Category Archives: General info

10 Spooktacular Apps for Halloween 2017!

This blog was originally published on the website Playful-living.com

by Jo Booth

Halloween is just plain fun for kids of all ages. Dressing up and trying out new roles and rules for pretend play gives kids a chance to take on another’s perspective. Young children often have a blurred line between reality and make-believe, so putting on that princess’ dress is the way to being royal – at least for a while. In addition, scary stories, movies, and playthings help us practice self-regulation by challenging our comfort zones and exploring the unknown. If you look up Halloween apps for kids, there are a plethora of apps, most are silly and ridden with inappropriate content, IAPs (In-App Purchases), and ads. Here is a list of our must play games and apps that will keep it challenging, but most of all playful. Many apps companies put out holiday versions – to be updated during a special holiday, i.e. Sago Mini, Highlights, Lego, and Edoki – so be sure to check out your update section at the app store or google play for these classic apps that include a holiday theme.

Weirdwood Manor is a series of 6 interactive books by All Work, No Play. What makes this series so exceptional is the sheer fun of original storytelling with a spooky theme, beautifully rendered animation, and interactive puzzlers that give rise to creative problem-solving. It is a perfect blend of reading and gameplay that immerses you in the world of Weirdwood. The story centers on the lives of three talented children who are unique – and have been misfits at home. They’ve won a prize to come to Weirdwood to meet Arthur Weirdwood, an author, and inventor, but soon things get a little weird… This is a must-have series for elementary and tweens as it celebrates the unique and talents of all – and that is a message worth repeating.

Ravensburger’s Whoowasit? is a play on the classic game of Clue. It’s a “who done it” with an interactive punch! There is a bit of a learning curve to play, and it is worthwhile to go through the tutorials. The story centers on the children of a castle finding a lost ring hidden by the evil wizard. To find the ring, a room to room search must be undertaken. In each room, participants can either find hidden foodstuffs to bribe the animals into talking or keys to unlock a chest of a suspect. Oh, and there is a pesky ghost to deal with…

Highlights Hidden Pictures is a subscription model that is updated frequently to remain current with the season. Who hasn’t known and loved these puzzlers? Hidden pictures add challenges of timed and sequential order for finding objects hidden from view as well as the time-honored standard of finding them at leisure. I love how the app grades the complexity within a level. In settings, a parent or teacher can modulate what type of clues are given – by a visual – picture, auditory – word, or to hide the clues altogether and have the child discover the hidden pics on their own. In addition, by adding a black and white picture to the mix, it makes it a little harder to find the objects and is reminiscent of the Highlights magazine. These are great games for visual scanning and learning to think outside the box.

Another Highlights Halloween App is Highlights Puzzletown. It is also based on the subscription type service, however, as in the Hidden Picture app, the holiday puzzles are free to download. The puzzlers include hidden pictures, mazes, interlocking puzzles, and a find the difference within 2 pictures. I love these kinds of challenges for kids as it teaches early spatial and visual discrimination skills that are so important for reading and writing. Highlights is a well-researched and trusted brand that parents can rely on. There are no IAPs for secret gems, hints, or advertisements. The subscription model is for bringing in new content to keep their app fresh and challenging.

Lego Scooby Doo Escape from Haunted Isle couldn’t be more fun than as it contains two long-standing kid favorites – Legos and Scooby Doo. Lego Scooby Doo is a fast runner type game that helps build eye-hand coordination, challenges spatial abilities, and problem-solving adapting to environmental needs. Play centers around completing missions and solving a mystery. It would be super to have this sold as a set with Legos to build the items that are in the app to extend play. Now that would be grand!

Monster Park – Dino World Walking with Dinosaurs by Vito Technology is a load of fun by putting a wee scare into you. Made with Apple’s new ARKit, the two dinos are lifelike and it is unnerving to see T-Rex prance about your living room. Currently there are a T-Rex and a Pteranodon – hopefully, more dinos will be added in a future update or add-on pack. Some of the activities are walking with a dino, taking pictures with your dino, and even making a video. The coolest part of the app is to open a portal into the time of dinosaurs. Once opened, walking in is a snap and it is a wondrous scene taking you back into the time of dinosaurs.


Trick or Treat Little Critter
is an interactive storybook by OceanHouse Media that explains the customs of Halloween to little folks. It describes in detail the expectations and roles to play at Halloween as well as all the great benefits to Trick or Treating. It always amazes me how a few kids have no idea what is going on during Halloween because no one has explained it to them. Often there is not an older sibling or friend that explains what the holiday is like in Kid’s Terms that would make it remotely interesting and something that they should invest time and effort into participating. Too many kids, the thought of dressing up in something uncomfortable, staying out late, and all the noise is just too much. Once they have an idea of the benefits to be reaped in terms of attention, candy, and fun…they are all in. OceanHouse Media is a company that always comes to the rescue in explaining the world and its customs to kids.

Peek-a-boo Trick or Treat by Night and Day Studios is a classic app for beginning iPad users. The app itself is an open play invitation to investigate further and gives kids time to process what they need to do to explore the characters inside a haunted house. A gentle tap or swat for kids on the iPad opens a door to a Halloween denizen. The simple but bold graphics on each page enhances vocabulary without unnecessary visual or auditory clutter – making the labels clear. Once the doors are opened, kids are treated to an animation. Repeat play reveals a hint of who is behind the door – and builds good listening skills. I like that you can choose between an adult or child’s voice.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! Is an action-packed app that can be Read Along with the exciting author and narrator, Ed Emberley, Read Along with a child narrator, Read by Myself, or have the Story Sung in an upbeat jazzy tune.  The benefits to this playing are both learning about the vocabulary for body awareness, but the ability to anticipate and sequence a story. We use this app in therapy all year round as its liveliness is simply infectious.

 

I look forward to Sago Mini Monsters Halloween update every year. This is an app that can be used for children that have mastered single causation in play, and need more of a challenge. The Halloween version has kids bring up a monster face from the green slime pits. He is then dusted off and painted, given new accouterments, and then feed all sorts of treats and goodies. There is a price to pay – and if you eat a lot of treats – you need to brush your teeth! I love how daily routines are reinforced in this app. Brushing teeth is often hard to incorporate in a young one’s day. And practicing this in-app presents an opportunity to familiarize them with the sequence to the task and make it non-threatening.

In Summary

Take a peek, trick or treat, and download an app or two. You can’t go wrong with any of these selections. Halloween is a play time for one and all!

 

There is No “I” in Team

by Adrienne Young

It has been four years since the Bucks Division started on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) journey to improve the quality of our programs and to bring staff, parents and children together as a team through “positive possibilities.”

This year, we submitted our Benchmarks of Quality, stating that we are providing the proper strategies and supports to staff, children and families related to our behavioral expectations. In May, we were recognized for fidelity by the Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support Network in Hershey and received a banner that is proudly hanging up in our vestibule. Thanks to all of the parents, staff, from the administrative staff, the classroom staff, therapists, nurses, the coaches, the Core Leadership Team, Mr. Dan, our music therapist and our amazing Facilitator, Meghan von der Embse. And an extra special thanks to Janet Rubien, our former Director of Programs – she was there with us from the start, cheering us on and brainstorming with us as a member of the Core Leadership Team.

PBIS fidelity could not have happened without the team working together and I am so proud to be a part this amazing group!

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Secretary of Education Visits Easter Seals

by Janet Rubien

The Alliance of Approved Private Schools was honored to host Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, on Thursday May 18th. During the visit, Mr. Rivera toured the Easter Seals Schools in Philadelphia, a school that serves students with profound needs. While stopping in classrooms Mr. Rivera had the opportunity to interact with students, and participate in classroom activities.

After the tour, Mr. Rivera met with members of the Alliance of Approved Private Schools to discuss initiatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Mr. Rivera addressed PDE’s commitment and efforts to address Teacher Shortages, Funding, and creating environments where all students can grow to their full potential. Mr. Rivera spoke passionately about protecting and meeting the needs of Special Education children. The Alliance of Approved Private Schools, Mr. Rivera, and PDE are looking forward to working together to help children across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Looking forward to Walk With Me

by Eva Delmonte

Eva is 12-years-old and was a volunteer at last year’s Walk. Recently, she came in to volunteer on her day off from school to help get ready for this year’s event. While she was here, she had the opportunity to meet Mung, one of the Honorary Ambassadors. She also took a little time to write some of her memories from last year.

I absolutely enjoyed the Easter Seals event. It was very fun to be at the zoo. They even provided water, other refreshments and hotdogs! The best thing was walking around the zoo and seeing the animals, especially the giraffes! After the event I got to explore even more because you get all all day pass if you go to the Walk. I loved this event and if you come, I know that you will too!

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Eva and Mung

To register for Walk With Me, visit http://www.walkwithme.org/philadelphia

Last Day in Australia

by Sandy Masayko

This is the final post from Australia and Sandy’s exploration and sharing of assistive technology

1332 stairs! That’s how many stairs my son and I climbed today on the Harbour Bridge Climb. It was a wonderful way to end my study tour in Australia: I now have the broad view of Australian services for people with disabilities! I treasure my many new acquaintances and I’ve seen a wide range of programs that have made me think about how we can adapt some of our programs in Pennsylvania.

  • Thank you to the National Office of Easterseals for selecting me for the study tour.
  • Thank you to Easterseals of SEPA for supporting my trip.
  • And thanks most of all to the hosts during my trip: Northcott, Rocky Bay and Ability Centre, affiliates of Ability First Australia.
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Special thanks to Northcott for the gift of the Bridge Climb passes.

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The Harbour Bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) high. We climbed through intermittent rain today for beautiful views of Sydney.

Sandy has shared her journey through a series of blog posts. You can read the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, the ninth here and the tenth here.

Finishing Up My Study Tour at Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is the tenth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia.

Ability Centre, as with the other two sites I visited, provides an extensive array of services for people with disabilities. My last day on my study tour included learning about a mix of supportive services: CP Tech, a workshop that constructs customized adapted equipment; Goodwill Engineering, an industrial workshop that employs people with disabilities; a meeting with Scott Langmead, a seating specialist in mobility for young children; and a meeting with Hillary Brand, principal of Sir David Brand School, an independent school that serves children with multiple disabilities. The school is not a part of Ability Centre, but the therapy services are provided by Ability Centre.

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Fraser Clarke showed me a computer-controlled drill that can form customized seating from a block of foam at CP Tech.

I climbed up into Fraser Clarke’s SUV for the 15 minute drive to Malaga, north of the Ability Centre’s location, where both CP Tech and Goodwill Engineering are housed in an industrial site. Fraser guided me on a tour of CP Tech, a facility that can fabricate all kinds of adapted equipment and seating. I saw a computer-controlled drill that is capable of forming a customized wheelchair cushion from a block of foam as well as the upholstery workshop and wheelchair repair stations. Goodwill Engineering is attached to CP Tech and looks like any factory although when you look closely you can see many people in wheelchairs at their workstations. The company produces building supplies such as the wires that stabilize brick walls.

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Goodwill Engineering is an industrial site run by Ability Centre that provides employment for people with disabilities.

Back at Ability Centre, I met with Scott Langmead and learned about his development of the Ability Centre’s Wizzy Bug fleet through grant funding. Scott came up with the idea to obtain the little powerchairs after taking a worldwide study tour several years ago and learning about these mobility devices on his trip. Scott has offered to share his paper describing his visits with mobility and seating experts from around the world. I shared some of our Go Baby Go resources with him.

My final visit was to the Sir David Brand School adjacent to the Ability Centre, but not a part of the Centre. Principal Hillary Palmer met with me and gave me a tour of the facilities. We enjoyed comparing and contrasting educational practices of Australia and the US. It seems that parents in Australia are less litigious than parents can be in the US. The school is identified as an independent school, similar to our charter schools in Pennsylvania. It is exclusively for students with multiple disabilities. Contracting with the Ability Centre for therapy services gives the school consistency in therapy staff, unlike some other schools that rely on numerous contractors.

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OT Maria White arranged for me to meet at the Ability Centre with a group of therapists interested in eye gaze technology for young children.

Two weeks can fly by. And that is what has happened with my study tour. It’s been an intense two weeks to meet so many generous people carrying out an amazing array of programs. I am very thankful to Easterseals National Office and Southeastern Pennsylvania for this opportunity. I would especially like to thank Maria White, Scott Langmead, Fraser Clarke, Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher at the Ability Centre for the program that they arranged for me in the past two days, and I’d like to thank the clients for sharing their programs with me also. I hope that we will be able to keep in touch to continue to exchange ideas about programs to support people with disabilities

If you would like to read Sandy’s previous posts, you can find the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here and the ninth here.

Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s ninth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Ability Centre in North Perth is the last site on my study tour of Ability First Australia affiliates. I continue to be warmly welcomed by my Australian colleagues. Each center that I have visited has had a broad range of programs and each has had some unique programs. At Ability Center, as with Rocky Bay and Northcott, accommodation for people with disabilities is a focus. The living arrangements vary but the old fashioned nursing home for people with disabilities is thing of the past here, having been replaced by small apartments and shared housing with support.

The unique programs at Ability Centre include access to an early mobility device call a Wizzybug. This is a powerchair designed for 1-4 year old children. Not available in the US, the Wizzy comes from the U.K. Ability Centre imports the mini powerchairs for Australians and maintains a fleet that children can trial and borrow. Here is what they look like:

Another unique program developed by Ability Centre therapists is a program to address sleep issues including temperature regulation and positioning during sleep. Using custom-designed bolsters and temperature control fabrics, the Sleep Solution teams can help their clients achieve restful sleep.

OT Maria White was very interested in Easterseals of SEPA’s work with eye gaze technology with young children. She invited a group of therapists from Ability Centre and from community agencies including the Independent Living Center in Perth and Edith Cowan University to hear my presentation of our AT Department study of eye gaze technology with young children. Some therapists participated from remote sites. The therapists asked many pertinent questions and shared their own experiences with implementing eye gaze technology.

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Maria White, in dark blue shirt on the right, organized a group to hear my presentation on eye gaze technology with young children.

I was very pleased to complete the day with therapists at Ability Centre by carrying out client observation and visits. We considered issues around teaching eye gaze technology to a child, adapting access for an adult eye gaze user, and adjusting environmental controls through a phone used by an adult with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. The clients were kind to let me participate in observing them work with their therapists, and all of us discussed alternatives that might make participating in their home and schools easier and more efficient for the clients.

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Speech Therapist Charlene Freedman coaching her young student in using eye gaze technology to select a song that she wants to hear.

Thank you to CEO Suzie Cowcher and Catherine Greenway, General Manager of Therapy and Health Services, for sharing with me their strategies for dealing with the changes in the marketplace, funding and customer relations through implementing prototypes of new systems. There is an Innovation Hub at Ability Centre that is providing leadership in change in the organization.

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Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher

You can read Sandy’s first post in this series here, her second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here and the eighth here.