Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Choiceworks Visual Schedule App

Every once in a while I come across a game changer--something that changes the way I do things in speech therapy. During my last eight years at my school, we've put a strong emphasis on utilizing visual strategies with our autism students and even more so with all students given the push of positive behavior supports (PBS) in our school. 

We've used Boardmaker so much that we might be considered a franchise. We've multiplied our first/then cards tenfold. We've taken stock in Time Timers. I've helped create virtual visual schedules on SMARTBoards and Tap Its. Now that I think about it, visual supports is a big business! And then I came across a very inexpensive app that packs a powerful punch in the visual strategies market--Choiceworks

I wish I could give credit to whomever introduced me to it. So, if it was you, thanks! It is now my most recommended app to others.  Okay, so now you probably want to know what this app is all about, right?

Choiceworks is a visual schedule, visual timer, and a social story book all encompassing app. Have you ever made a visual schedule where you move a picture card to all done (or put it into an envelope)? You know--go on Boardmaker, create a schedule, print, laminate, cut, and then Velcro it all together. Right. We've been there a million times. That's exactly what this app is minus all of my hyperbole. Essentially, it's a virtual, handheld version of the low tech schedules.

The app features an ability to create an unlimited amount of personalized schedules to fit the needs of almost anyone.  In my school, I've created mini schedules for getting off the bus, going to lunch, morning schedule, speech, and walking in the hallway.  You'll notice that you can set a visual timer in between each task too (see picture on the left).  Once the task is over, the person moves it over to the all done side and then the next task begins.  Once the tasks are completed, the person then gets a choice which could either be something motivating or just a choice of the next activity.  Really, it's whatever you make it.  This type of visual strategy has made it easier for both the students and the teachers because the schedule is always the guide.  Check your schedule.  The schedules are always interchangeable and customizable.  You can use pictures from the Choiceworks library or you can import your own.

Another feature of Choiceworks is its Waiting board.  Very simply put, it's a visual timer with choices that follow.  For example, it might say "I am waiting for 5 minutes.  While I am waiting I can color or use the computer."  This allows students to decompress or take a break with an activity that might calm them or help them transition between activities.  Again, this feature is completely customizable.

Choiceworks also features Feelings boards.  I really like this type of visual strategy because it provides people with expected behaviors.  Rather than telling students what not to do, this visual strategy provides students with what they can do.  For example, one board might say "When I am angry, I can get help or take a break.  Then I can watch a DVD or play a game."  This strategy provides a very concrete option for students.  When I use this strategy, I verbally model the phrase and then wait for the student to make the choice.  The key is to verbally prompt very minimally.  Too many words makes the visual strategy less effective.  Wait and then wait some more.  The less wordy, the better!

Overall, BeeVisual has made a great app that can benefit just about any student of any ability.  You could very easily use at home with your own kids or even for yourself to keep you on-task.  First I need to write an IEP.  Then I can have a coffee or go for a walk!

Check out Choiceworks and Choiceworks Calendar at www.beevisual.com or at the iTunes store.  At the time of this writing, the app was listed at $6.99.