December 2014 Update: This app has been updated! It’s name is now Visual Attention Therapy (instead of TherAppy). There are more colors to choose from for the flashing or solid signal, different styles for canceled targets (e.g., completely removed from screen/blank, faded, crossed out, etc). Last but not least, there is now an option for maximizing font to make it as big on the screen as possible for the spacing and number of lines you have selected!
I’ll admit, this is one of those apps that I was looking forward to weeks (maybe even months?) before it was released. Not only is it by a developer whose other products I have enjoyed, but it also appears to be the first app of its kind. In addition, it has personal importance for me, as I have an aunt who was recently diagnosed with right neglect. Needless to say, I was allllll over this app the day it came out. Thankfully, it has more than held its own so far, and I am thrilled Tactus Therapy provided a copy for a giveaway, too! Read the review then check out the giveaway post if you’d like to enter to win!
App: Visual Attention TherAppy (now Visual Attention Therapy)
What It Is: An app designed to address unilateral (left/right) neglect, also useful for addressing dyslexia and typical scanning patterns by Tactus Therapy.
How It Works: This app has two parts: test and practice. The titles are pretty self-explanatory. :) In test, you choose the types of symbols/letters, choosing any or all of ten options (same symbol, dissimilar letters, etc.). Pick the number of targets (one or two), and begin! The test contains one or more trials of rows of symbols/letters. If you work with adults with visual attention deficits, you’ve likely seen this format before. On the top of the screen, a small timer keeps track of how long it takes to touch all the targets and there is the direction “Touch every [shows symbol/letter].” The user touches all the desired targets (with auditory feedback to signify correct/incorrect choices) and is then given a report of his time/percentage. Now, the practice is quite similar. As with the test, the user chooses the types of symbols and number of targets and begin. The main difference, however, is that the practice requires selecting from left to right (the way we read) whereas the test does not. In addition, in practice, the user may choose to have a signal (e.g. yellow or flashing red bar) on one side as needed.
Therapy Applications: As with all of Tactus Therapy’s apps, there is a primary way it was designed to be used (with adults) and a secondary option (for working with children). The primary way is obvious: addressing unilateral neglect. While the app’s built-in test and quantitative data collection system are useful in and of themselves, it is so useful to qualitatively assess people’s skills by watching them do the test and practice. You can learn so much about their reasoning/problem-solving skills, the degree to which they neglect one side, how much turning on a signal increases their accuracy, and their compensatory strategies.
The secondary way to use the app is for children learning to scan left-right/up-down (a very early literacy skill) and those who have dyslexia. Somewhat surprisingly, young children I have used this with so far seem to love practicing the scanning aspect of this. Since this concept is new to them, they see it as a fun challenge. (I have not been able to use it with any children or adults with dyslexia yet, so unfortunately I cannot report on that!)
In addition to these two major uses, when my aunt was playing around with the app, we found a tertiary use for it: occupational therapy! Her right neglect is most apparent when her hand drags, which affects everything from her handwriting to her ability to use an iron safely. Since the practice portion of the app requires the user to go in order left-right/up-down, if her hand was dragging and touching other symbols on the page, she would get feedback and remember to lift her hand and attend to that side more. In other words, this app does everything that the paper versions of these worksheets would do, but also has the benefit of providing auditory feedback, collecting data, and being more interactive.
Pros: 1. Price! I was pleasantly surprised by the price tag of such a high-quality app.
2. Ease of use. As with all the other Tactus Therapy apps I’ve used, this one is easy to navigate.
3. Settings. Depending on your client’s abilities, you can change everything form the number of lines to the spacing to the color of the signal bar.
4. Flexibility. I love how this app can just as easily be used with a three-year-old who is just learning to read as it can be with an adult who is experiencing left neglect from a brain tumor.
5. Plenty of trials and targets.
6. The timer doesn’t start until you press the first symbol. This is a particularly nice feature that I wanted to mention. Many of the individuals we work with (be they children or adults) work on their own schedules. Yes, I heard that knowing sigh. :) It’s nice to be able to set this app up for use without skewing the data collection.
7. Well, you’ve heard my love-rant about Tactus Therapy before when I reviewed their Comprehension TherAppy app, so I won’t repeat it all. :) But to recap, they are so accessible, so involved, and so knowledgeable. (Heck, they’ve given me resources on everything from aphasia to stuttering!) I truly believe this enhances their product and the user’s experience.
Cons: 1. It would be nice to be able to access a settings menu to switch the signal on/off during a trial and get data accordingly, since sometimes it’s useful to start with a signal present and then take it away (or vice versa).
The Take-Away: This app is one-of-a-kind. It takes a simple, familiar format and turns it into a dynamic, interactive tool with the ability to be age appropriate for anyone from preschoolers to elderly adults. If you work with any of the populations that would benefit from this app, I would highly recommend it. It has definitely been worth my purchase.
My Questions for You: Do you work with individuals who experience unilateral neglect, dyslexia, or atypical scanning patterns? Can you think of any other ways to use this app in therapy?
Looking for more expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!
Disclosure: Tactus Therapy provided me with a copy of this app to give away. I purchased my own copy for my personal and professional use. I was not compensated in any way for the review, and they were aware that I would be discussing the app’s strengths and weaknesses.