by Cynthia Ruetsch

SUBJECT AREA: Visual & Auditory Stimulation

PUBLISHER: Sensory Software

available from ProMedia, Inc.


COST: $69.95 single copy; $175 lab pack (5 user)

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Individuals with cognitive and multiple disabilities who would benefit from sensory stimulation.

NOTABLE HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS: Available in Windows format only. Optional hardware: TouchWindow or other access/input devices; microphone for Speak Up!

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: Visual stimulation and discrimination, auditory stimulation, cause and effect, prediction and encouraging vocalization

DESCRIPTION: Sensory Software offers a variety of programs designed to motivate students to develop attending skills. Two of the programs, Touch Here! and Look Here!, are designed for visual stimulation. Touch Here! utilizes basic geometric patterns that move around the screen through mouse input. This program also encourages tracking and scanning as different color bars can be moved from left to right across the screen. In Look Here! the teacher directs the activity (i.e., the teacher uses the mouse/keyboard) while the student watches the screen for flashing checkerboards or moving lines and circles.

Three of the programs are designed to encourage interacting (playing) with pictures. Build It and Knockout are great for developing prediction skills and closure. In both programs, students build pictures piece by piece and have an opportunity to identify the "whole" picture. Picture This Too: Flip It and Slider! offers two activities. In Flip It, a picture or series of pictures are presented with one piece "flipped" horizontally or vertically. Students are asked to find the flipped picture. In Slider, students are presented with a picture broken into square puzzle pieces that have been rearranged. Here students must slide each piece to its correct place to complete the puzzle.

Other titles in this series include Kaleidoscope, a versatile painting program with features such as stamps, pictures to color, and blank canvasses for creating artwork with painting tools. Users can configure the program and create mirrored and kaleidoscope images; Listen Hear!, a customizable auditory stimulation program; and Speak Up, a program to encourage vocalization by having images change according to the user's volume of sound (for Windows 95 ONLY).

STRENGTHS: All programs offer a variety of options for changing activity features such as color, size of objects and speed. For those programs involving pictures additional picture files (bitmap .bmp and windows metafile .wmf) can be added to increase choices to include individual student preferences. Depending on individual student abilities, activities can be directed by the teacher or by the student. Additionally, Listen Hear!, the auditory stimulation program, can be used alone or its sounds can be imported for use in other programs.

SUMMARY: These visually appealing programs offer a variety of options so they can be configured to meet individual needs. The uncluttered backgrounds and high contrast graphics help to focus users' attention. Because users can add their own sounds and animations, these programs can be age-appropriate for all levels.

Cynthia Ruetsch is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.


How Many Bugs in a Box? (Simon & Schuster Interactive):

Price: $19.95 Win/Mac CD-ROM

Based on David A. Carter's best-selling pop-up books, this program offers wacky, colorful entertainment for children ages 3-6. Three skill levels guarantee longevity as the program grows with the child. Features include an interactive storybook to Read Along and Explore, eight learning games for number recognition, counting, and basic arithmetic skills, and crazy counting songs.

More Bugs in Boxes (Simon & Schuster Interactive):

Price: $19.95 Win/Mac CD-ROM

The sequel to How Many Bugs in a Box?, this program again captures the zany mood of David A. Carter's book. More Bugs In Boxes encourages children to explore the world of colors and visual observation. Features include three skill levels, a Read Along and Explore interactive storybook, a matching game for reinforcement of colors and pattern recognition skills and creativity areas for doodling and musical exploration.

Preschool Success Starter (Broderbund):

Price: $29.95 Mac/Win CD-ROM

This 2 CD set helps children ages 3-5 explore letters, numbers, shapes, music, and more. Maggie's Farmyard Adventure takes children on a musical adventure to discover and develop early reading, music and mouse control skills. Eager's Pet Show addresses letters, counting, shapes, colors, and patterns while the children stage an exciting pet show. Multiple skill levels of play make this a versatile program.

Reader Rabbit's Toddler (The Learning Company):

Price: $29.95 Mac/Win CD-ROM

For ages 2-4, this program has enchanting activites to capture and hold the attention of toddlers. No mouse clicks are required, and the activities encourage hand-eye coordination and promote learning in the areas of counting, colors, shapes, and the alphabet. It's hard to resist Reader Rabbit singing and providing hand motions to popular children's songs like the Eensy Weensy Spider and I'm A Little Teapot.

Sunbuddy Math Playhouse (Sunburst):

Price: $79.95 Mac or Win CD-ROM: lab packs available

For grades K-3, an onstage performance by the fun-loving Sunbuddies characters uses Grimm's Bremen Town Musicians to present a read-along production with math-related animations hidden in each scene. Backstage, four interactive math activities reinforce basic addition and subtraction facts, strengthen memory and problem-solving skills, and enhance visual discrimination and map reading abilities. Each activity has three difficulty levels.

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