Back to School Apps – What’s in Your OT eTool Kit?

Apps pic for back to school 2016

Wow, summer is almost over and it is back to school time!

Are you thinking about the tools you need as you head back to school?

As I head back to school, expecting a caseload of young learners, I consider what to tools to back in my bag of tricks. Low to high tech tools are helpful, so what will some of those higher tech, tools and devices will I consider for my tool kit?

Although young learners need hands on learning and manipulative, apps that reinforce learning and skills can be a motivator. It is amazing how much mileage you can get with an tech device used as a reward for just a minute or two, and still be working on skills using a game or animated format! Many tools are teacher or therapist support tools, timers, visual schedules for choices and anticipation of what the session will be along with communication and learning apps appropriate for the student.

Teacher/ Therapist Mobile Device Apps:  

Visual Timers – This is an important part of the therapist session providing a visual forecast that reward or break time is almost or is done. An evidenced based practice, use of visual timers or other methods of predicting schedules is helpful for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Here are my favorite apps that are well supported (thus, won’t disappear overtime):

  • Time Timer app (iOS for iPad 4.99 ; iPhone 2.99; Android .99) – Tried and true whether an app or the physical timer offered in a variety of sizes. It is also available for computers (Win/Mac; 19.95). A watch version also is available is a large and small size for portability those that can be more independent with responding to an alarm ( Time Timer Large Watch 76.95; Time Timer Watch Small 76.95 )
  • Vis Timer app (iOS ; 1.99; ) – A simple visual timer with options of colors for clock face and countdown.
  • Kids Timer app (iOS,  1.99) – Has less options but is geared to young children as a countdown timer. Different faces are options on the app.

Visual Schedule – Whether hard copy or an app, a visual schedule can be an aid to everyone for many purposes. Lists of scheduled activities during the day, individual self care tasks or work tasks. Some visual schedule apps have the ability to add choice within the app. There are many visual schedule apps to service the varying needs of students. Here are just a few of my favorite visual schedule apps:

  • Choice Works (iOS, 6.99) – Visual schedule app supporting, text, images, videos and recorded audio. Provides choices for students with the visual schedule.
  • First Then Visual Schedule HD  (iOS/iPhone, 14.99  ; Android 4.99; ) Visual schedule app supports text, recording, video and images. A timer is available. A variety of formats can be selected for the presentation of the visual schedule.
  • CanPlan (iOS free; unlimited 14.99) Visual scheduling app for individuals with cognitive disability. Create schedules and task instructions with images, text, video and recordings.

General communication and activity choices for OT:

  • Sounding Board app (iOS, free) Ablenet’s communication board app  can display general choices of activities for students.
  • WordToob (iOS, 7.99) – Store  videos and images for easy access in this app.

Self -Regulation:

  • Calm Counter app – (iOS 2.99) – Count down app for calming down.
  • Breathe, Think, Do Sesame Street (iOS, free; Android, free) – Breathing app for young children.
  • Story Creator – (iOS, free ) create social stories in this app for students.
  • Autism 5 Point Scale app – (iOS, free)
  • Cause and Effect Sensory Light box app ( iOS, 3.99) – choices of interacting with visual effects on the iPad.

Pre-Writing Apps

Handwriting Apps:

Writing Apps:

  • Keeble app (iOS, 14.99) A third party app with text to speech and word prediction that will support use in other apps in iPad. Switch compatible.
  • Abilipad app (iOS, 14.99) A customizable writing app and keyboard to support a wide variety of students with disabilities.
  • Clicker Connect (iOS , 32.99) Another customizable app that support graphic supported writing pallets.
  • Co-Writer app (iOS, 14.99) Dedicated word prediction app for iPad/iPhone.
  • SnapType Pro (iOS 4.99) – Tools to take a picture or scan in a worksheet and type on the worksheet.
  • Pictello (iOS, 19.99) – Create stories within this app and add text, recording, images and video. Create with word prediction support and a wizard to step users through the creation process. Switch compatible.

Note: Some apps have similar tools that would be redundant, however might be best for specific students and tasks.

Utility Apps: (all apps are free downloads )

  • Google Drive (free for iOS or Android) – access to google documents and drive for import and export of documents.
  • Google Docs  (free for iOS or Android) – Google word processing apps
  • Google Classroom – for school based therapists this will provide additional tools.
  • Notes (iOS Native app, free) Now allows folders, import images,
  • iMovie (iOS native app, free) Create and modify movies.

So where’s the fine motor, sensory, learning and perceptual apps? What about Google Chrome apps ? Saved for another post…hopefully, before school starts!

These apps are for younger students , Pre-K through early elementary or equivalent skills. What apps are in your eTool Kit this year as you start school ?







About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in Android, App Reviews, Apps for OT's, Apps for Special Needs, Assistive Technology, Elementary School, iPad, iPhone, Occupational Therapy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Back to School Apps – What’s in Your OT eTool Kit?

  1. Laurie says:

    Great recommendations, it is important to have different resources that you can use. Thanks for sharing!

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