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Friday, June 30, 2017

Turnover, A Charter School Plague

From the N.Y. Daily News

By Alyssa Katz
June 26, 2017

"Last year, 47% of her school’s teaching staff turned over. And during her six years, the school had three principals."


The usual end-of-year school rites for our fifth-grader are especially bittersweet this year, because it is her last at the charter school where she has learned, played, made friends and grown since kindergarten.

Unlike many kids at her stage, she had a choice to stay at her K-8 school — but as a family we together decided to jump from the charter to a district junior high run by the city’s Department of Education.

Some extracurricular forces eased the choice. My husband, who’s logged hundreds of miles driving to and fro, will hand our girl off to a convenient bus. She in turn will be thrilled to shed a loathed uniform. Me, I look forward to an end to lunch box prep, thanks to an improved cafeteria menu.

But the bottom line is that her elementary-school years were marked with a whirlwind of teachers that, if she and her classmates were lucky, would last the year and then move on.

The ritual became as certain as winter succeeded fall: Some parent would post on the school Facebook group that their child’s teacher was leaving mid-year. Moans and commiseration ensued.

Our child avoided that fate until last fall, when, two weeks in, her promising teacher — a veteran at three years served — suddenly vanished, and a substitute arrived much sooner than any explanation. Her class refound its footing, eventually, with a new teacher — but never quite recovered from those lost weeks.

With so many teachers coming and going, the school as a whole felt perpetually improvisational. I’ll always remember it as a flurry of photocopied handouts.

Someone thought it was a good idea to have the teachers use a social media app to track each kid’s classroom conduct throughout the day and share photos and videos with parents. By the end of many an extra-long instructional day, running from 8-3:30, Netflix filled out excess time.

Last year, 47% of her school’s teaching staff turned over. And during her six years, the school had three principals.

I’m not naming the school because it would be unfair to single it out — it turns out such astonishingly high rates of teacher turnover year by year are par for the course among charter schools.

Among New York charter school teachers, 41% changed jobs last year — compared to just 18% of district school teachers. The retention gap between district and charter schools is not new, but it has been widening over time.

The big reason for charters’ turnover plague is plain as day: District school teachers are universally represented by teachers unions, and enjoy contracts whose ample benefits include generous pension plans, non-negotiable business hours and tenure.

When our child’s teacher got an offer on Long Island last September, that was that.

Charter school teachers, in glaring contrast are often called on to work extra hours after school, and during summers, and whenever.

Which job would you pick if given a choice? Not even a close call. For all but the Teach for America types who intend to log a few years and switch tracks, the union jobs are better jobs, where educators build careers.

In an attempt to address the teacher-retention challenge, our kid’s school scaled back the extended academic year and school day that had helped distinguish it from its neighbors, to little avail.

Other schools manage comings and goings by building well-oiled instructional assembly lines, where teachers can plug in and out. The annual turnover rate at some schools in the notoriously demanding Success Academy network approaches 60%, but that makes no dent in sky-high test scores.

Mayor de Blasio’s 2014 contract settlement with the United Federation of Teachers accelerated charter flight because it triggered a wave of retirements by union teachers . Charter teachers leapt at the chance to secure Department of Education job openings — and charter kids lost the experience those developing educators had gained.

Strong bargaining power is the driving reason the UFT fights to stop the state Legislature from expanding number of permitted charter schools, so fiercely that it just sacrificed mayoral control. Charters, with about 106,000 kids, represent 10% of the children in the city public school system.

Bump that up and the UFT loses not only dues but bargaining power to keep attractive wages, benefits and work rules.

In retrospect, our disappointment in a charter school we’d once had high hopes for should have come as no surprise — even comeuppance for having betrayed the union cause. Somehow, we’d hoped, the glaringly obvious economics at work would spare our child.

It’s with our parental gratitude for every teacher who sweated the extra hours to make her school a success, and a hunger for stability not so different than the one that drives aspiring teachers to leave charters, that our child now makes her own move.

Why Do Those with Autism Avoid Eye Contact?

From Massachusetts General Hospital 
via ScienceDaily

June 15, 2017

Imaging studies reveal overactivation of subcortical brain structures in response to direct gaze.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often find it difficult to look others in the eyes. This avoidance has typically been interpreted as a sign of social and personal indifference, but reports from people with autism suggests otherwise.

Many say that looking others in the eye is uncomfortable or stressful for them -- some will even say that "it burns" -- all of which points to a neurological cause.

Now, a team of investigators based at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital has shed light on the brain mechanisms involved in this behavior. They reported their findings in a Scientific Reports paper published online this month.

"The findings demonstrate that, contrary to what has been thought, the apparent lack of interpersonal interest among people with autism is not due to a lack of concern," says Nouchine Hadjikhani, M.D., Ph.D., director of neurolimbic research in the Martinos Center and corresponding author of the new study. "Rather, our results show that this behavior is a way to decrease an unpleasant excessive arousal stemming from overactivation in a particular part of the brain."

The key to this research lies in the brain's subcortical system, which is responsible for the natural orientation toward faces seen in newborns and is important later for emotion perception.

The subcortical system can be specifically activated by eye contact, and previous work by Hadjikhani and colleagues revealed that, among those with autism, it was oversensitive to effects elicited by direct gaze and emotional expression. In the present study, she took that observation further, asking what happens when those with autism are compelled to look in the eyes of faces conveying different emotions.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Hadjikhani and colleagues measured differences in activation within the face-processing components of the subcortical system in people with autism and in control participants as they viewed faces either freely or when constrained to viewing the eye-region.

While activation of these structures was similar for both groups exhibited during free viewing, overactivation was observed in participants with autism when concentrating on the eye-region. This was especially true with fearful faces, though similar effects were observed when viewing happy, angry and neutral faces.

The findings of the study support the hypothesis of an imbalance between the brain's excitatory and inhibitory signaling networks in autism -- excitatory refers to neurotransmitters that stimulate the brain, while inhibitory refers to those that calm it and provide equilibrium.

Such an imbalance, likely the result of diverse genetic and environmental causes, can strengthen excitatory signaling in the subcortical circuitry involved in face perception. This in turn can result in an abnormal reaction to eye contact, an aversion to direct gaze and consequently abnormal development of the social brain.

In revealing the underlying reasons for eye-avoidance, the study also suggests more effective ways of engaging individuals with autism. "The findings indicate that forcing children with autism to look into someone's eyes in behavioral therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them," says Hadjikhani, an associate professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.

"An approach involving slow habituation to eye contact may help them overcome this overreaction and be able to handle eye contact in the long run, thereby avoiding the cascading effects that this eye-avoidance has on the development of the social brain."

The researchers are already planning to follow up the research. Hadjikhani is now seeking funding for a study that will use magnetoencephalography (MEG) together with eye-tracking and other behavioral tests to probe more deeply the relationship between the subcortical system and eye contact avoidance in autism.

Journal Reference
  • Nouchine Hadjikhani, Jakob Åsberg Johnels, Nicole R. Zürcher, Amandine Lassalle, Quentin Guillon, Loyse Hippolyte, Eva Billstedt, Noreen Ward, Eric Lemonnier, Christopher Gillberg. Look me in the eyes: constraining gaze in the eye-region provokes abnormally high subcortical activation in autism. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03378-5

Thursday, June 29, 2017

U.S. Trails in Early Childhood Education Enrollment

From U.S. News & World Report

By Lauren Camera
June 21, 2017

The overall enrollment of all 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. is 67 percent, the lowest out of all but two OECD countries.

The U.S. falls significantly behind other developed countries when it comes to
enrollment rates of 3- and 4-year-olds, according to a new report. C. Futcher/Getty

States across the U.S. are taking more seriously the importance of early childhood education and ramping up their offerings, but compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. has a long way to go.

While enrollment rates for children under age three hover just below 30 percent – the middle of the pack compared to other countries – the U.S. falls significantly behind when it comes to enrollment rates of 3- and 4-year-olds, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Giving all children access to high-quality early education and care will lay the foundations for future skill development, boost social mobility and support inclusive growth,” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD chief of staff, in a statement.

The report assessed early childhood education enrollment, access, funding, staffing and its impact on academic performance in later years across 36 industrialized countries.

Researchers found that 40 percent of 3-year-olds in the U.S. and about 70 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool programs – rates that pale in comparison with other developed countries. The average enrollment rate for 3-year-olds was 70 percent and in two-thirds of the countries included in the report, the enrollment for 4-year-olds surpassed 90 percent.

Indeed, the only other country with a smaller percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled is Turkey, where less than 10 percent of children aged three are enrolled, and only Greece, Switzerland and Turkey have a lower percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled.

The overall enrollment of all 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. is 67 percent, the lowest out of all OECD countries except Switzerland and Turkey.

Access to such programs is increasing in all countries the report analyzed, in large part because of increased public spending and efforts to provide universal and free access, at least for some ages and selected population groups, typically children from low-income families.

In 2015, most countries provided free access to early childhood education to all children for at least the last year before entering primary school, though that was not the case in the U.S., where that benefit is offered only in a handful of states.

“Universal or near-universal access to at least one year of [early childhood education] is now a reality in most OECD countries,” Ramos said.

Most countries included in the report substantially invest in early childhood education programs, with program costs often subsidized with public funding. Public funding subsidized about 69 percent of total preschool expenditures and 83 percent of pre-kindergarten costs.

Notably, the U.S. annual expenditure on early childhood education is $9,986 per child, well above the average of $7,927 in other countries, and the 8th highest amount out of all countries. However, the U.S. spends 0.4 percent or less of its GDP on preschool, which is below the average about 0.8 percent.

Lauren Camera is an education reporter at U.S. News & World Report. She’s covered education policy and politics for nearly a decade and has written for Education Week, The Hechinger Report, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. She was a 2013 Spencer Education Fellow at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where she conducted a reporting project about the impact of the Obama administration’s competitive education grant, Race to the Top.

Trump’s Budget Takes Aim at My Sweet Son

From The New York Times

By Kathleen O’Brien
May 24, 2017

President Trump’s budget is here, and it contains serious cuts to the social safety net. One of the big changes is a plan to slash more than $800 billion over the next 10 years from Medicaid.

Students at a school in Brooklyn that integrates children with autism.
Credit: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

You may think of Medicaid as a program for the poor, but it also helps a variety of other vulnerable populations. Children with special health care needs rely on the program for services not typically covered by private health insurance, which helps them stay at home with their families.

There are about five million children with special health care needs who receive benefits through public health insurance programs, including Medicaid. Proposed limits on a per-person basis are expected to disproportionately affect these children and their families, limiting access to costly but necessary services.

My sweet son is in this category. He had three different evaluations around the age of 2, to confirm the autism diagnosis I first suspected when he was 15 months old. There were many more evaluations after that, to assess the scope of his needs and strengths.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, so where would he fall? It was hard to tell in the beginning. Lots of well-meaning people would make comments: “He looks fine!” “That seems like typical kid behavior,” and an autism mom favorite, “You know, Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4!”

I was lucky to be able to switch to a part-time schedule at work. Moving to weekend shifts eliminated child-care costs, making the difference in my take-home pay negligible. I focused on my son’s progress in crucial areas: getting him talking, interacting and smiling; moving him out of diapers; teaching him to read.

Therapists did wonders. They also gave lots of advice. “Try to cut down on his arm flapping.” “Redirect him when he looks out of the corners of eyes.” “Don’t let him spin objects.” I drove myself to tears trying. At nap time I resorted to climbing into his crib to snuggle and sing because it was the only way I could get him to stop waving his hands in front of his eyes.

“I would cut off my arm to help him,” I told his developmental pediatrician on one visit. She said it wouldn’t work — and that I needed both those arms anyway, to care for him.

When he was 4 and attending a preschool for children with special needs, a lovely social worker was assigned to help us. In our first meeting, she encouraged me to apply for a Medicaid waiver, designed to help “medically needy” families, regardless of income, care for children who otherwise would need the type of services provided in a long-term care facility. Studies have shown that Medicaid waiver programs are cost-effective and often a preferred choice because they keep families together.

The social worker kept following up on the Medicaid waiver throughout the year. I reacted with fear. If she was recommending this, it meant she thought his autism was worse than I was willing to admit.

I was determined that he would make so much progress that we wouldn’t need the waiver. “Don’t sell him short!” I thought. But the social worker gently convinced me that my son would benefit from the services, and she did the heavy lifting to get the process started.

At a checkup when my son was almost 5, the developmental pediatrician was brutally honest: She said she did not expect a child like mine to ever be able to live independently. I suppressed fury and shock, and just listened. Both the social worker and the doctor were trying to prepare me for the future.

My son is almost 7 now, and adorable. More often than not, he is happy and affectionate. He loves to draw, go swimming, ride the subway and go out for ice cream. His father and I find him perceptive and sometimes brilliant, regardless of what any evaluations say.

Caring for him, though, is often exhausting. Like many children with autism his age, he tends to wander off from safe, supervised places, so I need to watch him constantly. And he has cycled through the severe sleep disorders and gastrointestinal distress that are common in people with autism.

His father and I have been near our breaking point more times than I care to admit. On one evening — isolated, sleep-deprived and financially struggling with therapy bills — we had a frank talk about what we were facing. And he said something that still echoes on the hardest days: “Our lives are unbearable.”

We just began receiving services through the Medicaid waiver program, including “respite” child care to help reduce our family’s stress load.

Mr. Trump’s budget cuts, part of the continuing war on Medicaid, will likely mean cuts to the waiver program, adding to the burden for families like mine. It will also hurt adults with disabilities, poor children and the elderly in nursing homes, all covered through Medicaid, too.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress should reject this attack on Medicaid, a vital, often overlooked part of the safety net. They should take a stand for the people in our communities who are least able to stand up for themselves.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Superb Article on Endrew F. Closes Bill Crane’s Career as an Advocate for Children with Disabilities

From Special Education Today
A Special Education Law Blog from Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

By Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
June 27, 2017

"Bill set the gold standard in every position he has served in our field, bringing sharp insight together with deep compassion."

Bill Crane has just posted an excellent article on the website for Mass Advocates for Children (“MAC”), analyzing and commenting on the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s EndrewF. decision on the required standard for services and placements under IDEA.

Bill Crane
Bill has been one of the most thoughtful and compassionate advocates we have known in the field of special education and disability law, and we want to take this opportunity to wish him well as he turns another page in his life at the end of this month.

Bill left his position as a BSEA Hearing Officer three years ago and has since then volunteered his services on a part-time basis at MAC.

He has also taken the opportunity to become trained and to work as a hospital chaplain, where he is applying his Buddhist practice in support of patients, many of whom are in the last stages of their lives.

Bill has set the gold standard in every position he has served in our field, bringing sharp insight together with deep compassion to his analyses and orders as a Hearing Officer, and most recently offering sterling guidance to practitioners with his blog entries and his frequent contributions to the online and in-person conversations of special education attorneys and advocates about the sticky and complex legal and procedural questions that constantly challenge them in their work.

As a Hearing Officer, Bill unfailingly treated even the most obstreperous and unreasonable of parties and their representatives and witnesses with the utmost of gentleness and respect, and he has continued to relate with everyone he meets in that same manner and spirit. That is not just an approach that he has adopted to make difficult conversations easier to navigate: it is the core of who he is.

We wish him all the very best in his new paths. He will be sorely missed.

Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

Charter Schools Do Bad Stuff Because They Can

From the Education Opportunity Network

By Jeff Bryant
June 22, 2017

Charter schools have become a fetish of both Democratic and Republican political establishments, but local news reports continue to drip, drip a constant stream of stories of charter schools doing bad stuff that our tax dollars fund.

An independent news outlet in New Orleans, where the school district is nearly 100 percent charter, reports that two homeless children were kept out of class for a month because they didn’t have monogrammed uniforms.

In Oakland, California, a state-based news outlet reports charter school enrollment practices ensure charter schools get an advantage over district schools when academic performance comparisons are made. The advantage comes from charters being able to enroll students who are more “academically prepared” than students who attend district-run schools.

Oakland charters, when compared to public schools, also tend to enroll fewer students with special needs and fewer students who enter the school year late and are, thus, often academically behind.

In Arizona, which has a higher percentage of students enrolled in charter schools than any other state, the demographic characteristics of charter school students don’t resemble anything close to what characterize public schools in the state. According to a state based news outlet,

“... enrollment data show the schools don’t match the school-age demographics of the state and, in many cases, their neighborhoods. White – and especially Asian – students attend charter schools at a higher rate than Hispanics, who now make up the greatest portion of Arizona’s school-age population.”

In Florida, local newspapers tell of an operator of a chain of charter schools who is charged with racketeering in a scheme to use public education money from the charter operation for his own personal gain.

The charter operator allegedly used more than $1 million for “personal expenses and to purchase residential and business properties.” The charges include falsely marking up bills for school supplies, inflating student enrollments in grant applications, spending public funds on companies affiliated with the owner, and using school money to pay for plastic surgery and cruises and trips to the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Next up, a Philadelphia news outlet reports a charter school, unable to pay employee and other expenses due to a dispute with the district over $370,578 in missed payments to the teacher pension system, simply closed shop over the weekend. It’s unclear how parents would have found out about the closure, and teachers weren’t told until late Monday afternoon, in an email, that students would not be returning.

In Michigan, a charter school recently closed before the school year ended because of a dispute over $640,000 owed to the financial firm supporting the school. Even though the school is closing, it will still get state school aid payments through August.

A news report from Arkansas tells of a charter school that has been in operation for nine years and has never met proficiency standards established by the state.

And here’s a California charter school chain that “misappropriated public funds, including a tax-exempt bond totaling $67 million” and “failed to disclose numerous conflict-of-interest relationships.” The charter operator was able to divert $2.7 million of public charter school funds without any supporting documents. Eight different entities the charter operator was associated with benefited from doing business with the schools.

Public schools are occasionally plagued with similar scandals, but there is an important distinction to be made from public school scandals and what happens in the charter school industry.

As University of Connecticut professor Preston Green explains to me in an email, much of the malfeasance of charter schools comes from the entities that manage them. Called education management organizations (EMOs) or charter management organizations (CMOs), these outfits “create an agency issue with charter school governing boards that generally does not occur in traditional public schools,” Green explains.

“Public schools do not sign over operations to EMOS,” Green states. “By contrast, EMOs operate 35-40 percent of all charter schools.” And while nonprofit boards governing charters may want to ensure their schools are operating in a fiscally sound manner, the EMOs running the show “have the incentive to increase their revenues or cut expenses,” says Green.

Those incentives can lead to numerous bad acts including engaging in conflicts of interest or cherry picking students.

Where is the regulatory function that could intervene in these cases and ensure public tax money is being appropriately spent?

In the case of the NOLA charter impeding the education of homeless students, a federal law requiring schools to accommodate homeless students was the basis for any grievances. But the state’s charter school regulations consider such treatment of students a breach of contract that warrants the school to only provide the students with the opportunity for make-up work or tutoring. In other words, the consequences are more of a burden for the student than they are for the school.

In the case of the Oakland charters gaining an edge over public schools because of their enrollment practices, the report that outs the malfeasance notes that state “revenue policies” incentivize charter schools’ bad behavior.

Charter school closings like we see occurring in Florida, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere are a feature of charter schools, not a bug. An analysis by the National Education Association finds that “among charter schools that opened in the year 2000, 5 percent closed within the first year, 21 percent closed within the first five years, and 33 percent closed within the first ten years.”

Charter school scandals of the sort we see in Florida and California have become routine occurrences, yet a national organization that ranks state laws governing the charter industry rates Florida in the top ten of its annual assessment of states with the best charter school laws. And efforts to rein in the abuses committed by California charters have been routinely turned back by the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, who started two charter schools in Oakland.

As for that Arkansas charter school that was able to stay in business despite poor performance, the school has “powerful friends,” according to the reporter. “The Walton Family Foundation, [the charity operated by the heirs of the Walmart fortune,] provided cash infusion to fix [the school’s] red-ink-bathed books. The money was passed through an opaque, unaccountable charter management corporation,” and lobbyists in the state legislature “put the cherry on this hot mess sundae” in support of the school.

Whenever I write a post about charter school malfeasance like this I get accused of writing “screeds” that cherry pick negative anecdotes. But these news reports I cite above occurred within just the past two weeks.

Carol Burris, an award-winning former public school principal and the current executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes in a piece for the Washington Post,

“Proponents of charter schools promised that in exchange for freedom from regulations, charters would be more accountable and held to higher standards. Twenty-five years later, however, we find that freedom from the safeguards that regulations provide has too often resulted in theft, mismanagement, fraud, and less transparency.”

The freedom granted to charters to hire third party contractors like EMOs is proving to be especially problematic.

“EMOs have taken advantage of poorly trained governing boards” Green explains, “and the lack of coordination between governing boards and authorizing bodies” ends up benefiting the interests of charter management groups “at the expense of charter schools” themselves and the students who attend them.

I have been reporting the bad stuff done by charter schools since 2009. Most recently, my reporting on the shadowy business of the charter school industry was cited by media watchdog Project Censored as one of the top 25 most under-reported news stories of 2016.

This is the second time I’ve won this award. The first time was for a piece in 2014 on charter schools that Salon published.

When do you think the malfeasance committed by charters won’t be “under reported”?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

(A Really!) Complete Guide to Educational and Special Needs Apps

From One Place for Special Needs

By Dawn Villarreal
June 25, 2017

With over 300,000 apps it's easy to become overwhelmed by the number of app choices. It's also easy to spend a small fortune on a lot of useless apps. As a special needs parent I wanted to get right to the "good stuff" and figured you did too.

Check out our guide that breaks down the best of the apps by skill set so you can easily find and buy apps that most benefit your child. Great for kids with autism, ADHD, apraxia, learning disability, sensory issues and more.

Included are apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Android. Get started right now by clicking on a category. Read on to learn How to pick great apps and What's on my iPad?

Android apps (all)
Android does not have the nice interface of iTunes for viewing apps on the Internet as opposed to your device. Here are the ones I could find.

Aphasia apps
Apps specific to those with aphasia.

Apraxia apps
Apps specific to those with Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

Articulation apps
Apps that focus on articulation.

Assistive technology apps
Here are a variety of assistive technology apps employing voice recognition, text to speech, easy to use technology for impaired motor abilities.

Auditory memory apps
Auditory memory is the ability to remember what you heard. You'll find games here on recalling auditory information and following verbal directions.

Auditory discrimination apps
Children with auditory discrimination deficits misinterpret language sounds or process them slowly. These apps require you to analyze the sound you hear. Some are games and some are sound effects.

Auditory procesing apps (all)
This link takes you to all of the auditory processing related apps. Children with auditory processing deficits have difficulty understanding what words mean and may also show delayed langauge skills.

Autism apps
Apps specific to those on the autism spectrum.

Behavior management apps
Teachers and therapists will find apps on data collection. Parents will find behavior and reward system charts to use with their child.

Choose your own adventure apps
These apps work on creative thinking and "what if" scenarios. You choose the path a character takes which changes the outcome of the story.

Code breaking apps
Code breaking games work on a variety of skills including pattern recognition, critical thinking and sustained attention.

Cognitive skills apps
You'll find tons of fun and challenging apps that work on a variety of cognitive thinking skills. The majority help develop critical thinking which involves logic and reasoning skills.

Communication device/AAC apps
You'll find a variety of communication devices from simple to complex and affordable to expensive.

Drawing board apps
Use these apps for free drawing or as a writing board.

Early learning apps
These are apps that work on numbers, alphabet, phonics, word categorization flash cards and more.

Educational apps
Here are the best of the educational apps iTunes has to offer. I picked apps that had high visual interest or had simplified concepts to accommodate different learners.

Executive functioning activity apps
These are more goal directed game apps that focus on following directions, sustaining focus and multi-step activities. Executive functioning deficits impact goal setting, problem solving and decision making.

Fine motor skills apps
These are games that require finger dexterity, a lot of swiping and hand eye coordination. Fine motor skills can apply to the small muscular movements of the hands, wrists and fingers.

Finger tapping apps
These are games that simply require finger tapping to play. Some are fast-paced reaction games while others are at your own pace.

Fitness apps
These were apps that had step by step visual instructions or videos to help with fitness goals.

Focusing game apps
Improve your mental focus and sustained attention with these fun game apps.

Handwriting apps
A variety of apps that work on finger tracing in lower case, upper case and cursive.

Health apps
You'll find a variety of apps on diabetes management, first aid, gluten free management, heart rate and more.

Hidden object apps
Hidden object games work on visual figure ground, the ability to pick out details without getting confused by the background information.

Holiday apps
These are apps that work on various skills with a holiday theme.

iPad apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

iPhone apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

iPod Touch apps (all)
An exhaustive list of all available apps on our list.

Jigsaw puzzle apps
Jigsaw puzzles work on hand eye coordination and visual spatial sills. Here you'll find puzzles that are drag and drop as well as those you must actually place like a real puzzle.

Language skills apps
Here you'll find lots of apps that work on expressive and receptive language, pragmatic language and vocabulary building skills.

Matching game apps
Matching games can work on cognitive, fine motor and visual processing skills. You'll find many match three type games here too.

Math academic apps
Apps to support general math, algebra, counting money and more.

Math game apps
Practice math skills from basic math facts all the way to algebra.

Memory game apps
Find all auditory and visual memory games here.

Music apps
Here you'll find many music games and musical instruments that can be played by tapping on the instrument.

Mystery apps
A great way to build on cognitive skills is to solve mysteries. Here are the highly rated apps in this category.

Organization skills apps
Find many great apps that act as task managers for your child at school or for yourself.

Parenting apps
Here is a hodgepodge of apps designed to make parenting a little easier. You'll find chore charts, countdown timers, internet safety apps, toilet training and more.

Physics game apps
Physics games are great problem solving games which introduces the laws of physics. These games involve pulleys, hinges, stacking and more.

Problem solving game apps
Here are the best of the problem solving games that work on critical thinking skills.

Reaction game apps
Working on speed? These are fast-paced games with items on conveyor belts, catching items and breakout type games.

Reading academic apps
Apps to support reading, Dolch sight words and more.

Science academic apps
Many interactive science apps to make learning fun.

Sensory processing apps
These are apps with high auditory or visual stimulation as well as apps that might help with sound sensitivity. Children with sensory processing disorder typically suffer from sensory defensiveness (hypersensitive) or sensory seeking behavior (hyposensitive).

Sequencing game apps
You'll find games like Simon, Connect the dots and make your own food (e.g. pizza, burger) that require a sequence of steps to complete.

Slider puzzle apps
Slider puzzles are challenging games that build on visual spatial skills, cognitive thinking and concentration.

Social skills apps
Children with social skills deficits can have difficulty understanding nonverbal communication, recognizing the feelings of others and knowing what to do in social situations. Here you'll find apps on understanding body language, emotions, eye contact and hidden social rules.

Social studies academic apps
Apps to support various social studies topics.

Sound effect apps
A collection of various sound effects. These can be used to help desensitize children who have fear of various noises by putting them in control of the noise.

Special needs specific apps
Here are apps that were designed for individuals with disabilities. These include learning American Sign Language or Braille for family members, life skills and many aphasia, apraxia and autism specific apps.

Speech skills apps
Here you'll find apps that work on articulation and speech intellgibiltiy.

Spot the differences apps
Spot the difference games are great at helping your chlid with visual discrimination, an important component to reading.

Strategy game apps
These are excellent games to work on your child's logic and decision-making skills.

Telling time apps
Here are several apps that help your child learn how to tell time.

Test your reflexes apps
Want to know how fast your reaction time is? Try one of these games.

Visual memory apps
These games will help your child remember what she's seen. Many are in the standard memory matching game style while others are more complex.

Visual motor skills apps
Plenty of visual motor (hand eye coordination) apps to choose from here!

Visual procesing apps
Visual processing refers to our ability to recognize and interpret the information we see. Many visual processing skills are integral to reading. Here you'll find all the visual processing game apps including optical illusions and apps that work on eye teaming issues.

Visual spatial apps
Visual spatial skills is the ability to turn and rotate objects in our mind. These games are specific to that skill set.

Visual scanning apps
Visual scanning is our ability to scan a room, for instance, and find an object. These games work on scanning an area while playing.

Visual tracking apps
Visual tracking is an important skill for reading left to right and darting our eyes to various words on a page. These apps work on our visual tracking and scanning skills.

Word game apps
You'll find many word games here from word categorizations, word jumbles, dolch sight words and more.

Writing academic apps
Apps to support writing

Other Resources

Dawn Villarreal runs One Place for Special Needs, a national disability resource that lets you find local and online resources, events and even other families in your neighborhood plus thousands of online disability resources! Stay awhile and check out the site. She is also moderator of Autism Community Connection, a Yahoo group for families of children with autism spectrum disorder. Reprint permission granted by including: Reprinted with permission from One Place for Special Needs