Saturday, July 27, 2013
FTVS HD - First Then Visual Schedule HD: Review
Bottom Line: This well-designed tool for creating visual schedules and choice boards for individuals with autism and others comes with a huge symbol library and the ability to add photos, videos, text and voice to any routine.
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First Then Visual Schedule, which Ron reviewed in February 2011, was one of the first apps to make a difference for individuals with autism. This precursor to the new FTVS HD has been available on the App Store since before I even dreamed of my iPad. Developer Good Karma Applications helped to shape the use of i-devices for individuals with special needs with its customizable interface to help children, learn routines, earn reinforcers and navigate through the day.
I know how effective visual schedules can be for kids with a variety of needs. I have and do use schedules for kids with autism, emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, language impairments, and more. The right schedule is always (of course) different for each child, making customization a very desirable feature.
I was very excited to use FTVS HD in my work as a speech-language pathologist. I currently manage the visual schedule for two kids in the same class every day, including setting the schedule and making choices. Though the paper schedule is effective, it isn't always easy to manage on a daily basis.
FTVS HD provides many new customizations over the original version. I quickly set up two schedules, one for each student. The options are endless—there are over 10,000 Smarty Symbols available to download in packages, or the user can add images from the Photo Stream, Google Images, or from the device camera.
Each addition to the schedule can be customized with a title, picture, audio recording, video, and even a choice selection. One student hates writing—I set up the writing section of his schedule to include a choice. Being able to choose what kind of writing he wants to do will hopefully help him stay on target and complete the activity.
I didn't use the video for either of these students, but the feature is wonderful, and can be used in so many ways—it makes the app so much more than just a fancy version of paper schedules. Students learning routines might benefit from seeing the video of each step before attempting it, gaining independence and allowing for fading cues as the routine is learned (the teacher or therapist can gradually remove videos from the schedule as each step is completed).
After setting each task, they can be rearranged on the schedule. Before using the schedule, the user needs to turn off the Edit Mode in the Settings (accessible in the menu found by tapping the gear in the lower right corner). Each schedule can be viewed in five different formats, again providing customization to meet the needs of individual learners.
There are excellent visual tutorials found on the FTVS HD website which provide tips for how to set up schedules, edit schedules, use the timer, and send and back up the schedules. These tutorials are a great addition, though it would be nice if they were also available on the app itself. The app is free of any external links, however, which is a good feature.
Time was one of my only complaints about this app—it takes time to get it set up. There was the initial investment of time when I downloaded all 22 symbol libraries (a button to install them all would be great!) Then the wait each time I searched the list to add a new symbol to a task—20 seconds or so each time the list of all 10,000+ symbols loaded. But investing the time was certainly worth it for the customization available.
The app is also a space hog with all of the Smarty Symbols installed. I would have preferred to just rely on Google Images, but I seldom have internet access when I am in the classrooms or in my office, and so to use this app effectively I need to have the symbols all available. With all symbols sets installed and just 3 different schedules saved, FTVS HD hit almost 1 gig on my iPad—the largest on my small-memory device.
And unfortunately, it was a bit buggy for me. Sometimes when selecting a picture from the stock images, the wrong one would appear—I got a number instead of homework, a measuring cup instead of oatmeal, and a fraction picture instead of a toothbrush. The app also crashed more than I'm used to with an app, and after using multitasking to open a different app, I returned and the app loaded with a black screen. This continued, even after several hard reset attempts, until it finally loaded after leaving it open for several minutes. Jill also experienced a hang-up on her newer iPad with plenty of memory and no open apps running in the background using the updated version of the app.
Even with these few glitches I am so glad to own this app. I hope my students will soon be able to use the schedules every day in the classroom. The teacher can easily update the schedule based on the day, and I can use the schedule to help teach routines in therapy. I can even set them up on my iPad, then send to the student iPad (linked to an email account).
There are therapeutic and educational uses beyond schedules and routines, of course. FTVS HD also can be used to sequence stories for retell, providing visual structure. It could be used to create visual definitions for vocabulary words—in my therapy, we have to include the category, function, descriptive features, parts, and location in a good definition.
In whatever way it is used, the features of First Then Visual Schedule HD make it well worth purchasing, especially for teachers, parents, and therapists who work with students who often benefit from visual structure and cues. There are of course plenty of free and less expensive apps available, but the level of customization and features in FTVS HD make it worth consideration, even at a higher price.
Heather Hetler may soon be using FTVS HD to keep track of all her tasks at work. The choice board may include chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.
Originally posted on Smart Apps for Kids