Learning about spatial concepts and how the world is connected together is at times overwhelming for kids, especially for kids with visual processing or acuity problems. Everything seen can be arbitrary bits and pieces, and so how do you even begin to integrate visual input so as to bring focus to teach reading and writing? When you don’t have a reference point, experiences go untethered and they don’t stick. Visual targeting, discrimination and memory are all skills that help kids tune into what they need to do, or more specifically, how to attend so true discrimination and the ability to take action takes place. Two new apps from Visual learning for Life can help set the ground for visual-spatial skills in a highly engaging game format, that allows for teachers and therapists to tap in or warm up the visual motor system for play. Spatial Line Puzzles from Visual learning for Life is an absolute must to check out…especially for pre-readers and kids needing to learn how to shift gaze from one point to another. The thing that I love about this app, is its applicability to real life applications and toys, and taking a 2D world into the world of dimension. There are 200 puzzlers in all and are divided into two separate but similar categories of increasing complexity and demands – Dot and Box puzzles. The level of the challenge begins with the 3x3 dot blocks and follows with the 3x3 box puzzlers, 4x4 dots, then 4x4 box puzzles and so on. Remember the old geoboards? You can almost feel the rubber bands snapping into place with the dot puzzles. If using a geoboard after or during app play, it will provide you with all the benefits of integrating and generalizing material and truly building fine motor skills. How great is that? Geo boards are prevalent in the preschool play, and one can easily make one. The box puzzlers take the dot puzzlers up one more step. The challenges come in the form of replicating a design onto a graph like grid. By taking out the extraneous forces of pencil drag, managing the paper, and coordinating both sides of the body together, kids can focus on the task and task completion. Then when presented with the task offscreen have the confidence and competency to pursue the task. What separates this app from the pack is the settings available. The settings are presented with the student’s experience in mind. Choosing whether or not to have sound effects, visual memory challenges (the puzzle will disappear after a predetermined time so kids need to rely on visual memory to complete it), or to display the Dot/Block outline of the geoboard for copying are there so that the child needs to identify form from space. Three bird games serve as rewards and sensory breaks after completing 5 rounds. These games are elective, and although are “rewards” help teachers and clinicians identify if timing and synchronization of the material have taken place. Letter Cross Tracking teachers the ability to read in a fluid left to right/top to the bottom manner by strengthening visual tracking skills, discrimination and identification of relevant material. There are 200 levels to work through, and they increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Gameplay centers on matching grids to a model. Here kids will need to visually reference from one point to another, and learn to use their working memories, filter out distractions and attend to detail to come about the correct solution. The graphics are adorable and have proven to be appealing to a broad range of children. The app is built for progressing children’s visual skills over time, and the demands increase with each level with a number of rows and letters included. The rows increase as well as letter placement in each puzzle. Both are lovely apps and set out to teach what they propose. There are so many opportunities to translate the gameplay and skills to off screen practice and serve as the core building blocks to the smooth coordination of basic visual motor skills – and influence specifically reading and writing. Children will succeed in school and life if we allow them to explore and strengthen their abilities by building core foundation skills through visual motor play. There is an IAP of 3.99 for purchasing remaining levels, and so you are given the opportunity to try it before you buy it. Check out their shop on their website for more information: http://shop.visuallearningforlife.com There is more information on the development and importance of visual motor skills, and also some awesome worksheets to purchase and download. Both apps are available on iOS and Android. Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of Sepa, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing on Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps have been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.
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