A recent enforced upgrade to ios12 found me discovering mid-session that some of my favourite apps are no longer viable. I’ve accepted that some of my old favourites such as Color band and BalloonMaker are not (currently) working. It was time, however, to do an audit of what there is out there, especially for children with PMLD and multi sensory impairments in the school where I currently work.
In this post I’ll focus on the music based apps with visual feedback which I use most often. There are plenty of other cause and effect apps which can be discussed in a later post.
Musical Hands. (£0.99) Why didn’t I discover this app until recently? Working in a PMLD setting, I need to find apps for children whose hand movements are not accurate and ideally are not going to land on in-app purchases too regularly. Each square is a different colour and note or beat and there are strong visual contrasts on the screen.
Sago mini music box. (£3.99) What I like about this app is that a learner can tap repeatedly on the screen but hear a different note each time they tap in the same place. This is fantastic for learners with severely restricted motor movements.
Bebot – Robot Synth. (£1.99) A fantastic app – set it to different sounds and make short taps or swoop up and down a scale with a slight hand movement.
Paint sparkles draw. (Free) One of my old favourites for painting and musical sounds at the same time. It’s a free app though, so there’s potential for learners accidentally activating ads at the bottom of the screen…
Bloomtunes. (£1.99) A visually pleasing musical app with either spinning flowers or painting as you activate the screen.
Magic zither. (Free) I’ve been enjoying this one recently because of the pleasing burst of colour and sound you get when you touch your hands on the screen. A good app when wanting to introduce novel sounds.
So how do I actually use these apps in sessions?
- As motivators to encourage the learner to indicate wanting more or to choose an activity (sometimes using pictures of the apps to encourage eye pointing or reaching for a choice).
- Working on joint attention skills e.g. showing awareness of another person’s turn.
- Intensive interaction for learners who are limited in their ability to vocalise or access many other conventional toys. This resource by Barbara Miles outlines lots of ways in which we can support learners with multi sensory impairment to use their hands to communicate and many of the points are salient when using an iPad e.g. using hand-under-hand or finger-alongside-finger rather than hand-over-hand.
- Enabling learners to join in interactive musical sessions, especially where a number of conventional instruments are harder to access.
I’ve focussed on the music apps I use which have good visual feedback included but this is not always necessary. There are several other music apps recommended by this resource for using music with PMLD students made by a collaboration of Bedfordshire schools.
Despite many developers not managing to keep their apps updated this long, there are always plenty of motivating cause and effect apps to use with learners. Please do share any other favourite music apps you have used!