With Autism Awareness month continuing through April, it’s been a great time to check into buying new apps out there; many apps developed for children with autism have reduced their prices or are being offered for free for a limited time. One app that I came across this week was Feed Maxi, and it’s been a great hit for Quentin.
Feed Maxi is a speech app, developed by an SLP. The concept is simple: Maxi is a hungry little monkey and you have to feed him. The user is presented with three food choices on the bottom of the screen and you must listen to what Maxi says, and feed him the appropriate food. Maxi is a funny little monkey and he rewards the user with the correct response by either doing a funny move or saying something funny. There are 8 rounds played, followed by a little balloon-popping exercise where the words that were just spoken get repeated when you pop the balloons.
Here’s a video of Quentin playing the app with me on the kitchen floor:
There are several things that work so well with this app:
- Realistic pictures of food choices. Quentin really likes real photographs, so the vocabulary words he is learning have a strong appeal for him.
- Words on screen. I have written before about Quentin’s amazing reading ability. I’m pretty sure that he learned to read from his obsession with corporate logos, and then reading has helped him learn how to speak. Having the word of the food items on the screen is incredibly helpful for him; he essentially needs the written word to understand. And as you saw in the video, he even tried really hard to say the word “scrumptious” (for the first time) when he read it on his own!
- Sign language. Quentin only learned a few signs as a baby, but they were mostly food-related, such as “more” and “all done.” (I’m impressed that he still remembered the sign for “more.” I have not used that sign with him in years!) I know that many children with speech problems are learning to sign, so it is really nice to see Maxi sign as he speaks.
- Giving Maxi a high five. This is something Quentin always responds to with others, so it was a great way to have the character connect with him in that way.
- Controls for the Grown-Ups. The app lets you customize to the child or children you are working with. You can add profiles with each child you work with (if you are a therapist or teacher). You can also choose which food vocabulary you want to use and the difficulty level. Sound effects and voices can be turned on or off. Data can be collected as the child works with the app. There is also a nice page that explains how to use the app. I love apps that really take the time to consider the different needs of children, and explain how it can be used to the grown-ups who work with them.
- Background customization. In my opinion, Maxi lives in a world that is a bit too busy. Kids with autism might be distracted by the lush surroundings. It would be nice to customize this by having a choice of a less busy/ more simple background.
- Stick with real words and terms. I don’t like some of the nonsensical language that Maxi uses. Quentin really hangs on to every word he says. When he says things like “Ouchie wawa!” after the high-five, Quentin will mimic it. I’d much rather that Maxi use real words. To that end, I don’t always like the alternative spellings, such as “DEEElicious!”
- Make every food item a learning opportunity. As you can see from the video, Quentin really enjoyed hearing the names of all the food choices listed below Maxi – not just the correct one. It would be great to add a feature that allows him to touch a food choice and see the word of the item and hear it’s name. This could also be a customized feature, if not every child needs it.
So far, Feed Maxi has been a big hit with Quentin. He plays with it on his own, but he also enjoys interacting with others to learn the words he sees. It’s great for the preschool set, or with older kids who have speech delays like Quentin. It’s also one of those apps that can be used in a therapeutic setting or at home, in a more casual way. Thumbs up from us!