Tuesday, July 17, 2012

App Review: BrainWorks for Sensory Breaks

Sensational Brain LLC has released a new app to go along with their online tools to create sensory diets.  I received a free copy to review for this blog post.  This app is quite comprehensive when it comes to creating sensory diets for home, school and the community.

If you are not familiar with the BrainWorks system, it is an online resource to create sensory diets using picture cards to help supplement sensory diets.  A tachometer is used as a visual image to help children determine if their bodies are just right, slow and sluggish, fast and stressed or fast and hyper.  This system is carried over on the app as well.

The BrainWorks app was very easy to set up.  I did watch the available YouTube videos to get a jump start but if you are comfortable with app usage you may not even need the video.  If you are a parent you will benefit from watching the videos since Gwen Wild (the creator of BrainWorks) offers some helpful tips.

Basically, you set up user accounts with appropriate activities on each account.  For this example, I set up an account for a "John Doe".  I can go into settings and deselect activities so that only the activities that are available for John can be selected.  Once that is all set the app is ready to go.  You can add other users and customize the activities for that user.

You would give the child the iOS device and he can select himself, "John Doe".  Once selected, John can choose to use the timer or not.  The next step is to choose your location (picture 1. above).  Once the location is selected John can pick how he feels (picture 2. above).  Now John can pick activities based on how he is currently feeling (picture 3. above).  For this example, the cross crawl activity was picked (picture 4. above).  You can see the timer counting down in the cross crawl activity.

I tested this app on the iPhone and the iPad.  The images shown above are all from the iPhone.  The only difference is on the iPad up to 16 activities can be shown at one time whereas the iPhone shows 4 activities at a time.

All the above features are customizable.  You can add your own activities with images from your photo library or take a picture.  You can remove any activities that are not suitable for the child on the settings page.  Also, to change the settings require a password to prevent children from altering the app once you have set it up.

Here are the pros for the BrainWorks app:

  1. Easy to set up.
  2. Many activities provided with new ones being added.
  3. Images are appropriate for all ages, not just young children.
  4. The ability to have an unlimited number of users is great for occupational therapists, teachers and parents who have more than one child with sensory needs.  You could set up different accounts for children in  the same classroom.  If a sensory break is needed the student could access an iTouch, iPhone or iPad independently and follow their own, personal sensory diet.  No printing and cutting out picture cards required.
  5. The step by step choices allow children to be more independent in following a sensory diet.
  6. You can add your own activities - if you have specialized equipment or other simple activities you can simply snap a photo and add it to the sensory diet.
  7. The timer offers nice visual support to indicate how much time is left and to help the child transition following the sensory break.
  8. This would be a great app for older elementary students through adulthood.  Once the student was instructed in how to carry out the activities, he/she would be able to carry out the sensory breaks independently.
  9. I had no problems with the app crashing - worked properly every time I tried it.
  10. It provides activities for at home, school, community and desk/table all in one location.
Here are the cons for the BrainWorks app:
  1. Although each activity has a written description in the settings section is does not show up with the picture image.  It would be helpful to have an easier way to access the written description especially when teachers or parents are supervising the sensory activities.
  2. This app would require extra instructional time for younger students to be completely independent in carrying out the sensory breaks.    
  3. The iPad version shows up to 16 activities at a time which may be too many choices although you can easily decrease the choices in the settings.  
I was financially compensated for this post but the opinions are completely my own based on  my experience.  Overall, I definitely give this app a thumbs up.  Personally, I love the features of unlimited users for pediatric therapists to be able to customize an iTouch, iPhone or iPad to share in the classroom or clinic.  It offers a wide range of activities to choose from.  In addition, the tachometer images are very helpful in reinforcing getting the body into a just right state.  It would be an even better app if the written description of the activity could pop up if necessary.  One other idea that would be great is if they added a push reminder.  Perhaps a sensory break reminder every hour for children to take a sensory break.  That would be wonderful during homework time or even for adults who need reminders to step away from their desk top work.  

Get more information about the BrainWorks app and purchase it for $11.99.  

Interested in the online version of BrainWorks?  You can get more information here about membership.     

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