Bottom Line: How many stars for the joy of not having to bend over and tie another shoe? Invest $4.99 and forget about those $40 co-pays for OT that isn’t working.
Editor's Note: This review was originally written in April 2012 when the app was first released. Dean still isn't tying.
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The oft repeated adage there is an app for everything may finally be true with the release of Shoe Tying 1 - Activity App® by Accelerations Educational Software. While new to iOS, AES is the maker of the wonderful Discrete Trial and Activity Trainer software packages. I have used DTT with my ASD son for several years with solid progress. When I received an email that an app for shoe tying was being released, I was thrilled. Despite being an IEP goal for two years, extensive 1:1 work with an OT, and relatively decent fine motor and imitation skills, tying has eluded us.
The app uses video modeling and breaks down the task into small discrete steps. I have never bothered with video modeling because schedules and transitions are not priority needs for us and I would feel utterly foolish trying to create a video. This app and a detailed press release from AES explaining the methodology behind video modeling have opened my eyes. The hard part about teaching shoe tying is having patience. It is so much easier to just bend down and do it yourself especially when you are rushing for the school bus in the mornings. Even easier is the temptation to avoid the issue altogether and buy nifty Velcro Sketchers. Now I’ve learned that the video model takes me and all my anxieties and impatience out of the mix. It couldn’t be easier.
There is a comprehensive set of instructions that come up on launch which is definitely worth reading even for those that loathe instructions. It has a Do Not Show Again box for when you are ready to proceed but can be accessed anytime. The instructions help explain the myriad of options available for teaching with this app. The parent or teacher selects the appropriate options for his or her student from the Presentation Menu. Once a selection is made, it will be the default until new sequences are chosen. The abbreviations used are quite confusing if you don’t bother with the instructions. V=Video, I=Image, A=Audio and T=Text so a particular option may say ITA- Tie Shoe which means image, text and audio will be used to demonstrate how to tie a shoe.
There is the ability to go step by step, play an entire sequence of tying straight through, have verbal instructions or not, have a completed picture and video window side by side, etc. Playback can be stopped at any time to allow the user to catch up, and there is a repeat button to replay a skill. The endless options make the app appropriate for typical children first learning to tie as well as children who have cognitive or physical disabilities that require a higher level of prompting. Alternate teaching options like back chaining are described in the instructions as well. This process works by teaching the last step of the task first and working your way backwards. The developer has truly done everything possible to insure a child succeeds.
My son who is 10 actually had a small smile once he figured out what was going on. After a few false starts and a little hand over hand he was able to independently make a loop. He is not yet tying and it may take many more trials and hand over hand assistance, but for the first time I believe he may get the hang of it. He has logged hundreds of hours of ABA therapy time so this presentation is perfect for him. Although the app does not collect data on individual trials, it is designed in conformity with principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Anyone with a child age 6 and up needing to learn how to tie can benefit from this app. The video, audio and images are clean and professional. It is not silly or animated. If your child is able to pinch the crabs in Dexteria, then he is ready for Shoe Tying. The only thing I would add is perhaps a pre-routine to introduce the language used independent of each step. My child is language impaired. His knowledge of loop is in association with Fruit Loops cereal so some PECS cards showing loop, wrap and pinch would be useful.
Finding time with school, homework and after school sports to actually use the app has made progress slow, but I look forward to working through all the steps and sharing a video of D successfully tying his own shoes very soon. If that doesn’t convince the school to equip the ESE class with a set of iPads, I don’t know what will.
I can’t wait to see future activity apps and have lobbied the developer for a butt wiping app. That made for an interesting conversation about peanut butter and dolls. This developer really knows his stuff technically and as a special needs dad. Expect to see this app on Best of 2012 lists.
Jill Goodman reviewed this app and 70 others this year. She personally guarantees that if this doesn’t teach your child to tie, she and the Smart Apps for Kids staff will bend over and tie that shoe for you. A promotional code was received to facilitate this review.