Welcome to Apps for behavior management and intervention, Part 10 of “There’s A Special App For That” series on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad apps for students with special needs. Have a look at our others in the series:
- There’s a special app for that – Part 2 UPDATE: 6 apps to create social stories
- There’s a special app for that – Part 1 UPDATE: 9 MORE apps to improve organizational skills for students with learning disabilities
- There’s a special app for that – Part 11: Creative apps for digital storytelling
- There’s a special app for that – Part 10: Apps for behavior management and intervention
- There’s a special app for that – Part 9: Apps for college/university students with learning disabilities
- There’s a special app for that – Part 8: Apps that support the development of autonomy and independence
- There’s a special app for that – Part 7: Apps that support literacy instruction
- There’s a special app for that – Part 6: 3 Methods of Using Augmentative Communication Apps To Support Different Languages
- There’s a special app for that – Part 5: 5 Mind Mapping Apps for Students with Learning Disabilities
- There’s a special app for that – Part 4: 16 Apps for Elementary Students with Non-Verbal Learning Disability
- There’s a special app for that – Part 3: 5 Apps that develop fine motor skills
- There’s a special app for that – Part 2: 5 (+1) Apps to develop social skills for students with special needs
- There’s a special app for that – Part 1: 5 Apps to improve organizational skills for students with learning disabilities
Apps for behavior management and intervention: A framework
Out of all of the apps that we use for children with special needs, we feel that apps for behavior intervention are perhaps the most difficult to choose-essentially because of three things:
- behavior is complex;
- every child is an individual and what works for one child will not necessarily work for another; and
- there are a lot of apps in the area of behavioral intervention to choose from.
As a parent, when using apps for behavior management, it’s a good idea to get a basic idea of the principles of behavior management. This can provide an understanding of the rationale behind choosing a specific app for a specific purpose. If you are a parent who would like a general overview, About.com has a good article on behavior management on their site. The next important step is to, consider these two questions:
- What is the specific behavior that we are targeting for my child?
- What type of tools can my child use to achieve his/her behavioral goals?
A good online search for apps for behavior intervention provides a lists of apps that cover many different areas. Some are used for one sole purpose; others for multiple purposes. Some are used specifically as a component of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. Some are used for an in-depth analysis of behavior. Some are used only for rewards, others focus on prevention of behaviors before they occur. Some are designed for professional teams, some for parents.
After this analysis, we thought the best place to start would be with a simple framework. About.com has an introductory article by Terri Mauro called The ABC’s of Behavior Management which outlines parenting tips and resources alphabetically in the area of behavioral management and intervention. We recommend reading it-it might seem simple at first, but there are some gems in there, and for parents who are gathering knowledge in the area of behavioral intervention, it is a good place to start. We thought that we would describe some of the areas of behavioral intervention outlined in this article, and then list some apps that we felt were effective in these areas.
Apps for behavior management: Analysis
Analysis of behavior is an essential first step…until you know who, what, where, when, and why the behavior occurs, you won’t know how to stop it. If you can figure out what causes the problem, changing that may be easier than changing your child’s behavioral reaction.
Whether you’re a parent working with your child at home, or a teacher undergoing a functional behavior analysis of your student as part of Positive Behavior Support, analysis is probably the most important component of behavioral intervention. Analysis is focused on collecting information regarding the child or student’s behavior to get a better idea of why that behavior is occurring. Often, the ABC method (antecedent, behavior, consequence) is used to collect data over time so as to collect information about the context and outcomes of the behavior. Functional behavior assessment, often used by school-based IEP teams to develop a behavioral intervention plan, uses this method. This is an important step: conducting this analysis phase increases the success of your intervention.
There are several apps for behavior management for the analysis phase. Some are very comprehensive and some are more basic. Those that are more complex have usually been developed for use with ABA therapy. There is a rigorous data collection component in ABA that is used to guide therapy (usually with data collection forms and graphs) so these apps require more of an investment to learn to accurately analyze behavior. These apps can be useful as therapists or parents can have the ability to collect data and access it quickly. In addition, many of these apps analyze the behavior in the form of graphs or summaries, so it is easier to come to conclusions about antecedents, behavior and consequences. More basic apps are those that tally behavior so parents or teachers can see a pattern.
Recommended apps for behavior management analysis:
Behavior Tracker Pro was designed by a board-certified behavior analyst. Quite comprehensive and with multiple functions, it requires training. Parents who are working with ABA therapists closely would probably benefit most from this app. There are essentially four options: frequency and duration data, ABC data, high frequency behavior data and interval data. Within these options, you have the ability to collect data and then analyze it. This app can also accommodate multiple student profiles, making this ideal for ABA therapists. Behavior Tracker Pro will provide the therapist with a detailed analysis-we especially like the graphs which allow us to visually analyze ABC’s. It even allows parents or therapists to record video within the app. There is a very comprensive review of Behavior Tracker Pro from iAutism. Another bonus is that this app is available on iOS and on Blackberry devices- more information can be found on the Behavior Tracker Pro website.
Behavior Assessment Pro is an app designed more for Functional Behavior Analysis – which might be used by a school intervention team. Behavior Assessment Pro allows users to answer a series of questions surrounding a particular behavior (antecedents, consequences, etc) essentially allowing for more intensive analysis of the behavior. We like the fact that the questions are scripted which allows for consistent analysis – but we also wish that we could customize some questions as well. This would be a great addition to the app.
Symtrend ADL is an app that focuses on daily living skills such as getting dressed or eating. Unsure as to why a child is having that tantrum every day at the dinner table? Following a step-by step process, it allows the parent to enter data and then provides charts to analyze the patterns and possible causes of the targeted behavior. A nice feature of this app is the strategy section for parents and it is designed to work on both the iPhone as well as natively on the iPad.
Tallymander is very basic app and not really designed for behavioral intervention. However, we’ve had a few teachers report that they’ve used it for keeping track of behaviors for the purposes of functional behavior analysis. There is something to be said for simplicity… essentially, this is a counting app. Need to track how many times your student is performing a specific behavior (negative or positive?) This might be useful tool for teachers as part of the analysis phase, but overall, not really a large part of a behavioral intervention plan. One of the really interesting features about this app is the ability to “count” by flicking the phone, you don’t even have to touch the screen!
Apps for behavior management: Charts
Charts to encourage good behavior are often ineffective for children with special behavioral needs, if they’re too complicated or abstract or dependent on the child to provide self-motivation. When adapted to your child’s particular needs, though, they can be a powerful tool. They don’t even have to be the paper-on-the-wall variety.
We like that last point. That’s why many developers have developed motivating, interactive, and engaging apps for charting. Charting is essentially a token economy system. Often the reward is delayed until a child demonstrates the behavior consistently over a period of time (ex. one week). For example, a child might receive a sticker every time he brushes his teeth. After a few days of consistent brushing (and stickers) he/she receives a reward (ex. a trip to the movies). For more information on charts, see this article on using a behavior modification system from About.com for parents.
Use of apps for behavior management charting and rewarding is somewhat controversial. We have had parents ask us, “should we as parents be tying incentives and rewards to every targeted behavior?” Well, no. We obviously don’t want our children to completely rely on external reinforcers, we want them to develop intrinsic motivation. But incentive systems can work for some children if implemented correctly and consistently. Its important not to target too many behaviours at the same time. And remember that praise and positive feedback can be used as a reward.
Recommended apps for behavior management charts
Chore Pad HD was originally designed for chores around the house, and parents could use this app to target a specific behavior. However, it is quite limited, designed really for families who are specifically targeting chores around the house. For example, if you were targeting “biting other children,” that wouldn’t really be categorized as a chore. So we would probably choose another app to target behavior. However, if you want an app specifically for chores, then this might be the one for you. ChorePad is quite easy to use; it allows you to select a targeted chore and then tracks the chores on a daily or weekly basis by allotting stars (pre-selected by the parent ) when the chore is completed. Once a certain number of stars are accumulated, there is a “payout” of stars that is connected to a specific reward. The iPhone mom and iAutism both have reviews of ChorePad.
iRewardChart is a simple app that allows the parent to target specific activities or behaviors (sharing, homework, etc.). This app allow parents to create targeted activities for their child, then assign stars once those targeted activities or behaviors are completed. The goal is working towards a specific reward. Only the full version of iRewardChart allows you to enter multiple profiles — this app won “Best Parenting App” award at MacWorld 2011. Smart Charts is another similar alternative app that has a lot of the same functionality.
Apps for behavior management: Goals
Goals are good … in theory. Every aspect of a special-needs child’s life seems to be aimed at achieving goals, whether at school or home or the doctor’s office. But if you’re setting goals your child cannot reasonably meet, then you’re only setting yourselves up for failure. Try breaking down big goals into small attainable pieces, or including some goals your child can easily meet for an ego-boost. Best of all, tailor goals to where your child’s really at, not where you think he or she should be.
Good advice. Goal-setting is very important, especially when setting up rewards and charts. You don’t want to set too many goals, or unrealistic ones, as your child will become frustrated. Instead, set manageable goals. For example: don’t target completing homework each day, getting to school on time, and studying every evening all at the same time. One more thing: don’t sweat the small stuff. Aggressive behavior is one thing. Picking up a sweater that was thrown on the floor is another.
We have not yet found any apps for behavior management that focus solely on teaching goal-setting. However, when selecting behaviors to target within many of the other apps that we review in this post, is important to use appropriate goal-setting guidelines. In the meantime, we have found some basic resources to provide some guidance on goal-setting:
Apps for behavior management: Rewards
Rewards need to be suited to your child’s particular interests, or they won’t do their motivational duty.The key is to consistently offer the reward after the desired behavior is demonstrated.
Rewards are great motivators. If possible, allow your child to select the reward that they would like. Greater involvement in their own behavior intervention plan means greater ownership over the behavior which leads to greater success. In our experience, social and personal rewards (hugs, lunch out with dad) are always the most valuable.
Immediate rewards are more effective when first implementing a program-however, delayed rewards (such as using charts to work towards a future reward) are something to aim for. However, it must be emphasized that every child is an individual and some children need immediate reinforcement for a longer period of time until the desired behavior is achieved, while other children can work with a delayed reward system. A reward system for a child who is being toilet trained is very different than for a child who is working towards the goal of handing in his assignments on time.
Recommended apps for behavior management of rewards
We like iReward and we also like other apps by the developers, Grembe. It is an app designed specifically for tying a specific behavior to a specific reward, in a very visual way. The app allows you to link a behavior (such as finishing a page of math) to a specific reward (listening to music). You can select a picture from your library, take a photo, or select a photo from the photo library to represent the activities. There is also an audio option to record “voice praise” (for example, “fantastic job”!) that will play back after the child has completed the task. We love the simplicity of this app, the easy to use interface and the emphasis on visuals – excellent for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and developmental delays.
A quick note about the use of rewards-its always a good idea to look into different options and do some research in this area, as reward-based systems in behavioral intervention are definitely not the only option. There are authors like Alfie Kohn and researchers who do not believe that rewards are an appropriate behavioral intervention as they do not teach a child self-control, self-management or ownership of his/her own behavior.
Apps for behavior management: T is for Transitions
Transitions may seem like logical passages from one activity to another for you, but for your child, they may feel like cruel surprises. Kids who struggle with attention or language or motor planning can’t always understand when a change is coming or make it quickly when it does. To avoid behavior meltdowns at transitional times, give your child lots of warning, time and understanding for making the switch.
Shifting from one activity (or class, or subject, or environment) to the next can be difficult for some children. Some children have difficulty with the unpredictability of a situation, and might benefit from visual reminders of what comes next. Behavior can often stem from anxiety over transitions. An article by the Friendship Circle on 12 Special Needs Transition Tips, Tricks and Strategies has some effective tips for reducing behavior associated with anxiety over transitions.
Recommended apps for behavior management transitions
Apps for visual schedules can really make transitions easier. This is where the iPad and various apps have really had an impact on the creation of visuals. It’s just so easy compared to all of those years of cutting, pasting and laminating picture symbols.
First Then Visual Schedule is an app for creating vertical or horizontal visual schedules. Simple to use, this app has three modes (full mode, split mode and list mode) for displaying schedules. The app contains a photo library with the ability to import your own photos. In addition, the user has the ability to record over the photo, which is a nice feature in that you can provide auditory feedback or instructions. The app stores multiple schedules (ex. morning routine, school routine, swimming routine, etc.) for one child or can be used by teachers to store multiple student schedules.
iPrompts is actually a multi-purpose app that can be used for creating visuals (schedules and choice-making). It also has a visual countdown timer. The choice-making option is a nice feature, as is the schedule. However, we would definitely import our own photos as the library does not use standardized Mayer-Johnson or Symbolstix symbols (so children using these might have a difficult time using the pictures that are in the app’s library). The countdown timer is a great idea as it is visual in nature but the alarm to end the activity goes off a few minutes prior to the scheduled ending time-a warning signal. This could be confusing to children who use this option. An additional feature is “videoprompts” which can be used for videomodeling (see topic below).
Another option for scheduling is to use apps for social stories like iCommunicate or Pictello – both can be used to create visual schedules as well as stories and are key apps recommended in There’s a special app for that – Part 2: 5 (+1) Apps to develop social skills for students with special needs.
Apps for behavior management: Modeling
This one isn’t in Terri Mauro’s list but we thought it was an important one to add. We’ve covered apps for video modeling in a prior post. Video modeling can be a powerful strategy to encourage appropriate behavior-research on video modeling shows that it is an effective evidence-based practice for children with developmental delay or autism spectrum disorders. For more information on video modeling from a parent’s perspective, see this article from the Autism Advocate.
Recommended apps for behavior management modeling
My Pictures Talk is another Grembe app that allows the user to record audio over an imported photo. A recent update allows the user to integrate videos, a great feature and perfect for video modeling. Among many other uses, we’ve used it to model and teach appropriate behaviour, and to teach concepts visually. Taking a photo of the child demonstrating a specific positive behaviour, while adding verbal feedback, is a highly effective method and can be done easily and quickly with this app.
If there was a category for “best multipurpose special needs app” then Pictello would win first prize. We’ve used it for creating e-books, social stories, talking photo albums, video modeling, etc. Originally designed for creating social stories, the app allows you to create a series of personalized photos with audio, essentially creating a visual “slideshow.” With a few more advanced features than My Pictures Talk, the app contains a simple “wizard” template that guides the user through the process of creating a social story or to model appropriate behaviour. A parent or teacher can save multiple stories within the app. Just last month, AssistiveWare updated Pictello to version 1.3, bringing many improvements to the app including the support of 50 voices, in 23 languages with 4 new localizations (French, Spanish, German and Dutch). Overall, a great app and one we recommend to parents and teachers as a “must-have”!
Speech Journal is similar in purpose to Pictello. It can be used to create social stories, talking photo albums, etc. However, one big difference for the purposes of video modeling is that it can be used to make home movies. Once your slideshow is finished, you can convert it to a movie within iMovie, Apple’s video editing app.
We recommend watching the tutorial that the developer has available on YouTube in order to make a movie:
Final thoughts on Apps for behavior management and intervention
Overall, when selecting apps for behavior management and intervention, three things must be emphasized;
- Generally, in our experience, use of these apps is not a magic “cure” for a child’s behavior, and they are not the only tool parents or teachers will use for a behavior management plan. They are best used as a component of a behavior management plan to help engage and motivate children to perservere with their behavior goals.
- Parents and teachers need to be involved with the implementation, use and follow-through of these apps within the application of a behavioral intervention plan.
- As with any behavior intervention, these apps must be used consistently. Once or twice a week will not make a significant difference.
We are constantly inspired by the creative application of apps by parents and teachers. It is truly wonderful to see parents empowered and inspired to use mobile technologies to assist their child. And we can honestly say that the area of mobile learning is an excellent, highly supportive professional learning community. We always welcome your feedback on our posts. Thanks for reading apps for behavior management and intervention, Part 10 of “There’s A Special App For That” series on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad apps for students with special needs!