Category : Book and Product Reviews

Book and Product Reviews

Video:5 Best iPad Apps for Education

The iPad is one of the best instruments today for education. Not only are there are a wide variety of apps available, the iPad itself looks great, and is relatively easy to use, making it a welcome tool even for teenagers.

Take a look at this video for 5 great apps for the iPad.

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Book and Product Reviews

Product Review: Use Proloquo2Go to Help Children Who Have Difficulty Speaking


Being able to communicate effectively, whether because of a physical or developmental disability can be extremely frustrating. For the child, it means enduring endless time until the other person finally gets what you want to say. This can often take away the spontaneity of speech, which is such a crucial part of communicating with others.

But what if you could use the technology that everyone is using today, in order to help your child communicate with others with a fun, easy to use product?

Enter Proloquo2Go. It’s developed by a firm called AssistiveWare, and uses an iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. At $189, it’s MUCH cheaper than other dynamic talking devices out there, and the tech support is excellent. It comes preloaded with all kinds of categories (sports, emotions, foods, hobbies, etc.) but you can also program individual words, phrases, and sentences.

You can also program individual icons, choose from various kids’ or adults’ voices, and control the volume. You can use this for children who have very little speech, but it’s also good for kids who have some speech, but not enough to get by. For example, some users have programmed it with things their children have done (“I went to the dentist today).

Your child can use the program to initiate conversations with teachers and other caretakers, who can then ask simple questions about what happened. You can also let your child practice saying the real-life sentences he hears, in order to gain confidence in saying those sentences on his own.

It’s a great solution for teens and young adults who want to be like their friends, but it’s easy to use and to program, even for non-techies. If your child has autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, developmental disabilities, or apraxia then this is a great product that looks “cool” and is easy to transport.


Note: Your child will need to have moderately good fine motor and pointing skills in order to use this product. Most kids seem to be able to manage, though.

Other iPad apps for kids with autism:

It's not always easy to know whether a particular app for kids on the spectrum lives up to the product designer's claims. Here's a link to a NYT article that gives extensive resources of sites that have checked out extensive numbers of apps for the iPad:

UPDATE: One of my readers (thanks Mike!) suggested a new, Android alternative to Proloquo2Go: Sonoflex. It plays on pretty much every mainstream device out there, including the Kindle Fire, iPad, IPod, and iPhone. It's also much cheaper. Definitely worth checking it out.

Here's a video of the product:


Anyone tried both? I'd love it if you'd comment below and tell me why you think one is better than the other.

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Book and Product Reviews Miscellaneous

Book Review: The Mislabeled Child: Looking Behind Behavior to Look For the True Sources and Solutions for Children’s Learning Challenges

One of the most difficult things about having a child who learns or behaves differently is trying to get a straight answer about what to do with them. First you need to deal with finding out what is exactly wrong, which is a maze in and of itself.

Who do you go to? How do you avoid the bias that some professionals seem to have towards certain diagnoses?

Once you’ve got the right diagnosis you can’t always rely on the person who gave you the diagnosis to explain what it means, and how it affects your child on a day-to-day basis at home and at school. If your child has ADD, what does his behavior look like at bedtime? At school during those hectic transitions between recess and class?

Even more importantly, you need to know now what to do in order to help your child be successful. What skills does your child need? What tools can he be taught to help him overcome his difficulties?

The Mislabeled Child: Looking Behind Behavior to Look For the True Sources and Solutions for Children’s Learning Challenges, by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, does all of the above.

In clear, easy to understand language, explain disorders such as autism, CAPD, ADD, dyslexia, and numerous others. Even more importantly, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide focus is not on labels, but on understanding why your child might be acting the way she does, and what you can do about it.

This is critical. It means that instead of saying, “your child has ADD because he can’t sit still,” the Eides say, “Your child has trouble sitting during class. Let’s look at all the possibilities for why that could be: is he suffering from a sensory processing disorder? Does she maybe have a receptive language issue and so can’t sit still because she doesn’t understand what the teacher is saying?”

This is game-changing. It’s the difference between saying your child has a stomach ache, and saying your child has appendicitis - and then heading towards the surgery suite.

The Eides speak from decades of experience working with children, teaching them how to use their strengths in order to succeed. Together, they run the Eide Neurolearning Clinic outside Seattle.

They also publish and present at conferences around the country and this year presented at the President's Council on Bioethics on The Fundamental Needs of Children. They are also board members of SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted).

The only negative about this book is that it is so chock full of information, you might feel overwhelmed initially- so much to do and so little time to do it in! - but it’s 100% full of content you can use.

This is a book that every parent, teacher, or professional should have.  You’re going to want to buy a copy not only for yourself, but for everyone who works with your child.

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Book and Product Reviews

Amy Chua Tiger Mother or Piranha?

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Controversy is raging over Amy Chua's parenting methods, which she writes about in her new book, " Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."  The book has stirred up a bee's nest of angry comments more than 200,000 strong.

In the book, Chua writes that she forbid playdates, sleepovers, and two hours a day of instrument practice. In one instance she threatened to burn her daughter's stuffed animal if she continued refusing to practice her instrument. At other points she withheld food, water, and rest from her young children in order to push them to practice more.

Chua herself states she never meant for the book to be a parenting manual. She argues that it is memoir, where she has chosen to share the struggles and triumphs of a Chinese-American mother. Some  readers have praised the Tiger Mother, arguing that "Chua shows great courage in exposing herself with her flaws, doubts, regrets and mistakes," adding that the book follows the journey Chua went through, reconciling her own upbringing, changing course with her parenting, disagreeing with her husband about how the children should be raised, and grappling with the doubts she had about whether or not she was doing the right thing."

Others criticize her for her slavish insistence on perfection and success. One person commented, "Ms. Chua has not only used, and abused, her children, but then proudly proclaimed herself "correct." Another writes, "it's devastating to hear her brutal honesty as she relates escalating emotional and verbal abuse (she does not label it as such, but clearly it is) while her husband and parents plead with her to STOP."

At the very least, perhaps this book is worth reading for the kinds of issues it raises: What does it mean to be successful? How do you strike a balance between discipline and play when you have a talented child? How do you preserve the magic of childhood but still make sure your kids will have all the skills they need to be successful adults? When are you pushing your kids not for their benefit but to meet your own needs?

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Book and Product Reviews

Review Monday: “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

This book is one of my absolute favorites. I remember reading this book years ago when my daughter, who is now a teenager, was a wee wild child on wheels. Despite extensive experience with children, my first was quite a challenge. I knew she was bright, but I had no idea how to deal with her sensitivity to clothing, her high level of activity, or her dramatic outbursts. Having been a calm, quiet child myself, I loved her dearly, but was often at a loss of how to pick up the pieces when the tornado blew through our previously quiet house.

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is a talented writer, with years of experience helping parents learn to understand their spirited children. She helped me understand the concept of a spirited child –a child who is “more” than the average child in several ways-more sensitive, more dramatic, more moody. She taught me how to understand my daughter and gave me techniques that really work on how to handle her spiritedness.

In fact, I realized as I flipped through the book again how much her method is a mainstay of the system I use to counsel my clients. Having been blessed with several more spirited children, I came to realize how essential it is to understand the personality of your child before you jump into disciplining them.

Different children react differently to stress, to parenting methods, and to their environment. It is absolutely critical that a parent wishing to tighten up their disciplinary skills first consider the personality of their child before they use a generic discipline program with any child-spirited or not.

Kurcinka  not only helps you determine which of your child’s behaviors are due to their spiritedness, but even gives you very specific guidelines on how to prevent the behavior from occurring. She doesn’t make excuses for poor behavior, nor does she attribute all problem behavior to a child’s spiritedness. Still, her method is so thorough that the majority of things she suggests would work even with an average child and many  types of run-of-the mill behavior problems.

An extra plus of this book is the way it is written. As a workshop presenter for many years, she has a wealth of real-life experiences to draw from. Instead of raw theory, which can sometimes be confusing or just plain boring, she writes the book so that you feel you are sitting in on one of her workshops, right along with her group of parents, sharing, laughing, and learning how to appreciate your spirited child. In fact, when it was finally time for the group to meet for their last session, I was so sorry to see it end that I read the book a second time!

If you are parenting a child who is “more”- more sensitive, more energetic, more dramatic, more moody- you’ll find this book absolutely indispensable. Not only will you actually learn to appreciate your child’s antics (yes, it’s possible!), but you’ll come away with tools you can use for a lifetime that will help you help your child be the best they can be.

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