Prep Positions is one of the newer apps created by Smarty Ears and I had the great fortune of trying it out with my kiddos and reviewing it for you!   Smarty Ears provided the app for me to review; however, the opinions in this post are all mine.

Upon opening the app, you are greeted with a simple design allowing you access to report cards or to selecting players.  In player selection, you can determine if you will be using the app while working with a student individually or with a group of students.  The best part is that when working with groups, you can choose up to five players and each player can be working on a different skill level!  This app has up to 15 skill levels starting from basic prepositions such as up, on, by and increases in complexity to phrases such as because of, depending on, and up to.  When modifying and determining player level and skills for your student, you can also modify the game by shutting off specific prepositions in that level that they may have already mastered.  Additional modifications that can be made include modifying what stimuli phrases you want to and deselecting the others, modifying background to provide a more simplistic appearance (white background), turning on or off audio for phrases and answers, and a prompt to record responses.

For students who may be struggling readers, it provides the visual text, audio for the phrase/sentence, and audio for the possible prepositions to fill in the blank when you touch them.  It was so easy that some of my non-readers and early readers were able to use the app with reduced assistance.  When the student determines their answer, they simply drag the word to the blank spot in the sentence.  If it is not correct, the word will return to its spot.  When it is right, the word will remain in the sentence and a prompt will pop up to allow the student to record themselves saying the phrase/sentence.  This allows students to have visual, audio, and oral feedback!  Many of my students found that having the ability to record and listen was motivating and fun.  If a student is not sure which of the three possible responses the app provides, then they can touch the little question mark on the bottom right hand side of the screen and it will reduce the choices to only two. 

A screen pops up to encourage and reinforce students so that they know how many balls they have earned towards playing the game.  When setting up, you are able to decide when they will have access to the game by choosing to allow students to play the game after they have collected five balls or after the activity is completed. The reinforcement game is cute too! Students shoot a cannon ball to see how far you can make it fly and who can get it to go the furthest. 
In the report card area, you can see student progress by level, session, or by preposition.  The best part though is that this information can also be shared via email, Smarty Ears Therapy Report Center, and/or Dropbox.  That makes keeping all student data together that much easier (especially when using the Smarty Ears Therapy Report Center with multiple apps).

Why did I love this app? It was super user friendly, provided audio feedback for non-readers or students who struggle with reading, audio feedback had a more realistic human sound, works for groups up to 5 working at different complexity levels, kiddos found it motivating and enjoyable, and it made data collection easy! 

What suggestions do I have for improvements?  To be honest, I had to be very picky when thinking of suggestions.  Smarty Ears was VERY comprehensive with this app and they thought of practically everything including some very complex levels!  Here are my suggestion: incorporate a way to redirect to the game when you wanted for our students that need frequent reinforcement to keep focused on the task instead of waiting until they completed the entire activity or had five balls.

Overall Impressions:  I loved this app!  My student’s loved this app! My six year old daughter found the app on my I-Pad and thought it was just another game that I bought for her and said, “Thanks Mommy for my new game.  I love it!” Hmmm... I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t a new game that I bought for her but one of my apps for work.  If that isn’t a good review out of the mouths of a little one, I do not know what more I could tell you about the app.  You can get Prep Position from Smarty Ears at the App Store for $19.

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Recently, I wrote a post on Speech Spotlight about how I keep my little ones engaged.  In that article, I mentioned the use of visual schedules.  To read that article, go here.  Although the use of visual schedules is commonly connected to working with our students on the spectrum, they are super helpful when working with students who have diverse needs and in a variety of settings.

DO VISUAL SCHEDULES REALLY WORK?  Yes!  I use them with my little ones to facilitate movement from task to task and reduce any anxiety that may exist related to wondering when Mommy or Daddy will return for them.  Of course, I also use them with my students on the spectrum with great success.  I once had a student that had spent his elementary years without learning to remain in his seat for 5 minutes to complete a task.  I was warned.  His teacher was warned.  I saw first hand how the student would sit for 2 minutes or less before he would stand up, wander around, or rock back and forth in a standing position.  By the third session and using the visual schedules, he was sitting at his desk and working with me for over 30 minutes a session.  It wasn't me.  It could have been anyone.  In fact, I worked VERY hard to get his teachers to consistently incorporate his visual schedule.  Unfortunately, they were not consistent (or use it at all in some cases) with the visual schedule.  During progress monitoring, we could see the great gains made in certain areas where his visual schedule was utilized versus other areas where it was not utilized consistently and progress was limited.

PROVIDES STRUCTURE- I'm a list person. I write a million lists a day just so that I can cross things off and visually see what I have accomplished for the day.  I get a sense of accomplishment.  Visual schedules are sort of the same idea.  Students can visually see the structure of the session (or their day) and mark the things off that they accomplished to continue moving forward.  For students that need it, I also pair it with a "FIRST _____  THEN _____" chart.  I will have students move their speech icon from their master visual schedule (if they have one) and move it to my FIRST/THEN chart and choose what they want to work for.  Once they are have completed their work with me, they take it off the FIRST/THEN chart and engage in their preferred task.  When that task is completed, they go back to the master visual schedule to see what is next.

REDUCES ANXIETY & CONFUSION- Not just the little ones can experience potential anxiety and confusion.  Any of our students can.  This includes our students on the spectrum, students with intellectual disabilities, students with processing issues, students with language issues, etc..

SETS EXPECTATIONS-  This goes along with my list loving side! Instead of our talking at our students to let them know how many tasks need to be completed, they can visually SEE what tasks need to be completed.  I love this!  I love this for ME too! (ha! ha!) The visual schedule shows them what they are EXPECTED to complete before the end of the session or day.

Anywhere!  A master schedule can tell the class as a whole how the day is expected to go.  Schedules can also be tailored for the individual.  You can have a separate visual schedule just for your speech room that you change up every session.  Parent's can also have visual schedules to assist their child in completing daily routines and chores.

Go here, for a free visual schedule like the one above and/or to send home for parents.

Do you incorporate Visual Schedules into therapy? If so, how?

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