Monday, September 16, 2013

Dexteria Jr App Review {+ giveaway!!}

Dexteria Jr. is a pre-writing app from Binary Labs, the developers of the popular fine motor and writing app, Dexteria. Dexteria Jr is aimed at preschool age children and was developed in response to feedback that Dexteria can be too challenging for younger children.

Dexteria Jr consists of three games that target fine motor and visual motor skills.  

The first activity, Squish the Squash, encourages finger isolation to touch (and squish) each squash. As the levels progress, the squash begin to move around, and the higher levels require the squash to be double tapped.

In the second activity, Trace& Erase, a series of progressively more challenging mazes must be traced. This works on both finger isolation and visual motor control.

Below is a screenshot of diagonal lines. While this is great for finger isolation, you could also have the child use a stylus if you wanted to introduce tool use and start developing a pencil grasp.
After all of the lines have been traced, the child then uses an eraser to trace the lines again, this time erasing the lines. Another great visual motor control activity!

The third activity, Pinch the Pepper, works on developing a pincer grasp. This is very similar to the crabs in the "Pinch It" game in the original Dexteria. As the levels progress, the peppers move around more and even begin to change colors. If you pinch a pepper that is yellow, it will turn into even more peppers!

How I use Dexteria Jr in therapy:

  • I like to use Dexteria Jr as a warm-up activity prior to completing other fine motor or visual motor activities.
  • When playing Squish the Squash, I make sure the child is correctly isolating the index finger and not just hitting at the squash with multiple fingers or the whole hand.
  • Like I mentioned above, Trace & Erase is a good time to use an iPad stylus, which allows me to introduce tool usage and to teach appropriate pencil grasp. This can be a great option for students who are less motivated by paper and pencil activities. 
  • In all of the games, I encourage the use of the dominant hand (if a dominant hand has emerged), rather than switching hands or using both hands at once. This helps develop good habits for writing activities.
  • With writing and pre-writing apps, I like to have the child transfer the skills learned to paper. This can be done using screenshots from the Trace & Erase game. For more information on how I use screenshots to create therapy activities, check out the multisensory activities I created using screenshots from the Shelby's Quest app.

What I like about Dexteria Jr:

  • Fun graphics
  • Easy to use
  • Developmentally appropriate for preschoolers
  • Developmentally appropriate progression of tracing skills in the Trace & Erase game
  • In-app purchase for multiple user data collection is only $0.99

Best for Ages:

The developer states that this app is for children ages 2-6. I would recommend it for any child who is working on developing pre-writing skills, typically between the ages of 3 and 5.

Bottom line:

While no app can replace traditional fine motor play, this app is a great complementary activity for children developing their fine motor skills. Teachers, parents, and therapists will all find that this app targets developmentally appropriate fine motor and visual motor skills for preschoolers. Preschoolers will find the graphics fun and engaging!

App Information:

Name of App: Dexteria Jr
Publisher: Binary Labs
Compatible with: iPad, requires iOS 5.0 or later
Price: $2.99

Disclaimer: This app was received via a promo code provided by Binary Labs. However, all opinions expressed are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliate links, App information was correct at the time of publication of this review, but is subject to change,especially compatibility and price, so please confirm prior to downloading.

Now for the giveaway!

For a chance to win a promo code for the Dexteria Jr app, please enter by using the Rafflecopter below. Leaving a blog comment only does not enter you in the giveaway. You must also sign in using the Rafflecopter. This makes it much easier for me to contact you if you are the winner. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Reads

It's been one of those weeks. It was the first full week of school with students, and let's just say, transitions are hard. They're hard for students and they're hard for staff. There were tears. There was a chair pushed over. There was "you are NOT VERY WELCOME!" coming from a student. Three times to be exact. My patient voice was out in full force this week. My stern teacher face may have made an appearance, too. And by Friday, it's possible that I started every single sentence with "The direction is...." 

But we made it. There were smiles and high fives and "I LOVE middle school!" There were pictures from students.

"I love be with you Abby"

There was an amazing back to school letter from a parent. From Mr. "You are Not Welcome" came, "I was in the red zone, but now I am calm. Now I am in the green zone." And with just a little bit of guidance, he really did get himself back into the green zone. And he recognized the change in his body! That's a giant victory. And that is why I do what I do.

In the middle of all of this came the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And with that day came all sorts of emotions, including the guilt of "How can I possibly think I'm having a challenging week?" Yes, it could have been worse. Much, much worse. And I am so grateful for all that I have. But I'm going to recognize this week for what it was. A challenging week. A week to learn from and grow from. We all have them. Parents, teachers, students, therapists. Everyone.

For this week's weekend reads, I have just one. But I promise you, this is one you don't want to miss. This letter written by Nebla Marquez-Green, whose daughter Ana Grace was killed in the Sandy Hook attack, is powerful, heart-wrenching, and inspiring all at once. If you are an educator, this letter is not to be missed.

Here's to a new school year and all that comes with it!
Remember Ana Grace, and don't let anything suck your fun circuits dry.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School Apps

The new school year is here! Today I'd like to share some apps that can help students as they head back to school. The following apps are geared toward older students who are using an iPad in the classroom or to complete homework assignments. What I love about these apps is that they are appropriate for students with special needs, especially students with learning disabilities or executive function challenges, but these apps are also used by many students without disabilities, making it easier for students with learning challenges to feel like they fit in with their peers.

Word Processing: 

Pages App | This is the go-to word processing app among the high school students at my school. Pages allows students to create and edit documents, including Microsoft Word documents. Some students use the onscreen keypad, while others prefer a wireless keyboard.


Evernote | Evernote is a great (and free!) note taking app. Evernote is also great for organization, as it allows you to record voice notes, take photos, and create to-do lists. Everything can then be organized into folders and is completely searchable.

Notability | Notability is another great note taking app that has numerous features to help students take notes and stay organized, including a recording feature that links the audio recording of a lecture to the notes that the student is taking, which means you can tap a word in your notes and hear what was being said when that note was taken.

PaperPort Notes | Another note taking app, this one by the creators of Dragon Dictation, that allows the combining of documents, web content, audio, typed and handwritten notes.


MyScript Calculator | This free calculator app can complete math calculations that have been handwritten on the screen. This would be great for students who have difficulty punching the buttons on a calculator.

Graphic Organizers:

Inspiration Maps | I first learned about Inspiration Software working in an assistive technology lab as a grad student. I loved the program back then and I still love it today! This is a great graphic organization system that allows students to brainstorm, plan and organize thoughts, which can then be turned into an outline for writing. 

Kidspiration Maps | Kidspiration is a version of Inspiration for younger kids. This version is aimed at students in grades K-5. Again it uses visual organization to help develop writing skills.

MindNode | This app allows students to create mindmaps, which is a great tool for brainstorming and organizing. This may also be helpful for students who are planning out long-term assignments.


Read2Go | Use of the Read2Go app requires a Bookshare membership, which is free to students with certain qualifying disabilities (click here to learn more). This app gives students full control of choices such as font size and color, background and highlighting color, and text-to-speech preferences.

Learning Ally Audio | This e-reader app requires a membership to Learning Ally, a nonprofit that supports students with learning disabilities. It appears that a membership to Learning Ally has a membership fee associated with it. The app has many of the same features as the Read2Go app mentioned above.

Voice Dream Reader | Voice Dream Reader can read from PDF files, Word documents, PowerPoint, e-books, websites, and more. There is no membership required for the use of this text-to-speech app.


Word Prediction:

Abilipad | Abilipad is a customizable onscreen keyboard with word prediction and text-to-speech capabilities. The customizable keyboard includes features such as forming larger keys, assigning words or letters to keys, and changing the color of the keys.

Co:Writer | Co:Writer is another software that I've been familiar with for years and I am happy to see that there is an iPad version. Co:Writer is a word prediction app in which the predicted words can be read aloud with a simple swipe. Co:Writer also contains topic-specific dictionaries, spelling support, and grammar support. This is my favorite word prediction app.


Dragon Dictation | Dragon Dictation is a free speech-to-text app that was created to allow users to speak text messages and emails. Voice-to-text transcriptions in Dragon can be pasted into any application using the clipboard.

What are your favorite back to school apps?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What's new at AOTA?

AOTA has lots of great events happening this month:

September 17  | New Practitioner Virtual Chat: Solving Ethical Dilemmas.

September 18 | Backpack Awareness Day. Visit AOTA's website for all of the resources you need for a successful Backpack Awareness Day.

September 23 | Pediatric Virtual Chat: Promoting Inclusion

September 30 | Hill Day. Occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students from around the country head to Capitol Hill to advocate for the profession. Last year's Capitol Hill Day was the largest in history and AOTA is looking to have an ever bigger turnout this year!

Didn't make it to the recent AOTA School Specialty Conference or the 2013 AOTA Conference back in April? It's okay, neither did I! AOTA is currently offering a few opportunities for free CE credits from these two conferences on the AOTA Learn website:

Bully Prevention and Friendship Promotion | This is a self-paced course adapted from materials provided by Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA at the AOTA School Specialty Conference. I have taken this course and it is packed full of resources on bullying and pediatric mental health.

There are also two webcasts currently available from the 2013 AOTA Annual Conference Dr. Florence Clark's Farewell Presidential Address and Dr. Ginny Stoffel's Inaugural Presidential Address. To find these webcasts, log onto the AOTA Learn website and type "2013 webcast" in the search tool and both webcasts will pop up in the search results.

* Disclosure: This post is not sponsored or influenced by AOTA in any way. I am simply a proud AOTA member and love to share all of the great resources AOTA has to offer. 

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