts with stationary crabs, progresses to moving crabs, and then adds in visual discrimination in the color of the crabs. It can be difficult to get a perfect pinch on the crabs, and the red/green crabs aren't exactly kind to the colorblind. But it is a fun game and the kids like it. It also keeps track of the times for all the levels and you can review it later after the session, even after switching to another app.

- iWriteWords - probably my favorite app for tracing letters. It has a "connect the dot" feel as you trace the letters and short words. It was forgiving enough for most of my kids to be able to succeed, without losing the intent of the letter formation.

- Sam_Phibian - this is a really cute game that works on a lot of concepts. Little bugs of different colors fly by Sam the frog and he needs to eat the designated number of each kind. If he eats too much, he falls off his lily pad and is eaten by an alligator (implied). The bugs move in different patterns and speeds, and there are also fun things to eat that will put outfits on Sam. Kids love making Sam eat things by tapping like crazy. Following the instructions was too high level for most of my kids, but might be better for your caseload.

- KandyFish- I like this app. The music can be kind of annoying, but it is cute. In this game you can choose color matching, pattern finishing, or tracing (prewriting) games. There is also a coloring feature. I like that you can control which game to play, and skip through the prewriting shapes to get the one you want.

- AMaze Yourself- This app allows you to create mazes of different sizes and guide a mouse through to find his cheese. It's nice to have unlimited mazes that can be so easily customized but the sensitivity is very poor, so it was very frustrating for the kids to try to get the mouse on the right path. 

- Pocket Pond- we have the free version which is kind of limited in what can be added to the pond. But my low vision kids like the sound that they get for touching the screen.

- Tanganku- This game presents as having potential but didn't really pan out well for me. You're presented with multiple colored moving dots and asked to press the black ones. But the touch controls don't seem to be sensitive enough to consistently activate. And there's no way to customize the game, it progresses in speed and difficulty no matter the accuracy of the user. It uses the same pattern for each game and only lasts about a minute.

- Monkey Preschool LunchBox - I have yet to meet the child who does not like this game. There are puzzles, counting games, identifying colors, and identifying differences games all presented in rapid fire with an animated monkey dancing every time you get something right. It also lets you pick a virtual sticker for every 3-4 games done correctly.You can't pick the games or difficulty level, and there's no automatic continuing if you struggle badly on a game. But kids love this crazy monkey... it was a major reinforcer.

- Caseload Tracker - This is an app developed for SLPs to keep track of their school based caseloads, when reports are due, what their IEP goals are. I had caseloads of 80-120 kids, and was not about to tappy-type in each kid's name and goals when I already had this information elsewhere. We had an online IEP system so goals were available there, and also usually printed out in a binder for the specific school. Simple charts accomplished all this a lot easier for me. Even with the few kids I tried this out for, I didn't really find the app useful.

- Redfish- this app comes packed with a lot of additional games that may not be readily apparent in the description. There is a regular piano which will do playback of your song, as well as a funny noise piano. There are puzzle games, different activities for each letter of the alphabet, and various games to encourage understanding of cause and effect. I like the variety of games involved though some are pretty limited.

- Labyrinth LE - remember the old wooden labyrinth games with the metal ball? Super fond memories for me of my great-grandma's house. This app allows you to get the same effect on the iPad. I think you were able to choose which level to try, but I can't remember. I thought this would be a great praxis task, but it was extremely hard for my kids just to hold the board steady. Most needed HOH assist to stabilize and grade their movements.

- Tangram - This is a very basic tangram game that allows you to choose which picture you want to attempt. You can touch the pieces to drag into place. My kids had a hard time understanding how to flip the parallelogram and how to use 2 fingers to turn the pieces. You get a really cool fireworks display if you complete the puzzle, but the sensitivity is off so even when the puzzle looks complete, it doesn't register as complete.

- Injini Lite - This is a great game that I continue to recommend to iPad owners for their kids. This app offers tracing, pattern recognition, matching and some easier cause and effect activities for kids. You can choose which section to work on and it was pretty reinforcing for the kids. The full version is expensive but the lite version is a must-have.

Other helpful app resources:
AOTA 'Appy April series
AOTA list of OT related apps (members-only content)
Advance Magazine Speaking of Apps
Army OT Guy's Apps for mTBI


Pregnancy and Sensory Challenges

Pregnancy comes with many challenges... here are some weird sensory ones that I've noticed.

For many people, this is the telltale sensory experience in pregnancy. I am super sensitive to smells normally, so I figured that I'd be losing my cookies every whipstitch when I got pregnant. Fortunately I have not had that problem! But there have definitely been times when I walked away from an area that smelled like fish, or eggs, or peppers (after the kitchen fiasco in our home referred to as "the great pepper incident").
The smells that have really gotten to me are (oddly) related to clothing. Being underemployed at the point that I needed to switch from normal clothes to maternity clothes, I was not really in position to go buy a new wardrobe. Fortunately, 4 of my friends loaned or donated their items to me, saving me a lot of money and hassle. However, I wasn't really counting on the sensory experience of walking by my closet and smelling 4 different people instead of my own ignorable smell. So every middle of the night trip to the bathroom woke me up even more by the strange sensory experience.

Again, I've been very lucky in this arena. I worked with a girl last year who could predominantly only eat macaroni and cheese for the duration of her pregnancy because everything else made her sick. I really haven't had any true aversions, and very rarely anything that could be classified as a craving. But there are feelings occasionally of "I need meat" or "I need cheese" which I assume is my body's way of trying to get all the right nutrients. I used to eat very little red meat and have 1-2 "accidentally vegetarian" days per week, but that has changed considerably. Baby wants meat, so there have been quite a few burgers and roasts. The texture of meat is not something I'm really too fond of either on a normal day, and I often seek out soft foods (applesauce, pudding, yogurt) but it's been a necessary change to keep my body in balance. I've generally found that there are a lot of days when I'm just not interested in most foods, not really in the mood for anything in particular. I've eaten a lot less Mexican and Chinese food during the pregnancy, but generally eaten a lot of spicy foods.

I have found that I'm a little more sensitive to certain textures than I normally am. Long-time readers will remember my battles trying to entice myself to use lotion. My skin is much more prone to being dry (and the water exercises make it exponentially worse) but I am finding myself even less willing to use the lotions I need.
I have several issues with my clothing as well. First is the problematic issue of the change in how clothes fit seemingly from day to day. We have at least twice packed for a week-long trip only for me to find mid-week that packed clothing does not fit. Very frustrating and odd from a sensory and mental perspective.
My other major clothing issue has been wearing Ted hose (compression stockings). If you're not familiar with these, they have a hole in the bottom. Not such a big deal when I'm resting, but when I'm wearing shoes and walking around I have to consciously (and very frequently) suppress my awareness of the feeling of the hole. It's the "seams in the socks" sensation on steroids.
The final tactile issue is that of personal space. First, the baby doesn't mind taking up my space whenever he feels like it by kicking or rolling. This is a fun sensation sometimes but can be a distraction. The bigger personal space issue is that everyone and their brother feels compelled to come right up and touch you. I'm a little defensive and ticklish and prefer to have warning before touching. Not so lucky with that sometimes.

Sensory Overload
In general, with the anxiety, hormones, stress and various sensory increases, I'm just more easily overloaded than before. So this, combined with a lot of fatigue, has led to a lot of naps. Some days I come home from work and just need absolute quiet, feet up, and no stimulation at all to unwind. And many days, I spend a lot of time in bed if I'm just struggling with the overload. I have downloaded some nice relaxation apps and mp3s so that even when I can't actually sleep, I can go to my calming space and come back to an appropriate level.