I tried Shapes Touch and Write, by FizzBrain, with six students with Autism, ranging in age from 9-11. Five of the six can print letters and numbers legibly; the other student is working on tracing letters. All of them can benefit from an increase in fine motor skills when it comes to writing.
I modeled how to use the app on the SMARTBoard by connecting the iPad 3. I showed that you need to start at the monster and have him eat cupcakes as you carefully trace the shape. My students loved the app, they worked with the app for 10 minutes and would have been content to continue but we had to move into our schedule. They did all different levels, I would initially tell them which level to start on.
I used an iPad1, iPad3 and iPad4s. I did have some trouble getting the app to work on one iPad4 – I am not sure what the problem was but I will try to reinstall it and see if this continues.
1) This app can be used with students at different levels in fine motor ability.
2) The ability to customize the item you would like to trace with – playing with shaving cream has become popular in my room and with this app they can still play with it but there is no mess.
3) My students can just pick it up and know how to use the app by themselves. They did not need to be taught how to use the app, they intuitively know how to use it.
4) My students liked it and continued to play with the app for a sustained period of time.
1) Having the ability to set the acceptable range of tracing. I would like this for 2 reasons – my student that struggled with tracing could have been successful if the margin for error was larger and as his skills progressed, I could decrease the accepted limits, and in many Autism progress tracking tests (ABLLS, and VB-Mapp) they ask if a child can trace within ¼” of the line.
2) Along the same lines as #1, smaller cupcakes when tracing a shape. A different student found that he would have to go back and touch the edges of cupcakes that were still showing, which defeats the purpose of accurate tracing.
3) An arrow to know which way to start tracing would be helpful. Yes, you can watch the shape as it appears on the screen to see how to make the app, but it is very subtly done and my students did not see this as a prompt, they were more focused on where the monster was.
4) Hide the “try me” button or make it less easy to accidentally press. As I went around the room, many students had accidentally turned it on and then did not know that you had to press DONE at the end of tracing the shape. They just ended up trying to fill the space with “colouring.”