BridgingApps’ goal is to explore practical, useful, and educationally sound ways to use the iPad and similar devices with people of all ages and ability levels.
BridgingApps helps users choose apps for children and adults that are appropriate, useful and life-enhancing. With the overwhelming number of apps emerging on a daily basis, this seemingly simple task becomes challenging with children and adults who are developmentally or physically delayed and many parents and well-intentioned professionals are at a loss as to how to get started.
BridgingApps is comprised of parents, therapists, teachers, doctors, people with disabilities and assistive technology professionals who test and review these apps and wish to share their findings and experience to help others. With the special needs user in mind, we intend to provide supplementary information in conjunction with the developer’s app description.
For example, for most children with special needs, age categories provided by the developer may not be particularly helpful in selecting apps because of the scattered skill sets these children possess. Such a wide range of skills can be related to particular disabilities as well as to a whole host of variables, such as individual differences, environment, rate of development, etc.
The supplementary information provided by BridgingApps includes an assessment level, a list of embedded skills, a narrative of trialing the app and where possible, short video clips.
Our Approach to Content
While there are many educational websites featuring app technology, BridgingApps strives to provide more detailed information about apps as it pertains to people with disabilities. Please keep in mind that we understand there are a wide range of skill levels, and many older children or those with higher skills in particular areas may use assistive apps on their own.
For apps that can be used with school aged children K-12, BridgingApps strives to include information that relates to the Common Core Standards, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS, with more states’s standards to be added) and IEP goals, where possible. Learn more about the Common Core Standards and which states have adopted them.
The carefully reviewed assessment level given in years and months can help users who have knowledge of a person’s abilities in specific areas.
When BridgingApps began in 2010, we found that most people in our group have or work with those who have four broad categories of disability: Autism, Global Developmental Delay, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome. We soon discovered that choosing apps by focusing on age or diagnosis was not the best way to search for a helpful app. Many people have multiple diagnoses that can further complicate this process. We also considered evaluating apps based on developmental levels, but this rating was too broad. However, what we did find useful was focusing on a particular skill that has little to do with chronological age. Skill levels are fairly clearly defined and can be identified in a particular app.
The assessment level is based upon, but is not limited to, three nationally accepted assessment tools specifically designed for therapists and parents to evaluate children with special needs. The level provided by BridgingApps is a range that includes our assessment of the lowest level skill a person should possess to use the app independently or with minimal hand-over-hand assistance.
- Cognitive abilities are the brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. They have more to do with the mechanisms of how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention, rather than with any actual knowledge. Any task can be broken down into the different cognitive skills or functions needed to complete that task successfully. For instance, answering the telephone involves at least: perception (hearing the ring tone), decision-making (answering or not), motor skills (lifting the receiver), language skills (talking and understanding language), social skills (interpreting tone of voice and interacting properly with another human being).
- Fine Motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements that control the hand, fingers, and thumb, usually in coordination with the eyes. Referring to motor skills of hands (and fingers) the term dexterity is commonly used. The abilities which involve the use of hands develop over time, starting with primitive gestures such as grabbing objects to more precise activities that involve precise eye-hand coordination. The development of these skills allows one to be able to complete tasks such as writing, drawing, and buttoning.
- Language includes the comprehension and expression of ideas in oral, written, graphic, and manual modalities. BridgingApps considers language skills to include phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatic/social aspects of communication.
- Visual skills can be divided into two main categories: visual perceptual motor skills and ocular motor skills. Many of these visual skills are developed after birth and often involve processing visual (sight) and other sensory input. Visual perceptual motor skills involve processing and using visual information as well as planning and guiding eye/body movements. Tasks such as interpreting directions, matching, and identifying items involve visual memory, visual/spatial analysis, visual motor integration, visual auditory integration, and visualization.
- Auditory processing skills include listening to the information (auditory attention), analyzing the sound or word (auditory decoding or discrimination), attaching meaning according to the rules of language (auditory association), pulling everything into a whole that can be used (integration), and organizing and producing a response (auditory output-organization).
Our Approach to Financial Tech
THRIVE Financial Technology Vetting Framework:
United Way THRIVE convenes a group of its non-profit partners that work to identify and evaluate financial technology or FinTech that will safely and effectively move a family on a pathway towards financial stability. The group recognizes there are two major distinctions within FinTech platforms:
- Financial Products. e. credit building, small dollar loans. An example of this is Fig Loans.
- Financial Apps and Financial Tools: financial apps (i.e. NerdWallet) may be only educational in nature while a financial tool is actionable (i.e. CreditWise or CreditKarma).
THRIVE’s evaluation framework focuses on five key areas:
- Mission aligned: the partner must be aligned with THRIVE’s mission to move families on a pathway towards financial stability. They adhere to a code of ethics and consider first the needs of lower income families.
- Transparency: responsive to non-profit partners and client questions or concerns. They clearly communicate all FinTech features such as any costs associated with the product and termination methods to their constituents.
- Longevity/Sustainability: FinTech partner has a sound business model that will ensure sustainability of their product.
- Security: Protecting client/customer information is of highest priority. FinTech partner articulates how they utilize this client information/data. When a bank account is linked within a FinTech product, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is considered to be a best practice.
- Reputation: they may have an established reputation within the financial capability field and have been vetted by national partners. If they are new to our market, they are working on establishing a favorable reputation within lower income families or service providers.
BridgingApps Disclaimer: Readers and viewers are reminded that the views expressed at BridgingApps are opinions only. We acknowledge that others may disagree with our information as they relate to apps. We reiterate that our intentions are motivated solely by the desire to assist families, friends, and professionals who help support children and adults with a variety of abilities use app technology appropriately. Reviews of apps are of the app as it existed at the time of the review and may not account for any changes in the app when and if a new version or update is released. No warranty is made as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site. Any information provided herein is not intended as medical advice. BridgingApps urges users to seek additional professional advice regarding concerns about an individual’s health or development.