Many of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve spent the past year working with preschoolers in their homes and will soon be transitioning to a medical setting working mostly with adults. Less of you probably know I have also worked since high school as a direct support staff with adults with developmental disabilities. My experiences with that population (in group homes and community habilitation) was actually the main reason I chose the field of speech-language pathology. Unfortunately, most app review sites (including my own) focus on two age groups: childhood and geriatrics. The app I’m about to review can be used with people of any age and cognitive level; however, I’d like to emphasize the ways it can be used with the people that have motivated me for 5+ years.
What It Is: A visual timer by SixAxis.
How It Works: This app is very similar to the Time Timer product/app that many of you may be familiar with. It’s just the face of a clock that gives a clear visual representation of the amount of time remaining on a timer. It also gives the numeric representation below the visual. So, using my finger in a “wind-up” motion, I can set the clock to, say, twenty-two minutes (or whatever amount of time you want). If you go over sixty minutes, it will begin to show it in hours as well. Pressing the curvy arrow at the top resets the timer to 0. Once I press play at the top, the timer starts counting down. Minutes are represented in red; hours are represented in blue. When it gets down to the last minute, the seconds are displayed in green. When the time is up, an alarm sounds. (There are over 20 alarms to choose from–everything from children’s laughter to fireworks to beeping.)
Therapy Applications: Of course, this app can be used with a variety of ages and populations. It can even be used personally by therapists during mundane tasks like report-writing. (It’s amazing how much a visual reminder of time passing/deadlines can do to increase efficiency in a way that simply looking at the clock can’t.) It can be used to show students how much longer they have during a test, the amount of time left during therapy or specific activities, when they need to start wrapping it up during a presentation, etc. It can help people whose ability to read time has been affected by acquired brain injury. However, I think most people would see this tool as a behavior management strategy that is adaptable with children from EI up through high school. But, as promised, let’s focus on how this app can be used with adults with developmental disabilities. While therapists and teachers working with children often attempt to assert control over their students/clients through various behavior “management” strategies, this is not appropriate for working with adults with developmental disabilities. Instead, we should be giving them tools to help them be successful in their environment. (I have some strong issues with how and why we are expected to treat adults with respect but not children, but that’s a whole other post–or ten–in itself.) Instead of using VisualTimer as a behavior control strategy, how awesome could it be if a therapist assisted individuals (and maybe also the staff at their residence) with using it as a means of telling time without actually needing to be able to read a clock? For example, instead of saying, “Okay, when this alarm goes off you can do ,” like we would with a child, the individuals with disabilities could set (with assistance as needed) a timer to let themselves know when it was time to do something. And instead of relying on someone else (e.g. staff) to let them know how much time is left, they could look at this relatively clear visual. Having worked in group homes, I could see so many uses for this. It could be used to let people know how much time is left before their ride comes for work or how much time is left before a night out with friends/family. It could also increase their independence with things activities of daily living like baking. (I have seen this type of idea implemented using a stopwatch, but unfortunately that is useless until it goes off. Typically, it actually makes the individual more anxious because they know it will go off but aren’t able to see a visual representation of when. Visual Timer solves this problem.) So, instead of using this as a way to control individuals’ behavior, it could actually be used to increase their control over and understanding of their own lives! The amount and type of support needed to set and read the timer may vary, but I think many individuals with cognitive challenges would be able to master using and understanding this visual. In the very least, it will give them an increased knowledge (and perhaps peace of mind) about the timing of certain activities.
Pros: 1. Price! A physical version of this app can easily run you $30 and a similar app can be at least $4-10. (Plus, this app is good for both iPhone and iPad once purchased whereas a similar app has to be purchased separately for each device.)
2. Ease of use. It’s easy to set. Many people with disabilities will be able to set it themselves, though some may need assistance due to fine motor or cognitive challenges.
3. Versatility. Again, this is one of those rare apps that is appropriate for any age group in any population (even therapists). Tip: when using it, remember what was discussed above. It doesn’t just have to be the “behavior management app”…it can be the app that gives individuals (of any age and ability) more control over their own environment and actions.
4. Multiple alarms. It can be a screeching alarm clock-like beep if you really want, but it can also be something soothing or happy.
Cons: 1. I wish there were a way to set the app by typing in the time. While I appreciate that the app is designed to be visual, it would be more efficient sometimes to simply type in the time instead of winding it up (particularly for longer times). This is a very minor complaint, but still something that would be nice in the future.
2. There isn’t a way to set seconds. While this hasn’t been a problem for me (setting to the nearest minute has always worked), it is something to note.
The Take-Away: This app is great for any age and level of ability. This review focuses on its uses with adults with developmental disabilities, but it can also be used with anyone from toddlers to the elderly. Yes, it’s a great behavior management tool, but perhaps more importantly it can be used to increase individuals’ independence in their everyday lives. It’s quite inexpensive (particularly compared to its competitors), and I would encourage any interested SLP to purchase it.
My Questions for You: Do you use this app or a similar visual tool? What are some ways that you’ve implemented it?
Looking for more expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!