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ChatterPack & Sarah Sutton

ChatterPack, a special educational needs and disabilities hub, collaborated with Sarah Sutton to review our app, in particular our newest apps, Special Spelling and Special Sentences. 

Sarah is Mum to Zoe, and has Down Syndrome. She was chair of Down Syndrome support group Stepping Stones DS from 2015-2019 and provides Sign Supported English training to parents and professionals through Sign in School. Sarah and her daughter Zoe have been using Special iApps for a number of years and say they "credit Special Words with kick-starting Zoe’s reading and now at very nearly 10, she is a fantastic reader."

You can read an excerpt of the review below, or read the full article here. ChatterPack also have a fantastic list of resources to support children, young people and adults with Down Syndrome. 

Child using Special Sentences on an iPad

"The beauty of Special Words, like all the apps, is that it comes preloaded with words and images to get you started, but you can then add your own words or images as you need to teach different things. Zoe started out learning the 96 words provided with Special Words, which are mostly nouns, and then we adapted to extend her vocabulary and to teach topic vocabulary such as the Egyptians and most recently words related to RSE!

Special Sentences provides a visual clue in the form of an image and a written sentence underlined by an appropriately sized line per word. You hear the sentence, see the sentence and then have to drag the words to the appropriate spot. As with all of the apps, you can change the difficulty through the settings to match the user’s ability. I chose to have the sentence simply flashed up when it was read so that Zoe had to work on recalling the sentence, rather than matching the words. I thought this was an excellent app that could entirely be tailored to the user’s needs. The sentence can be as short or complex as you wish. I particularly like the fact the punctuation is included and reinforced. I put together a series of sentences about a trip to Longleat in half term, of varying difficulty, and Zoe enjoyed working through them.

The range of activities in Special Spelling means that the app is about more than just spelling, it also focuses on phonic awareness. It comes preloaded with the same images and words as Special Words and works in a similar way to Special Sentences as the image and the word are displayed and then you drag letters to the right spot. You can choose whether to have just the right letters displayed or additional ones, to increase the challenge of the task. I thought this was a great app for starting out with spelling.

Special iApps suite really lends itself to users who are visual learners and who might benefit from the reduced motor input of a tablet by being able to drag rather than use a mouse or type. The preloaded images, words, and audible clues mean that the apps are ready to download and play but that, if you choose, you can personalise to your heart’s content. This ability to add your own material, plus the ability to vary the challenge through the settings, means that these apps can support learning across a wide skill range and continue to grow with the user. They are remarkably easy to use, and have limitless possibilities. Finally, as you can export and print your creations you can share with settings and other users, making these apps really great all-rounders to support learning and I firmly believe they are a worthwhile investment."