SnapType For Occupational Therapy Has More Updates And Features Now

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This post has been written by Amberlynn Gifford – creator of the ever popular app “SnapType for Occupational Therapy”.
 
When I created SnapType last year, I knew it would help children struggling with handwriting. However, I could never have imagined the outcry of support I received from therapists and parents. Each week I read several emails from users with stories of how SnapType has changed their lives.
 
“Thank you for this app! You are a blessing! I can honestly tell you that I have spent many hours crying and hurting inside while watching my son struggle to write pages of sentences and spelling words and other homework assignments. He screams out with frustration. It’s been so bad that I have stopped him and honestly wrote for him, left handed to make it look more like a neater version of his because I could not take it anymore! Now, with SnapType, he completes his worksheets, show off his intelligence and feels more confident than ever. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
 
That was an email I received from a mother who felt like she was losing her son. I tear up while reading emails like this from parents and it brings me so much joy to know that these children are succeeding with the help of SnapType.
 
I have learned along the way that SnapType helps not only children with dysgraphia but also individuals with several other learning disabilities, low vision, low muscle tone, and Parkinson’s. It is so exciting to learn that a variety of individuals can benefit from SnapType.
 
When I first had the idea for SnapType, I wanted to test out the idea as quickly and inexpensively as possible. So I paid a developer in India $300 to build the first version of the app. It was so basic, but it was the perfect way to quickly find out if anyone would find value in my idea. With tens of thousands of downloads, and over a hundred emails from users, it was clear that people were finding value in the app.
 
screenshot of app snaptype occupational therapyEvery week emails came in from users who were so happy to have found SnapType. But they were also asking for more functionality. They wanted to print and email from within the app, save documents to work on later, import documents from the image gallery and much more. The initial SnapType app lacked all of these features yet people still used the app because there was nothing else like it on the market that could help their kids and students.
 
I wanted to give the users what they were asking for. But being a full time occupational therapy graduate student, I couldn’t afford to pay thousands of dollars to get the app made. I asked the developer in India if he would be interested in partnering with me to create a new app but without the cash, he wasn’t interested. So then I reached out to a community of app developers and received interest from a few. Shortly thereafter, I started working with a developer and it was going great. Then the emails stopped. He fell off the face of the earth it seemed and I was back where I started.
 
Feeling defeated at the end of September, I reached out to another developer who previously expressed interest and he jumped on board right away. Instantly, we were going back and forth, exchanging ideas and building the app’s fundamental layout and features. The communication was prompt and continuous as we crafted the upgrade. I say upgrade, but it’s really an all new app, built from the ground up.
 
The developer, Brendan Kircher, has been instrumental in making SnapType a success. There were

times when I felt overwhelmed because we were moving so quickly and there were so many questions he needed me to answer. I was juggling being a full time grad student, working a part time job 25 hours a week and also spending several hours a day on SnapType. Nevertheless, I appreciated Brendan’s speed and pushing because it has helped create a wonderfully powerful and intuitive tool. Without his speed, knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment this would not have been possible.

 
By Thanksgiving we were ready to share the app and we enlisted the help of two dozen users who were equally passionate about this project. We spent the month of December working with our team of testers to debug and refine the feature set. By early January we submitted the app to Apple and crossed our fingers that they would approve it. Two weeks later we received confirmation that it was in the app store and ready for the world!
 
As I write this article, SnapType version 2.0 has been public for just a few days. But already the comments are pouring in. Parents, occupational therapists, teachers and students are loving the new features!
 
SnapType is available for free on the App Store. We wanted to keep it free in order to help as many people as possible. Interestingly, many users asked us to charge for the app. That took me off guard, but they wanted to make sure that we receive some revenue to ensure that we continue to keep the app updated. After lengthy discussions with mentors, users and each other, we decided to keep the app free, but also offer an in-app purchase to provide advanced features for the power users. SnapType Pro enables users to work on multiple documents and also access the a whiteboard feature which turns documents into simplified black and white images, to save ink when printing. SnapType Pro is $4.99, but for a limited time, we’re offering it for $2.99.
 
Another frequent request we receive is for an Android version. I’m happy to say that we’ve just started working on SnapType for Android (which by the way, requires writing the app all over again in a different programming language with it’s own set of challenges). To learn more about the Android version and to stay connected for other SnapType updates, follow SnapType on Facebook or Twitter.
 
 
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Amberlynn Gifford is a 2nd year OT student at Springfield College in Massachusetts. When she’s not studying, which is rare, you can find her coaching gymnastics and working on all sorts of creative projects. She will graduate with her masters degree in 2016 and looks forward to working in pediatrics. Connect with Amberlynn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amberlynngifford



Image source: Carissa Rogers

12 Comments

  1. Can text to speech be utilized to have worksheets read to dyslexic students?

  2. So glad you're working on an Android version. Thank you.

  3. SnapType will not read out loud, although you can use speech to text to add text to a document or worksheet.

  4. We are excited as well! To learn more about the Android version and to stay connected for other SnapType updates, follow SnapType on facebook or twitter. Thanks!

  5. After reading this post, I immediately downloaded SnapType. I have been in contact with my occupational therapist and assistive technology specialist about ways to accommodate students with physical disabilities that restrict them from communicating in the traditional written format of paper and pencil. I strongly believe that technology is the correct path for these students, as this is the way our society is headed. In fact, students seem to be more technologically savvy than many teachers, and are exposed to so much more technology than is available in classrooms. With the new capability of students to be able to bring their own device to school, SnapType could change the way students access their education. They can complete the worksheets independently, as opposed to relying on a scribe or struggling through the physical component of motor planning. Currently, I am using a software called Kurzweil that contains text-to-speech and word-prediction capabilities. However, this software requires teachers to scan worksheets or text beforehand, and provide the student with access to a computer with the software downloaded. I find this to be limiting, where SnapType is more immediate and flexible in its use. I think it is great that students can also use speech-to-text in this application to record their thinking, again making them more independent. I am curious, have you considered providing word-prediction and text-to-speech capabilities within the application? Also, I am wondering if there is a way to change the contrast of the document or worksheet, such as changing the background and/or text color, to accommodate students with visual impairments. There is also a lot of research to support colored backgrounds/overlays for students with dyslexia.

  6. Hi Jamie!

    We are thrilled you feel that SnapType could positively change the way students access their education. Thank you for contacting us we really appreciate your feedback. The word prediction is a built-in feature to iOS. It may be as easy as activating it within your iPhone/iPad. Same with speech-to-text. Text-to-speech is a great suggestion, we will look into this. To change the text color using the color palette, here is a SnapType instruction video for this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoYfMsC4tFo.

    The whiteboard feature would be great to change the picture contrast. Here's the details on whiteboard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY0t88jwDb4, although this doesn't support colored backgrounds. What background colors are preferred for people with dyslexia? The colored background is also something we can look into.

    Thanks so much for your input and support. If you get a moment, please leave a brief review in the app store, it really helps us connect to more people who need SnapType. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snaptype-for-occupational/id866842989?mt=8

    On behalf of the SnapType Team,

    Amberlynn

  7. Thank you for your response! As far as colors for students with dyslexia, the British Dyslexia Association (n.d.) has completed research that visual stress in students with dyslexia can cause difficulty reading, such as headaches, oversensitiveness to light, blurred letters, and so on. Their research indicates that the use of cream or pastel backgrounds can be used to limit the visual stress on the eyes, therefore making reading easier. Irlen (2015) has also completed research about background color and light sensitivity. Their research states that each individual person should be able to choose the color that best helps them process the visual information. There is a book, Reading by the Colors, that is very informative when discussing colored filters. Color contrast is also great for students with visual impairments, with a black background and white writing being the highest contrast available. I hope this information is helpful! Again, thank you for your response and I am excited to use SnapType with my students. I have included the references I used if you would like to find more information:

    British Dyslexia Association (n.d.). Visual stress. In Eyes and Dyslexia. Retrieved from http://www.bdadyslexia.org.
    uk/dyslexic/eyes-and-dyslexia

    Irlen. (2015). The Irlen method. In The Science. Retrieved from http://irlen.com/

  8. This is a great app. Any word on the status of the Android version?

  9. Ryan, Thanks! Still in the works. Keep checking out FB page for updates! https://www.facebook.com/SnapType

  10. Hello. Love the app! Is there is word prediction feature?

    Thank you.

  11. Hi Kari!! I am so excited to hear that you are loving SnapType!! Yes there is! Here is a short video to learn how to turn word prediction on and off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vANUwZ6wfOY
    Hope this helps!! -Amberlynn

  12. I was curious if anybody else has seen improvement in handwriting in students after consistent use of snaptype. I recently began using it with two students in my district. These students struggled with legible handwriting and over a period of time I began to see an improvement. I was wondering if there is some correlation. They began to write letters like the ones used on snaptype. While the original intent of using SnapType was so they could complete worksheets independently, as opposed to relying on a scribe or struggling through the physical component of motor planning. Somehow now they have improved their handwriting. It would be nice if anyone else had seem similar results. Thanks,
    I love Snap Type.

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