What is the Mobile App Candy Count and How Can it Help Occupational Therapists?

March 27th, 2015

We’ve all tried it because it’s so much fun: Counting the number of gumballs or candies in a jar in hopes of winning a prize.

The Camigo Media LLC app Candy Count provides a fun, interactive way to teach important concepts to toddlers, including sorting colors, counting and arranging numbers, and comparing quantities. Preschoolers and kindergartners also can benefit from the app, which may be downloaded for $1.99 for your iPhone or iPad.

How It Works

Candy Count is easy to use, as it focuses on creating an optimal learning environment. Students begin by shaking the phone or tablet to empty sweets out of a bag. Then they work on guessing the winning number. They must first identify the color and then match sweets to the right bag. Categorization is a skill that babies begin mastering at a few months of age, but Candy Count offers a new way of challenging children in this area.

  • Once bagged, sweets must be counted. Then, bags are ordered from those containing the most sweets to those containing the least. Along the way, questions are asked to test students’ understanding of quantities.
  • You can change quantity and color options. By default, the app allows counting up to five, but you can increase this as high as twelve. Color modifications are also offered. These change-ups help keep children engaged, providing continuous new things to learn.

Candy Count is also available as a free download. The free version has a restricted number of color and number options but otherwise is identical to the $1.99 version.

“Definitely Worth the Buy!”

Reviewers who have given Candy Count a trial run concede that the app is a great way to get your younger students excited about counting, categorizing and comparing. Each time a child selects the right answer, they are rewarded with a sprinkle of brightly colored stars on their screen. Between the sparkle and the sweets, it presents an irresistible learning experience for little ones whose attention spans are generally limited.

“I thought Candy Count was a terrific app, just right for older preschoolers and kindergarteners. It teaches skills in a fun and entertaining way … They get to play with candy on the screen and come away without sticky fingers or a sugar rush. Awesome!” noted the iPhone Mom.

And as noted by another satisfied user, “This app has adorable colors and graphics and a really cute game for kids. The makers did a fantastic job with the quality of the game and made it really fun for kids to play. Definitely worth the buy!”

Are you looking for additional tools and resources to build your school-based therapy practice? Or perhaps you’re seeking to take your therapy career to the next level. Let the therapist recruiters at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services partner with you to realize your ongoing goals. For more information, read our related posts or contact us today.

Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services Selected as a ‘Top Workplace’ in Atlanta

March 24th, 2015

ATLANTA – Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services is pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Top Workplaces in Atlanta for the fourth year. The pediatric staffing firm, which is based in Kennesaw, Georgia, ranked 38th in the small business category, which included employers with 149 or fewer employees in the region.

The Top Workplaces are determined based solely on employee feedback. The employee survey is conducted by WorkplaceDynamics, LLP, a leading research firm on organizational health and employee engagement.

“It is an incredible honor to receive this recognition,” said June Whitehead, Owner and CEO of Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. “We have an amazing team of therapists and supporters, and I stand amazed and grateful. I want to thank all of them for their continued confidence in Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We could not have earned the Top Workplace award for a fourth time without them.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the complete list of Top Workplaces on Sunday, March 22, 2015. For more information about the Top Workplaces lists and WorkplaceDynamics, please visit www.topworkplaces.com and www.workplacedynamics.com.

Founded in 1989, Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services has been providing a range of therapy services for children, including speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy to school systems across the United States for 26 years. The firm currently serves Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Reviewing Top Mobile Apps for Speech Therapy | Magical Concepts

March 20th, 2015

Concepts are critical building blocks for early learning. Research shows that understanding of basic concepts is essential for academic success and high-level thinking ability. Magical Concepts by Virtual Speech Center, Inc., is a language therapy app that traces learning progress with more than 60 concepts for both individual and group therapy.

How it Works

Magical Concepts was created by a certified speech language pathologist who wanted to make drilling with flashcards more fun and motivating. Students are welcomed to the app by Mago the Magician who encourages them to work hard. From there, they go on to earn stars for each correct response and when they accumulate enough stars, they’re rewarded with a fun magic shows.

The basic concepts featured include:

  • Above/below
  • Angry/sad/happy/surprised
  • Around
  • Apart/together
  • Behind/in front
  • Big/small
  • Bottom/top
  • Clean/dirty
  • Closed/open
  • Hot/cold
  • Crooked/straight
  • Day/night
  • Different/same
  • Far/near
  • Over/under
  • Short/tall
  • Thick/thin
  • Upside down, next, to … and more.

Using Magical Concepts, you can work with students locational, temporal, numerical, descriptive, social-emotional and other conceptual words. More than 2,000 photographs are provided to illustrate the concepts.

Outstanding Features

Magical Concepts allows you to import the names of all your students, creating settings that best meet the needs of each one. Other noteworthy features include:

  • The ability to create reports based on sessions completed, so you can easily report progress to parents, teachers and others.
  • Visual and auditory feedback; for instance, different tones are used to indicate whether or not responses are correct. Repeat buttons are available for verbal instructions.
  • The flexibility to work on concepts with more than one student at a time while collecting data for everyone.
  • User-friendly settings including auto or manual scoring, cards presented in order or randomly, and the ability to enable or disable rewards and allow automatic page advancing.

Thumbs Up

Speech pathologists who have piloted Magic Concepts agree that it’s well worth its $9.99 price tag for download on your iPhone or iPad. As noted by one satisfied user, “It has wonderful data collection features, tracks multiple students at a time and can be used with older children, too … You can select ‘all’ or specifically pick which concepts you want to work on for each student. Students work toward a magic show reward and you can adjust the number of questions that need to be completed to earn the reward. This is a comprehensive basic concept app with excellent customization features.”

As you realize your professional goals as a school-based therapist, consider partnering with a recruitment firm that knows your specialty and has the resources, market intelligence and contacts to take your career to the next level – or advance in your current role. Read our related posts or contact Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

Tips for the Classroom: Proper Letter Formation When Writing

March 16th, 2015

Attention to mastering handwriting benefits every student, including those with learning disabilities related to reading, writing or nonverbal learning, and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Labored handwriting can create a drain on the mental resources a child needs for higher-level aspects of writing such as attention to content, elaboration of details and organization of ideas. Handwriting is the basic tool used in most school subjects for note and test taking and doing classroom and homework, so poor abilities in this area can have a pervasive overall effect on academic performance.

Forming Letters: Some Suggestions

When working with students on proper formation of letters, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Teach letters in developmental order. This helps boosts children’s confidence as they sharpen their handwriting skills. Teach capitals first and then lowercase letter. Present them in small groups of similar formation. Students can then master the easier groups before moving on to more difficult challenges.
  • Use multi-sensory techniques: You can help children develop their writing skills through explicit, multi-sensory, play-based instruction. They can move, touch, feel and manipulate real objects as they learn the essential habits and skills for handwriting, or you can use music to promote movement and memory.
  • Use a continuous stroke to teach consistency. Children should learn a consistent way to form a letter every time they use it. Although some letters, such as f and t, require lifting a writing utensil from the paper to make a second stoke, try to teach formation using a single continuous stroke whenever possible. For instance, work on b starting at the top with a vertical stroke, then looping to the right without lifting the utensil.
  • Focus initially on motor pattern rather than legibility or size. It’s helpful to begin with large movements, such as forming letters in the air. Use a sweep with the entire arm, not just the hand. This practice emphasizes learning the motor patter with correct formation of the letter, rather than writing it on perfectly on paper.
  • Teach similarly formed letters together. Use an instructional sequence that accounts for both ease of formation and frequency in words. For example, c, a and d all start with the same loop and can be taught in one group. I should be taught before y because it’s simpler to form and is needed more often to write words.
  • Separate reversible letters. Children appear less likely to confuse verbally similar letters such as b and d if they’re learned one of them will before introduction of the second one. In addition, it can be helpful to teach formation of these letters differently; for instance, b starts at the top and d starts with the loop.
  • For children at early stages of reading and spelling, integrate handwriting with instruction in letter sounds. While students are practicing writing a letter, they also can be saying the sound it makes.

Assessing Handwriting Skills

Your assessment of students’ handwriting progress should encompass:

  • Execution: Correct and consistent pencil hold, posture and letter formation.
  • Legibility: Readability of letters, as well as spacing within and between words.
  • Speed: This is important as children advance beyond the first few grade levels, so they can effectively use writing in a variety of tasks.

The expert team of specialists at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services offers a full spectrum of resources and expertise to help you build your school-based therapy career. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

Tips for the Classroom: Learning Diphthongs

March 13th, 2015

Children often struggle with diphthongs, as it can be difficult to glide form one vowel sound to another. This happens naturally to most people, but can cause deep frustration to those who encounter this particular speech challenge.

Here are some tips for diphthong therapy in your classroom:

Pucker Up and Smile

“Oi” is a back-round to high-front diphthong in reference to how it is produced inside the mouth. It’s common for youngsters to have difficulty with the glide part of “oi.” When given verbal or visual cues, they’re often able to produce this diphthong in isolation. However, once in a word, the glide is deleted.

  • Start with vowel words. Then work toward words where consonants follow the vowel. For example, begin with “coy” and progress to “coil.”
  • Use a non-speech exercise. Have students make a pucker with their lips, then retract them for a smile. This oral motor movement gets the lips and tongue into position for accurate production of the “oi” diphthong. Use a mirror so children can see what they’re doing.

The Taffy Cue

Here’s how to progress from “aw” to “long E” when working on diphthongs:

  • Have students practice the “aw” sound and then hold it and add “long E.” Tell them to imagine holding a piece of taffy between their hands, held together by their pointer fingers and thumbs. Then have them envision pulling the taffy apart, stretching your fingers and hands.
  • After a child can produce the “aw” and “long E” sounds, have them practice in syllables. It goes like this: “aw-E, aw-E, aw-E …” Then practice syllables that end in vowel combinations, such as “boy, loy, moy, poy” and “toy.” Advance to words with an ending consonant: “boil, loil, moil, poil” and “toil.” Some of these are nonsense words, but it doesn’t matter. The point is to get students to progress from a consonant to the diphthong and then end the word with another consonant.

More Tips

Make sure your students have a clear understanding of diphthongs by explaining that some letters make a more complicated sound when used together. Emphasize that you need to move your mouth around in different ways to make various sounds.

  • Write diphthong letter combinations on the board and pronounce the sounds they make. Emphasize related mouth movements.
  • Teach each diphthong individually or in pairs. Leave plenty of time to practice each before moving on to another.
  • Cover these diphthongs: “oy, oi, oo, ou, ow, au” and “ew.”
  • Make a diphthong chart. Each time you teach a new diphthong, add a column to a large wall-mounted chart. Encourage students to come up with a list of words that contain the diphthong. You may want to write them on cards and Velcro them to the wall chart. This allows for plenty of practice later, when students can take turns sorting them into the appropriate columns.
  • Practice in pairs. Divide children into pairs and instruct each student to make up three sentences using diphthongs. Then have them pair up and read each other’s work. Remind them to correct their partners’ sentences gently in order to minimize hard feelings and foster teamwork.

As you continue to advance your speech therapy career, consider working with a professional recruiter from Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. Whether you’re seeking your next opportunity or identifying your plans for growth within your current school or organization, we can help. To learn more, read our related posts or contact our team today.

Occupational Therapy Apps: Shoe Tying 1

February 27th, 2015

The Accelerations Educational Software app Shoe Tying 1 combines a systematic teaching and video modeling approach to help your students master a basic skill that poses difficulty for many. The app is available for download on the iTunes store at a price of $4.99.

The app breaks shoe tying down into individual video steps that students can master one by one, building their confidence and cooperation. You teach them to tie, beginning with a shoe off their foot and progressing to working with it on their foot as their fine motor skills improve. Shoe Tying 1 also teaches the language associated with various steps of shoe tying.

Since shoe tying is a moderately complex fine motor skill, success at this activity demonstrates that a student has the cognitive capability to learn many other daily living and vocational skills. The app is excellent for a variety of learners encompassing:

  • Young children.
  • Children with autism and other learning disabilities.
  • Children with traumatic brain injuries or other cognitive issues.

Helpful Features

You can easily control presentations to your students using Shoe Tying 1. The app enables you to assist and fade assistance as needed till your student is independent. Additional helpful features include the ability to:

  • Replay steps and sequences in video and image formats.
  • Overcome issues associated with poor observational learners including those with representational and memory problems.
  • Provide a consistent, non-threatening model that focuses on the most critical information while minimizing unnecessary distractions.

Shoe Tying 1 comes with an integrated help system including a Teaching Guide, Using App instructions and information on how and why video modeling works. The help system is backed by helpful web resources.

Increase Teaching Effectiveness

Therapists who have piloted Shoe Tying 1 agree that the app makes teaching shoe tying easier, quicker and more effective. One OT noted that, “I would use this app with children with autism spectrum disorders, motor planning issues, intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities … The use of video provides a consistent model, the ability to repeat all or part of the video facilitates memory and the option to easily pause the video at any time allows the child to practice simultaneously.”

Are you interested in additional resources to make your school-based therapy practice more effective and enriching?

What about your career path?

The Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team of experts are more than just recruiters; they’re therapists themselves. To learn more about us, read our related posts or contact our experienced team of recruiters today.

Reviewing Speech Therapy Apps: Syntax Workout

February 23rd, 2015

A welcome addition to the Virtual Speech Center series of “Workout” apps is Syntax Workout, designed by a certified speech language pathologist for preschool and elementary age children who struggle with English grammar. Priced at $16.99, it’s available for download on the App Store.

Syntax Workout includes 1,500 stimuli in the following activities:

  • Third person singular: Do/does, has/had, is/are, and was/were.
  • Subjective pronouns: I, you, she, he, etc.
  • Objective pronouns: Me, you, him, her, etc.
  • Possessive pronouns: My, your, his, her, etc.
  • Absolute possessive pronouns: Mine, yours, etc.
  • Demonstrative pronouns: This, that, those, these.

Pronouns are organized into different sets. The app is easy to navigate and users can perform these tasks:

  • Enter multiple students.
  • Change settings.
  • Turn audio on and off.
  • Select auto scoring and alternate counts for multiple students.
  • Enable and disable the app’s reward and randomization features.
  • Track correct and incorrect responses.
  • Email results.

How It Works

When you open Syntax Workout, you select a student or group of students and then choose the specific skill you want to address. From there, students are shown a picture and a narrator reads a sentence and then choices of words that students can use to fill in the blanks. Students have a choice of two answers to press. After they make their selection, there is an opportunity to reread the sentence.

Children earn a bowling ball for every correct response and when they accumulate enough, they’re rewarded with a game. When your students complete a session, you can get a report card.

  • If students need to hear screens over again, they can press a replay button.
  • Older children can read content themselves if you prefer, but you’ll need to help them determine whether their answers are correct because this requires the audio feature to be turned off.

Two Thumbs Up

Syntax Workout has earned an increasing number of positive reviews since its introduction in 2013. Reviewers praise its ease of set-up, data collection feature, use of real pictures, and the wide variety of concepts that it addresses.

“This app provides a fun way to target many different grammatical constructs,” noted one therapist. “Every child who has tried it has requested using it again during their next therapy session. They love the reinforcement activity! The option to target receptive/expressive syntax in one app is a huge plus as well.”

Another trial user noted that Syntax Workout “combines working on structure with bowling and is a ton of fun! My students rated this app two thumbs up. They worked hard on mastering the learning that was presented to them, but loved the opportunity to bowl. They stayed so motivated!”

Are you looking to grow your career as a school-based therapist? Whether it means enhancing your current role or exploring the possibilities of a new one, consider partnering with the experts at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. They’re not just recruiters; they’re therapists themselves. To learn more, read our related posts or contact us today.

Tips for the Classroom: Writing Cursive Letters

February 13th, 2015

Proper handwriting includes correct letter formation, proper proportion, size, slant and spacing. For students, writing cursive may actually be easier and come more naturally than printing, as lines are more fluid and there’s no need to lift your writing utensil as you find your rhythm.

Here are some helpful tips as you work with children who are learning to master cursive letters:

It Starts with the Right Grip

It can be difficult to coach students on the proper grip of writing utensils for cursive letters. Individual finger placement is crucial. Be patient as you encourage youngsters to:

  • Hold their utensil with their thumb and index finger fairly close to the writing tip. These two digits alone should be able to grip and move the pen or pencil. Watch carefully, as there may be a tendency for students to use two or three fingers in addition to their thumb, due to weak muscles.
  • Properly position the remaining fingers. The middle finger should be curved under, with the writing utensil resting lightly on the first joint from the tip. This provides balance. The fourth finger and pinky are curved and lined up under the middle finger, out of the way.

Teaching Proportion

Proper letter proportion can be taught using handwriting paper, which has a dotted middle line.

  • Capital letters touch the top and bottom lines. Lower-case letters touch the bottom and middle lines, except for some letter stems.
  • Use samples of children’s actual writing to determine the right handwriting paper to use. This is often a better gauge than using paper that matches their grade in school.

Make Practice Successful – and Fun

For best results, cursive handwriting practice should be scheduled every day. It’s better to take several days off after practicing consistently for several days than to practice erratically.

  • Start by tracing. Have students trace letters, words, phrases and finally, sentences. Supervise them the entire time and have them erase unacceptable work and rewrite it. This may seem frustrating, but it will take more time and anxiety to undo bad habits. Praise students’ progress, even if it comes in small steps.
  • Once letters are being formed correctly, emphasize uniform size. Then add slant. Continue to require correct formation as you progress. Slant can be checked by drawing a straight /// line through the center of each letter from top to bottom. If slant is uniform, all these lines will be parallel.

The Ergonomics

Last but not least, be sure that your students are sitting in proper writing positions. The flat surfaces on which their arms can rest comfortably should not be too high or too low. Their feet should be supported on the floor or a box, rather than dangling. Improper table height, a slouching or straining body position, or dangling feet can sap energy and increase fatigue.

Are you looking for additional resources as you build your school-based therapy career? To learn more about job opportunities and the latest speech and OT developments, techniques and tips, read our related posts or contact the expert team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

Tips for the Classroom: Helping Students with the Letter R

February 6th, 2015

It’s not unusual. R is one of the most commonly-used sounds in the English language – and typically one of the last mastered by children, often not maturing till age six or seven. Since the sound is later developing, a common misconception is to do nothing when children mispronounce it. And in many cases, it does correct itself. But almost as often, it does not.

The /r/ phoneme is one of the most commonly misarticulated sounds and can be one of the most challenging to correct. The earlier the intervention to address this speech obstacle, the better.

The Tongue Takes the Lead

A leading reason why /r/ is so hard to teach is because students are unable to see what their tongue looks like or where it is inside their mouths. To pronounce R correctly, the tongue must bunch back or its tip moved up and back in the mouth.

  • Find proper /r/ tongue position by placing a tongue depressor between the back teeth. This helps the student to get the feel of moving their tongue independently from their lips. While the lips are a very important part of making the R sound, for a little while they need to be out of the picture. This way, when you instruct a student to “move your tongue,” the correct action will result.
  • When working on /r/ in the middle of words: Continue monitoring the tongue to make sure it’s moving enough to make a good, strong sound. Keep reminding the student to move their tongue. Practice words like “dark, stark, forest, Mary” or “orange.”
  • Then move on to /r/ at the beginning of words: Working with words like “rabbit, room, reindeer” and “rooster,” make sure you hold onto the R sound long enough for the student to start making it, and then complete the word with them.
  • Teaching blends may take a little time, but should not be difficult. One fun method is singing songs using words like “princess, pretzels” or “greasy greens.” Students may add an extra vowel between consonants, such as “guhreen” instead of “green,” but this will self-correct in time.
  • With words like “first, person, heard” and “third,” intensify your focus on the lips. Save this for later on in your work with a student, so they’re already adept at following /r/ directions. Practice helps, as do reminders to tighten the lips and move the tongue. Have students listen to you as you say these words with them.

More Elicitation Techniques

Here are some additional tips to help your students to master /r/:

  • Use hand gestures. Hold one hand horizontally to symbolize the tongue and hold the other hand underneath. Using the hand on top, show the tongue movement necessary to produce /r/. By cupping your hand, show that the tongue tip is up and slightly back.
  • Use animal sounds. Always model these sounds for children first. They could be a rooster crowing in the morning, a cat purring or a tiger growling.

For additional resources to enhance your school-based therapy practice and the latest career opportunities in your field, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.

Speech Therapy Apps: Articulation Vacation

January 30th, 2015

Drilling students on articulation is no vacation. Unless … it is!

Articulation Vacation is a Virtual Speech Center app built around a vacation theme, with colorful, engaging graphics that draw you into its tropical island theme. Students practice 44 phonemes while playing different built-in beachside games.

You can work with multiple students, choosing specific phonemes for each user. Each phoneme has the choice of word, phrase or story level – and you can select the placement of the phoneme within a word – initial, medial or final. And keeping track of student progress is a snap.

Playing at the Beach

Shhh … don’t tell your students they’re learning as they master phonemes while:

  • Fishing: They catch not only fish but also different fun objects containing targeted sounds. Students touch a fisherman screen and they’re on their way.
  • Hunting for buried treasure: Children look for hidden objects in the sand, uncovering them with a swipe of their finger.
  • Taking pictures: While playing the Vacation Photos game, users slide a camera from side to side to bring a photo into the viewfinder, then press the button and the photo appears. What child doesn’t love a camera?
  • Reading postcards: You also have the option of having students listen.
  • Playing a parachute game: Users drop objects containing targeted sounds from a parachute onto a floating log raft.

More Features

Articulation Vacation is easy to navigate and targets nearly all English phonemes. It provides numerous tools to perform the following actions:

  • Change settings.
  • Select multiple phonemes and auto scoring.
  • Save selected phonemes for subsequent sessions.
  • Enable and disable written picture descriptions and special effect sounds.
  • Track correct and incorrect responses.
  • View reports in table and graphic.
  • Email results.

You can customize sounds for the scoring buttons within settings, as each one has a choice of three types of audio tones. As noted by one app reviewer, “I appreciate the ability to be able to differentiate audio tones for each of the scored data areas, as well as the option to completely turn the sound off if needed … This is a nice feature so you don’t have to use the volume settings on your iPad and accidentally disable your narrated words, phrases or stories.”

Another reviewer cited these “things I like” about Articulation Vacation:

  • Ability to control settings and edit word lists for individual student needs.
  • Motivating scenes that “constantly vary, which is excellent for keeping students’ attention.”
  • Story levels that are “unique” and “a huge plus for carryover.”
  • Ability to control the pace of activities simply by hitting “next” and moving on to the next picture, scene or target word.

Articulation Vacation is priced at $29.99 and available for download on the iTunes App Store.

Are you looking to advance your school-based therapy career? For current job openings in Atlanta and beyond – as well as additional resources and tools to help you realize your short and long-term goals, read our related posts or contact the specialized team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.