Friday, July 11, 2014

Featured App: Dexteria allows users to practice handwriting and various fine motor skills

"Wow, does my ring finger really work so poorly?" "Stupid pinky finger! You're not supposed to move when I tap with my ring finger." Gotta love learning that your ring finger doesn't work so well while trying out a new app. In the OT world, we all say there's something up with us that could use some therapy, which is what makes us good therapists. Apparently, I have a wonky ring finger! I realized this while playing the "Tap It" exercise within the Dexteria app, which works on the finger dexterity and fine motor movements.

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As iTunes states, Dexteria "is a set of therapeutic hand exercises (not games) to improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults." These exercises include "Write It," "Pinch It" and "Tap It," all targeting different fine motor components in an engaging and entertaining way. The opening screen is clear and easy to use, with a picture and text for each exercise with clear boundaries to tap within. In addition, when selecting an exercise, there is an auditory cue confirming the tap and verbal directions with rules. There is not an option to turn off these cues or other noises within the app at this time.

"Write It" is the first exercise the user can engage in. This exercise is practice for upper and lower case letters, in addition to numbers 0-9. The verbal instructions state to start at the arrow dot, and to use your finger to connect the dots to make the letter. There is an auditory cue to when the arrow dot has been pressed, in addition to a specific noise when the line has reached the next dot, when the user strays from the line, and to indicate a new starting point (with a flashing arrow dot). These auditory cues are all musical in nature, and when the letter is complete, the app states which letter it was. The app automatically moves onto the next letter in the alphabet when one is complete, but also has the option of picking which letter to practice with the letters listed on the top of the prompt area. There are three tabs at the bottom of this exercise, with options for capital letters, lowercase letters and numbers. In addition to these tabs, there is an info button which provides a description of the skills addressed during this exercise. Lastly, there is a back button to return to the main screen.

The next exercise is "Pinch It," which instructs the users to pinch the crabs. A pinching motion on top of the crab makes them disappear. When the first crab is pinched, a timer starts. Statistics appear on the screen when the last crab has been pinched, including the level, how many crabs were pinched and the time it took. The bottom of the statistics box allows users to return to the menu screen, retry the level or move onto the the next level. Starting with level 5, the crabs turn from green to red, requiring the user to pinch the crab when it turns green again, or have the crab turn into several crabs, increasing the amount of time it will take to finish the level. This exercise also provides information on the fine motor skills addressed while performing "Pinch It."

Lastly, the "Tap It" exercise can be chosen. This instructs the user to place their four finger on the screen where the hand demonstrates. The exercise then has the user place one or more fingers on the screen while tapping with the other ones. This alternates between left and right handed use throughout the levels. Each level gets progressively harder and works all fingers. At the end of each level, the statistics box reappears with stats from that level, including how many dots touched, time it took and accuracy of the touches. "Tap It" also provides a screen with information on the skills addressed.

This app will also prompt the device user with how many days it has been since last played with the red circle prompt seen on Apple devices (i.e. when there is an email present, etc).  On the main screen, there is a "Report" button which allows the user to view the statistics from all activities, to email these statistics or to clear the statistics from the memory. The "Options" button on the main screen allows the user to clear best times, provide feedback, restore settings, tell a friend and enable/disable the days since last used badge. The iPad app allows profiles to be set up for different users, allowing progress to be tracked over time.

Dexteria focuses on many fine motor skills, including handwriting, pinching, sequencing and finger isolation. With the ability to progress to harder levels and return to level one of "Pinch It" and "Tap It," this app allows users options to refine their fine motor skills.

Shelly thinks the fireworks should stop after the 5th of July (since the 4th got rained out), her dog agrees.

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